If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone

 

The Placebo Effect

What is the placebo?

The placebo is a bullshit cure or whatever and the attraction is how it makes a sick person feel better.  The cure cannot make them really in any way better.  It is not a cure and what happens is the person will feel better if she or he has a big belief in the cure.

 

In medicine, the placebo effect is a necessary evil. It is not something to be happy about doing to a sick person.

 
A placebo does not just appear – it has to be paved the way for and developed.  It never takes one lie to do a placebo it takes several and if you lie now you don't know how much lying you will have to do to make the lie look true.


A placebo is intended to fool you into thinking it will make you better. This causes you to feel better and more hopeful. It is never the placebo that helps but how one feels about it so it follows any placebo will do. That could be dangerous. It proves nothing has the right to claim to be the best placebo.

 

A placebo is fundamentally a mechanism by which you seek to dodge the truth because you think it relieves or stops pain. It does not follow that the truth is really as painful as you imagine. The sensible person makes the truth her or his placebo instead of trying to look for quick and ultimately harmful solutions.

 

When a doctor gives you sugar tablets to cure your erroneous belief that you are sick or sicker than what you are and you improve that is the placebo effect at work.

 

It is really the doctor's helpfulness and giving you hope that helps not the tablet. A placebo requires support from other people to work. They need to help you keep feeling better. Company helps.

 

Take the placebo in medicine. The placebo has the best chance of success when a pill is very big and costly. Fake surgery works better than any pill as a placebo. If you are very sick you feel you need drastic help which is why you will respond better to something that seems invasive be it surgery or an injection or whatever. Side-effects real or imagined from the treatment trigger a placebo effect for they think then the treatment is powerful. Another huge factor is the patient must be listened to and feel involved and active in the treatment. The latter means that if you think God is curing you and listening to you and letting you get involved a placebo will result.

 

The placebo is not ideal and has dangers

Placeboes do not work for everybody. A significant minority will get no benefit from the placebo. Also, in medicine you give a group the real drug and another group the fake one. But you need the group which gets neither so that you can measure the placebo as well. The minority could be better off not knowing they are immune to placeboes. Believing the placebo is not for them closes them off from all future placeboes that are offered to them.

 

The person attached to a placebo will ignore or dismiss or avoid any evidence that disconfirms his placebo.

 

Obviously it will not do to depend on the effect too much or to give it as a treatment too often.

 

Like all lies, the placebo lie will be found out. And the person giving the placebo does have a duty to wean you off it and that involves kindly admitting the truth. When any placebo will do and people all have different  placeboes that they think they believe in for different reasons surely the truth has to out that they are being led to kid themselves?

 

Giving a person a placebo that helps them, risks judging them as stupid people or people who care about what they want to think and not the truth.

I would add that having a placebo creates a need for new  placeboes that seem to validate it and creates an unhealthy fondness for  placeboes and fantasy based thinking.

 

So we see that  placeboes though sometimes needed are only short-term helps. They are not to be celebrated but seen as necessary evils.

 

A good doctor will try to wean you off  placeboes. They are only for short-term immediate and important help. They are given to be outgrown. Faith healing is cruel for it wants to keep you on them.

 

If you are making yourself ill from trying too hard to be healthy or to get rid of sickness or from worrying too much about getting ill, then a placebo may help. But it is not much of a help. It is not a real help. What you need is for the doctor or whoever to tell you to go out and think about the wellbeing of others and do something to make them much better. It will keep your mind occupied and rescue you from thinking too much about yourself. You are still indirectly thinking of yourself but in the proper way. Also, what relieves you is that you are telling yourself that others have to worry about their health not you and that comforts you because it is them not you that will have to suffer should anything happen.

 

Happiness is impossible if you are an island. When you are happy you are happy with others. Happiness is collective. Collective happiness is what people really need not  placeboes.  Placeboes are too focused on insular happiness.

 

Do not force yourself to think positive. You need to think about and plan situations where positive thinking will emerge naturally. That means finding joyful people who are full of life.

 

Magic placebo

The placebo works through by being faith in faith.

 

Any placebo would do because it is never the placebo that heals but one's positive and hopeful attitude to it. So there is no justification for involving religion or healers in triggering the placebo. Better to give somebody some holy water or a healing spellbook than to send for a healer. It is better still to give a person the lifeskills that help them reduce the need for the placebo.

 

If a placebo is ever justified, using a religious or magical one never is. It is not needed for a start. It is always better to give a person a sugar pill than to send them to a spell-weaver. At least then they think it is science that is helping them.

 

Depression

 

Many people suffering from depression are helped by  placeboes and they get new hope. It is obvious that only testable placeboes can be tried. To tell somebody that God can help them if they ask is irresponsible.  Lots of people have done that and it has not worked and the only thing that helped was another placebo or medication.

 

A placebo needs a third party.  Thus a placebo for depression should only be facilitated by somebody who knows what they are doing.

If the problem is depression, thinking that prayer is lifting it, is dangerous. And even more so when prayer is said to bring answers but not in the way you expect - for example, it may not be God's will that you recover. It is better to feel that your own inner resources are getting you through it. Self-confidence needs to grow to help the problem. If you discover that you need to be lied to by the person giving you a placebo or to deceive yourself that is not going to help your depression but worsen it.

 

The Lourdes Placebo

The placebo is faith in faith and that is dangerous and that stunts one's intellectual and emotional growth. Spiritual people who dish out  placeboes package them as being about more than just physical or emotional healing - they tend to say there is a spiritual or religious element too. They offer holistic placeboes - mind and body and spirit. If faith in faith is even slightly encouraged and as a placebo then surely any faith will do?

 

Catholic teaching insists that Jesus said that if he will do a miracle you must have strong faith first.  What about Catholic devotees and priests encouraging sick people to believe they can and will be cured so that the door to a miracle can be opened?  It is sick!  No longer must they be able to say, "We promise Lourdes will heal the heart and that is the real miracle."  No longer must they be able to say, "Real healings are rare but Lourdes heals through a placebo and it does not matter how somebody gets better as long as they do".  Both of these are still giving false hope and putting people in emotional danger.  To promise a placebo is quite cruel and even worse than promising that a real miracle might happen. The good at Lourdes is what we hear about.  That is dishonest.  There is another side.   It is a dark side that makes promoting it totally unjustifiable.

 

It actually crueler to promise a definite or possible miracle cure in the sense of finding peace than a physical one.  The Church certainly does that when it invites people to Lourdes.

 

An improvement in spiritual health is sooo easy to imagine when you are a vulnerable person that it gets your healer off the hook even if she is a total fake.

 

Pretending that you are healing the soul when you are not doing anything for the body or mind is a new scam.


St Bernadette of Lourdes said that those who said that holy water from Lourdes cured them were in fact cured by their faith and prayers. The placebo effect can be triggered by faith and prayer but the problem is that the "cure" or the new feeling of wellbeing will be attributed not to the placebo effect but to faith and prayer. What is wrong with that? It means that you ascribe the healing to the wrong thing and that is dangerous. You cannot get proper solutions unless you know what really works. If you think prayer cured you, you will not be looking for medicine anymore. You can say, "Okay I will not bother taking the cancer treatment as I am treating myself with prayer. If it does not seem to work, it only shows that in God's plan it was not meant to. Prayer cannot fail." Believers say that God cures through medicine which means that medicine in itself is no good - it is God empowering it to work that matters.

 

Medicine is no good in itself no matter what science says. That is a terrible view and means that it is luck not design we have to thank if religious people use doctors. At least if you suspect the cure or feeling better is the result of a placebo, you can continue with medical treatment for  placeboes have their place in medical theory.