The Placebo Effect; A Key To Our Mind’s Vast Untapped Potential?


The next time you’re at a boring social function and want to reach for a topic that will be sure to impress, enthrall and liven up conversation with entertaining conjecture and debate…here’s the subject for you.

(If that doesn’t work incidentally, try this)


You might have heard the term “placebo effect”.  It’s a term regularly misused and misunderstood. It’s worth understanding what it is from the perspective of mind training, wellness and of course, the pursuit of a better you.

Let’s explore the concept and toss around a few possibilities.  You are likely to be amazed.    


Some people mistakenly believe the term Placebo Effect to apply where a person imagines or is lead to believe that a particular treatment they have undertaken is real when it is not.  None the less, when applied, the treatment seems to work and the person experiences an improvement in their symptoms or complete “cure”.   This interpretation seems to imply that the cure or improvement experienced has occurred despite the treatment being somehow fake; and thus neither the cure nor the person’s improvements were real.

When used in medicine, it simply refers to the situation where something other than the drug or treatment administered caused a positive result.

Recognise the subtle but crucial differences here between the popularised view and the medical view.

Firstly, I’ll acknowledge that in some senses, the popularised example above is sort of right, but with some important distinctions.  It:

1) implies a deception;

2) questions the validity of the improvement, and thus

3) the legitimacy of the treatment.



ON THE CONTRARY, the medical view allows a much more open and receptive interpretation.   In fact, traditional medicine widely recognises and accepts the legitimacy of Placebo and its’ alter ego the Noncebo effect.

As for legitimacy, let’s face it, we apply medical treatments for predictable and positive outcomes.  If it works, without adverse effect…no harm, no foul?

So, here’s my first proposition for today’s Article.

The Mind Can Improve and Heal The Body and Change The Way It Experiences Sensations.

To many there’s nothing new or revolutionary about that statement.  To others it will appear to be the realm of imagination of science fiction.  To either camp I say, stay with me…this gets even better.



The Placebo Effect is a direct demonstration of the healing power of the mind.  Specifically in this instance, it means that the mind convinced the body that it is healing/healed and the body believed it.  The body then somehow unconsciously went about making the improvement real.

Allow that thought to really penetrate. It’s a long-held wisdom that “as a man thinketh, so is he”. That’s generally been applied to the concept of your thoughts driving your choices, actions and eventually bringing about your reality. That’s of course all true.

Now go beyond that. I invite you to apply that thinking to the mind/body connection and consider the potential for our mind to bring about physical change and improvement.

Humans have been doing this stuff for thousands of years. We’ve just done a poor job so far of really tapping into it.

Think about it.  In certain indigenous and tribal communities, faith healing was prevalent.  Then there’s the corollary; faith killing.  It was long held that “pointing the bone” at someone could bring about their almost immediate death.  In many documented cases it actually did.  In such instances, the mind, believing that the person was done for, literally willed the body to die.  Placebo effect is the same phenomena in reverse; healing rather than destroying.


The positive power of Placebo is well acknowledged in traditional medicine. In fact, many more progressive medical practitioners now utilise hypnotherapists as partners in patient treatment, so as to properly leverage the powers of our mind/body connection, and of course Placebo.

You might care to check out my web page on hypnotherapy in support of patient care, as well as my short video on the subject.

As explained in those pages and on my video, our mental state is pivotal in determining our experience of symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue and depression.  It can determine whether we feel stressed or afraid.  Emotions can directly cause our heart rate and blood pressure to increase or decrease.  They can cause our bowels or bladder to “involuntarily empty” in a situation of profound trauma. Such processes aren’t usually under our conscious control; they are driven by our unconscious.


So, here’s the big takeaway from this article.

If you are somehow able to influence or even request your unconscious mind to bring about changes in the physical body, why not actively use it to do so? Your mind can support the healing or improvement of your body and specific bodily functions.  Where are the limits of that concept? Who knows!

It might mean that mechanisms such as neural plasticity can be provoked, potentially bringing interesting implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

As an example more relevant to general audiences,  it might mean we can progressively work on and improve our mind, our thinking processes and our physical and mental capabilities via the unconscious.  Activate forgotten skills.  Learn new ones rapidly and effectively.

Reminiscent in some regards of “The Matrix”, minus the messy spinal taps.   A far reach?  Sure, but forgive me.  That was mainly for the above-mentioned dinner party readers that may have been dozing off right about now.


Back to the main plot.  Here’s here’s the $64,000 question.  How DO we access the unconscious mind, influence its operation, request it do things…perhaps even direct it?

Clinical Hypnotherapy Is The Answer

As explained in my pages on Understanding Hypnotherapy, and also in my BLOG Article on Hypnotherapy and the Unconscious Mind   hypnotherapy is an incredibly powerful way to address the unconscious.

With the right “hypnotically directed mind training”, we may well be able to tap into a wellness and healing resource with amazing potential.   Most mortals can’t “will” changes to occur; due in part to the fact that our conscious mind doesn’t have access to the necessary resources. However, the unconscious mind can go far further, perhaps even into that realm.  It certainly is a powerful and proven way to influence mental and even physical processes.

Does this imply that illnesses are “all in the mind”?  No, buy certainly our mental and physical health is affected by the way we perceive and relate to it.


Case Studies and Proof Points:

Firstly, a pure Placebo Effect example:

In 2011, John Whitely was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and told that he had less than one year to live. The cancer had spread and his liver already had a good-sized tumor growing.

John decided that he had nothing to lose by entering a drug trial. He didn’t know if he was in the group with the new drug or the placebo. He repeated to himself over and over: “This is a miracle drug that is going to save my life.”  He thought it, he said it and he believed it.

Two months later, John’s oncologist called him and told him that the scans showed no sign of the tumor—it had disappeared. Later, John learned that he had received the placebo!  He has now remained disease free for another 5 years.   I’m sure you’ve seen and read about many such examples that defy traditional medical explanation.

Your mind can influence your body systems, including your immune system.   What you believe can directly impact how your body functions.

The placebo effect demonstrates that what you can imagine and what you believe can have substantial impact on the outcomes in your life.

Hypnotherapy, by connecting directly with the unconscious mind, taps into those deep-seated belief systems and their healing powers and powers to drive change.  It is a powerful way to access those somewhat mysterious yet amazingly powerful aspects of the deep inner mind.

Next: Hypnotherapy and the Power Of The Mind on the Body and Bodily Sensations

One of the best endorsements of hypnosis and hypnotherapy as a means of influencing the body and its physical sensations was written by  Mark P. Jensen and David R. Patterson of the University of Washington.  These practitioners, considered preeminent experts on the subject, extensively examined the topic of using hypnosis for chronic pain.

“The empirical support for hypnosis for chronic pain management has flourished over the past two decades. Clinical trials show that hypnosis is effective for reducing chronic pain, although outcomes vary between individuals. The findings from these clinical trials also show that hypnotic treatments have a number of positive effects beyond pain control. Neurophysiological studies reveal that hypnotic analgesia has clear effects on brain and spinal-cord functioning that differ as a function of the specific hypnotic suggestions made, providing further evidence for the specific effects of hypnosis. The research results have important implications for how clinicians can help their clients experience maximum benefits from hypnosis and treatments that include hypnotic components”.

“…hypnotic suggestions differentially effect the two dimensions of pain. Specifically we found that hypnotic induction plus analgesia suggestion reduced the intensity dimension of pain significantly more than it reduced the unpleasantness dimension. Conversely, hypnotic induction plus relaxation suggestion reduced the unpleasantness dimension of pain significantly more than it reduced the intensity dimension. This demonstration of different pain interventions affecting different dimensions of pain is consistent with a growing body of literature in which pain is studied as a multidimensional experience.” See Understanding Hypnotherapy if you need to explore these concepts.

The American Psychological Association has recognized that “patients who received hypnosis reported less post-surgical pain, nausea, fatigue and discomfort.”  In a study with 22 patients with spinal cord injury, investigators Barber, Williams-Avery, Flores, and Brown (2001) found that 86% of their patient reported a decrease in pain following hypnotic induction and analgesic suggestions relating to their previous pain levels.

There are countless more examples on the web.


Placebo Effect, or our mind’s ability to bring about healing or improvement, is potentially a vast and untapped resource.

We live in a world increasingly disillusioned with traditional approaches and which is experiencing a tsunami of support for natural healing, wellness and mindfulness regimes. As such the time has come for these concepts to be explored more seriously.

Sure, they won’t keep Big Pharmaceutical’s stock prices and profits up, but I for one can live with that.

In my clinic, one aspect of my practice sees me working with people by applying these concepts. It’s:

  • Safe, with little downside or risk;
  • Natural (as you’ll read in my BLOG on the subject), the hypnotic state is a natural and naturally occurring phenomena;
  • Chemical and drug free; and as promised,
  • One of the most fascinating dinner party conversation starters you’ll experience.  Try it.

This is an area of deep interest to me and one where I am exploring boundaries and possibilities all the time.  If you’re interested to explore the applicability of these concepts to your personal situation, please feel free to reach out.

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