The Placebo Effect – the power of suggestion

A placebo is a substance or procedure that has no physiological effect.  Placebos are used in scientific trails as a control measure to ensure that the test results are accurate for the actual drug being tested.  Usually the test participants do not know whether they are taking the real drug or the placebo (blind trials).  However, many studies have found that members of the placebo (control) groups often show the same effects as if they had taken the drug. So another way to define a placebo is as a substance or procedure that can cause changes in the body despite having no active ingredients.  This has created a lot of problems for scientists in their research but shows the remarkable ability of the body to heal itself.  It should be noted that not everyone responds to the placebo but a significant number of people do and the real difficulty is in understanding why.

It has also been shown that the effects are real, the body does react as if it had received the real drug and body chemistry changes, it is not just that people report feeling better.

The wider implications of the placebo effect refers to the power of suggestion which can have a positive or negative effect. In most, but not all, cases the participants believed they were taking the real drug. This is great for healing but raises enormous concerns about the creation of illness in the first place. Do we create the illness because we believe that we will?  For example, scientists have told us that there is a genetic link to some forms of cancer, so if there is a family history of cancer does that increase our likelihood of getting cancer because of genetic susceptibility or because we believe that we are susceptible?  It may be both. Most genetic links suggest a tendency to the illness, not an inevitability.

The power of suggestion is well demonstrated in hypnosis, both in entertainment and therapy. Hypnosis can alter behaviour but it can also eliminate pain and accelerate healing. A relatively simple process of talking to an individual can produce dramatic effects on the body.

Beware of men (and women) in white coats. Suggestion is particularly powerful when it comes from someone we trust and doctors have a great responsibility here that is seldom fully recognised. We want our doctor to identify our illness and give a prognosis, and indeed he or she has a duty to do so whenever possible. The labeling of symptoms and the prognosis create expectations and generally we conform to those expectations. However, we do not know how much our expectations affect our outcomes.It should also be noted that many ‘proven’ drugs are ineffective in some people and we return to the doctor to try something else.

When people recover from serious and even ‘terminal’ conditions the one thing these cases have in common is a belief in the individual that they were going to recover. This seems to be more important than the actual treatment, not that treatment is unnecessary but that the patients believed the treatment would work. In contrast, some people seem to be resistant to treatment and they either die from the condition or quickly develop something else that kills them.

We cannot deny that medical science has been of wonderful benefit to mankind but the role of psychology in illness needs much deeper investigation.

How do Tarot Cards work?

Each card has a number of basic interpretations and the skill of the Reader lies in his or her ability to relate the meaning of the card to the life situation of the Sitter.  This is greatly enhanced when the Reader has strong intuition and can ‘tune in’ to the ‘energy’ of the Sitter. This is often referred to as psychic ability but is really intuition that we all possess to a greater or lesser degree.

The main objection to the validity of Tarot card readings is that the cards appear to be chosen at random.  However, we select the individual cards deliberately, being drawn to the ones that feel right.  Even though the cards are face down when we choose them, sub-consciously we know the card is relevant.  It is often thought that we are guided in our choice by angels or some other unseen force but this takes away our personal power and free will.  The unseen force is actually inside ourselves, our own intuition.

Types of cards – the Reader will use the cards they feel the strongest affinity with.  There are many different Tarot packs but also Angel, Goddess, Animal, and many others, may be used if the Reader works better with the ‘energy’ of a particular type.

Foretelling the future – Whilst it can be very reassuring to feel we know our future, if we seek a Reading because we want to know what is going to happen to us, we are disregarding our ability to control our own destiny.  One danger of this is that we may make decisions based on the Reading, rather than on our own judgement, which could take us in the wrong direction.  Secondly, we may spend our lives waiting for the prediction to come true, instead of making the most of life in the present.

Card Readings for guidance – Tarot, and other cards are most useful in helping us to make our own decisions, providing clarity and showing us our options and opportunities.  They may reveal the influencing factors which could affect our plans, and confirm whether or not we are on the right track for a positive outcome. For the most part, our life is not pre-determined, and the cards can help us take control of the direction we choose to go.

When selecting the cards we should keep in mind what we want to know, whether we want information about a relationship or a career path, for instance. The cards are then interpreted in relation to the question.  The question should be open ended, what will happen if I do ……, rather than asking for a yes or no answer.