Disclaimer: I base the theories and techniques offered in this article on anecdotal experiences. While I am not a medical practitioner, I have found placebo scenarios act as a counterbalance to my precarious mental state. I grew up in a family where mistakes carry more weight than achievements. And misdeeds of judgment were most detrimental. Thus, from an early age, I had to prop up my self-esteem by making up stories where I triumphed. Little did I know I was using the placebo effect to deflect the negativity and treat my depression.
Another warning: do not operate vehicles or heavy machinery while using this technique as one shuts our reality and the outside world. It is best to apply it in a safe environment devoid of any physical or mental hazards and unwelcome distractions.
Additional warning: if you are under a doctor’s care or taking pain or psychotic medications, advise your physician before beginning this program as conflicts in treatment can occur.
What is the placebo effect? It’s a phenomenon whereby suffering people get better from treatments that have no discernible reason to work. While strange and misunderstood, it can be almost as effective as drugs that have been on the market for years. Studies also show that symptoms often improve when given fake medication.
Some call it a trick rather than something real. But recent research studies show a connection between brain chemistry and placebo use. Another study, a functional MRI one, detected small blood flow changes triggered by placebo use. Like pharmaceuticals, placebos trigger neurochemicals such as endorphins and dopamine and create a numbing or unawareness of pain.
So, my conjecture is that if people get better by taking a placebo pill, then why wouldn’t they get better when self-administering a deflecting and positive scenario. Studies validate this theory showing patient’s conditions improve even when they knew they were taking a placebo. I repeat that again; they knew they were getting fake medication and still improved.
What is the reason for this? Maybe it’s the survival mechanism in all of us that seeks ways to stay happy and alive. We have this hope and desire to believe our choices will lead to a better life. Believing is the crucial part of these diagnoses, for without that faith it dooms the treatment.
So, what makes the placebo effect work? Maybe our emotions and intentions do not start in the conscious mind but instead, are triggered in the subconscious mind. These could be innate choices, learned or imposed choices from childhood to the present. Whatever is programmed into our brains, both good and bad premises, that’s pretty much what leads us through life. However, they can be reprogramed. There’s a strange little quirk about the human subconscious mind, it can’t tell the difference between something imagined vs something remembered. They both have similar effects on our brain chemistry. Thus, by imagining positive and rehabilitating scenarios, a healing process can begin.
What kinds of scenarios work best? For me, the stories remote from my daily life and problems are the most proficient. If you get too close to your personal life, you’ll keep regurgitating old problems instead of deflecting them away. Likewise, you want to create stories that replace your suffering with positive and uplifting thoughts and emotions. This is a rehabilitation process, replacing the bad with the good, and not seeking quick answers. A better analogy is to allow the body to heal so you can return to battle your demons.
Scenarios that center on accomplishments and receiving acknowledgment can be beneficial to one’s psyche. They not only displace negative feelings; they start pathways to positive activities. Joyful scenarios can likewise help reduce stress. That is because positive emotions such as feeling grateful or elated reduce the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
Problem-solving scenarios work well even when the results are not productive. Think of them as exercises for the brain. When you think positive thoughts, negative thoughts and feelings have few opportunities to creep in. Likewise, problem-solving demands a much more concentrated focus making the displacement more effective. However, such scenarios should be disconnected and distant from your present-day conflicts.
Become the hero of your story, the rescuer, the innovator, the savior, the loyal sidekick, the enabler, or the good soldier. Whatever takes you away from your troubles, the misery, the pain, that’s the placebo scenario you want to imagine and create. Feel good scenarios are like meditation in they allow the body and mind to rest while they generate positive hormones that foster healing.
In structuring your stories, you find that when all goes smoothly without conflicts or problems, the results lack satisfaction. To triumph, you need obstacles that test your strength and courage; people, things, or ideas that stand in your way. The higher the difficulty, the more satisfying will be your winning resolution. So, insert villains, natural disasters, and daunting problems that challenge your skills so when you overcome them, it’s a worthwhile achievement.
When using this placebo regiment, one should be cautious about telling others. This is because your scenarios and dreams are not made for public scrutiny. First. your mental state, whether it is depressed or optimistic, your attempts to improve it may face disbelief and opposition, especially when they try to dissect your scenarios and dreams. Only you will know if they are working or if they are not.
If you convey your placebo efforts to others, they are no longer yours should you wish to revisit, extend them, or wallow in their glory. When they become public, they lose their strength and become conversational banter rather than useful therapy.
Another caveat to watch out for is when scenarios become commitments that must be fulfilled, obligations beyond your capabilities. This reality can lead to thoughts of failure and depression. It is best to keep these two worlds separated.
Addiction to placebo scenarios could be a problem where the rush of overcoming dangers and being triumphant creates fantastic highs. Such obsessions, especially when harming your work and social life, should be dealt with by awareness. It’s as if the treatment has taken over and become an overdosing problem. In such situations, one must weigh a healthy reality against rejuvenating scenarios and balance them for the best life possible.
There is a side benefit to placebo scenarios. I remember a study that said employees who daydream at work are more innovative than other employees. In the business world, innovations are the most effective way of increasing productivity and profits. By daydreaming, you think outside the box and discover solutions overlooked by linear thinkers.
While I warn against sharing scenarios, the following stories have become depleted from overuse and will give you some idea of how my imagination works. Using similar scenarios can lead to a healthy psyche.
Designed a valueless car engine that won the Indy 500. This was a problem-solving scenario that demanded a lot of structural visualization and sequential conceptualization. It took over a year to resolve and visualize the design.
As an Air Force crewmember was shot down in WWII Germany and met up with the French underground. Helped to uncover turncoat resistance members working with the Nazis plus discovery of a mole operating in the London Ally Command Center. Learned French and some German and remained undercover for the duration of the war.
Helped design a cinema screening system requiring no special glasses that uses ultra-high frequency light waves projected on a crystal embedded screen to produce vivid 3-D images. The embedded crystals were formulated from compounds extracted from large meteorites falling in Russia in 2013. Scientist found these crystals exhibit unique properties that reflect varying perspectives depending on the frequency of the ultra-high light waves hitting them. Computer programs take data from standard 3-D digital cameras and convert them to data which works with this new system. Observers to test screenings said it’s like looking out a large open window, so lifelike the images.
Studies have shown that positive thoughts supplanting negative ones increase the subject’s outlook. However, thinking happy thoughts aren’t enough to take us into another world. Made up scenarios can and have the added feature of being under the subject’s control and when intense shut out the real world. They also give the subject choices whether to seek rehabilitation or fester in one’s misery. By choosing correctly, the patient becomes the doctor and heals thy self.
Placebo scenario therapy takes time. What got you into this mess took time and getting healthy takes time too. Don’t look for instant success; for like physical wounds, they take time to heal.
The placebo effect of reading this article signifies a belief there’s something here that could help you feel better. It also signifies an awareness you are searching for answers and solutions; that’s a step in the right direction. Welcome to the placebo scenario world.