You are the Placebo
By JOE DISPENZA
Chapter 4 – The Placebo Effect in the Brain
To see how the process unfolds, it’s vital to examine and review three key elements: conditioning, expectation, and meaning. As you’ll see to recap, conditioning happens when we associate a past memory (for example, taking an aspirin) with a physiological change (getting rid of a headache) because we’ve experienced it so many times.
The moment you notice a change in your inner environment, you pay attention to what it was in your outer environment that caused the change. That event-where something outside of you changes something inside of you-is called an associative memory.
If we keep repeating the process over and over again, by association the outer stimulus can becomes so strong or reinforced that we can replace the aspirin for a sugar pill that looks like an aspirin, and it will produce an automatic inner response. That’s one way the placebo works.
Expectation, the second element, comes into play when we have reason to anticipate a different outcome. So, for example, if we have chronic pain from arthritis and get a new medication from the doctor, who enthusiastically explains to us that it’s supposed to alleviate our pain, we accept his suggestion and expect that when we take this new medication, something different will happen (we won’t be in pain anymore). Then, in effect, our doctor has influenced our level of suggestibility.
Assigning meaning, the third element, to a placebo helps it work, because when we give an action a new meaning, then we have added intention behind it. So, for example, in the study about the hotel maids once the maids understood how much physical exercise they were doing every day just be performing their jobs, as well as the benefits of that exercise, they assigned more meaning to those actions.
The maids’ intention or aim as they worked wasn’t just to completetheir tasks-it was also to get physical exercise and become healthier. The more you believe that a particular substance, procedure, or surgery will work because you’ve been educated about its benefits, we are creatures of habit.
We get up on the same side of the bed, go through the same routine in the bathroom, comb our hair in the same way, sit in the same chair as we eat the same breakfast and hold our mug in the same hand, drive the same route to the same job, and do the same things we know how to do so well with the same people (who push the same emotional buttons) every day.
And then we hurry up and go home so that we can hurry up and check our e-mail so that we can hurry up and eat dinner so that we can hurry up and watch our favourite TV shows so that we can hurry up and brush our teeth in the same bedtime routine so that we can hurry up and go to bed at the same time so that we can hurry up and do it all over again the next day.
As a result of this conscious or unconscious process, your biology stays the same. Neither your brain nor your body changes at all, because you’re thinking the same thoughts, performing the same actions, and living by the same emotions-even though you may be secretly hoping your life will change.
Now take a look at your life for a moment. What does this mean for you? If you’re thinking the same thoughts as yesterday, more than likely, you’re making the same choices today. Those same choices today are leading to the same behaviours tomorrow. The same habitual behaviours tomorrow are producing the same experiences in your future. The same events in your future reality are creating the same predictable emotions for you all the time. And as a result, you’re feeling the same every day. Your yesterday becomes your tomorrow-so in truth; your past is your future.
If you agree with me up to this point, then we could say that the familiar feeling I just described is “you”- your identity or your personality. It’s your state of being. And it’s comfortable, effortless, and automatic. It’s the known you who, quite frankly, is living in the past. When you keep this redundant process going on a daily basis so everything stays the same about your personality. If this is your personality, then your personality creates your personal reality.
You see, most people try to create a new personal reality as the same old personality, and it doesn’t work. So if you understand this model, then you should agree with me that your new thoughts should lead to new choices. New choices should lead to new behaviours. New experiences should create new emotions, and new emotions and feeling should inspire you to think in new ways. That’s called “evolution.” And your personal reality and your biology-your brain circuitry, your internal chemistry, your genetic expression, and ultimately your health- should change as a result of this new personality, this new state of being. And it all seems to start with a thought.
So when we repeat a thought or an experience enough times, our brain cells make not only stronger connections between each other (which affects our physiological functions), but also a greater number of total connections (which affects the physical structure of the body). The brain becomes more enriched microscopically.
So as soon as you think a new thought, you becomes changed-neurologically, chemically, and genetically. In fact, you can gain thousands of new connections in a matter of seconds from novel learning, new ways of thinking, and fresh experiences. This means that by thought alone, you can personally actives new genes right away. It happens just by changing your mind; it’s mind over matter.
Therefore, if we repeat what we learn enough times, we strengthen communities of neurons to support us in remembering it the next time. This is why it’s important for us to continually update, review, and remember our new thoughts, choices, behaviours, habits, beliefs, and experiences if we want them to solidify in our brains.
Think of it as a box inside your brain. There’s no literal box inside your head, of course. But it’s safe to say that thinking inside the box means you’ve physically hardwired your brain into a limited pattern, as illustrated in so our goal, then, needs to be thinking outside the box to make the brain fire in new ways, as that’s what having an open mind means, because whenever you make your brain work differently, you’re literally changing your mind.
Research shows that as we use our brains, they grow and change, thanks to neuroplasticity-the brain’s ability to adapt and change when we learn new information.
The hardest part about change is not making the same choices we made the day before. The reason it’s so difficult is that the moment we no longer are thinking the same thoughts we immediately feel uncomfortable. This new state of being is unfamiliar; it’s unknown. It doesn’t feel “normal.” We don’t feel like ourselves anymore-because we’re not ourselves.
As uncomfortable as that may be at first, that’s the moment we know we’ve stepped into the river of change. We’ve entered the unknown. Usually when people step into the river of change, that void between the old self and the new self is so uncomfortable that they immediately slip back into being their old selves again. They unconsciously think, this doesn’t feel right, I’m uncomfortable, or I don’t feel so good. The moment they accept that thought, or autosuggestion they will unconsciously make the same old choices again that will lead to same habitual behaviours to create the same experiences endorse the same emotions and feelings. And then they say to themselves, this feels right. But what they really mean is that it feels familiar.
If we understand that the discomfort we feel is the dismantling of old attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that have been repeatedly etched into our cerebral architecture, we can endure. And if we can remember that we are modifying our very genes from this life and from untold previous generations, we can stay focused and inspired to an end. The old self has to die for a new one to be reborn. Of course that feels uncomfortable!
But that’s okay, because that unknown is the perfect place to create from-it’s the place where possibilities exist. What could be better than that? Most of us have been conditioned to run from the unknown, so now we have to learn to become comfortable in the void or the unknown, instead of fearing it.
That means that the conscious mind isn’t really in charge. The body has subconsciously been programmed and conditioned, in a very real way, to become its own mind. Eventually, when this loop of thinking and feeling and then feeling and thinking has been operating long enough, our bodies memorize the emotions that our brains have signalled our bodies to feel.
The cycle becomes so established and ingrained that it creates a familiar state of being-one based on old information that keeps recycling. Those emotions, which are nothing more than the chemical records of past experiences, are driving our thoughts and are being played out over and over again. As long as this continues, we’re living in the past. No wonder it’s so hard for us to change our future!
When feelings have become the means of thinking in this manner-or we can’t think greater than how we feel-than we’re in the program. Our thinking is how we feel, and our feelings are how we think. Since we’re caught in this loop, then our bodies, as the unconscious mind, actually believe they’re living in the same past experience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The repetition of the cycle of thinking and feeling and then feeling and thinking is the conditioning process of the body that the conscious mind delivers. Once the body becomes the mind, that’s called a “habit”-a habit is when your body is the mind. Ninety-five present of who you are by the time you’re 35 years old is a set of memorized behaviours, skills, emotional reactions, beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that functions like a subconscious automatic computer program.
So 95 present of who you are is a subconscious or even and unconscious state of being. And that means your conscious mind’s 5 present is working against the 95 present of what you’ve memorized subconsciously. You can think positively all you want, but that 5 present of your mind that’s conscious will feel as if it’s swimming upstream against the current of the other 95 present of your mind-your unconscious body chemistry that has been remembering and memorizing whatever negativity you’ve been harbouring for the past 35 years; that’s mind and body working in opposition. No wonder you don’t get very far when you try to fight that current!
I want to point out that feeling and emotions are the end products of past experiences. When you’re caught up in an experience, your senses capture the event and then relay all of that vital information back to your brain through five different sensory pathways. Thus, we can remember past events, because we can remind ourselves of how they felt.
Because your body acts as your unconscious mind, it didn’t know the difference between the actual event in your life that created the emotional state and the emotions you created by thought alone when you remembered the event. Your body believed that it was living in the same experience over and over again, even though you were actually alone in the comfort of your car, and the body responded physiologically as though you were indeed reliving that experience in the present time.
First, like a talented animal trainer, you’ve conditioned your body into a subconscious state of being where mind and body are one-your thoughts and feelings have merged-and your body has now been programmed to automatically, biologically, and physiologically be the mind by thought alone. And anytime a stimulus from your external environment is presented to you-like an opportunity to teach-you’ve conditioned your body, just as Pavlov conditioned his dogs, to subconsciously and automatically respond to the mind of the past experience.