This Sixty Minutes segment, Treating Depression: Is there a placebo effect?, is interesting on several levels. Digging around, I find all sorts of tangential connections. If I was a skilled writer, perhaps I could adequately express them all. On the other hand, being a skilled writer might very well limit my ability to see all those connections.
Yep, each advantage we inherit is paid for by some shortcoming. The singular advantage that sets humans apart from animals is how we are able to imagine all the positives we would like to have, and imagine all the negatives we would like to be rid off. We excel at imagining better ways of living.
Now, it sounds like I’m getting off message here. What does this have to do with the placebo effect? First, consider that the placebo effect doesn’t work on animals (as far as I know, or if it does, it does so only minimally). I’m guessing that the placebo effect is actually an intuitive process that helps link us back toward our primal animal nature. That sounds a little far-fetched I suppose, so let me explain this if I can…
The cognitive processes that make thinking possible keep us on edge constantly relative to ‘dumb’ animals. Thought enables us to worry about what may never happen, desire that which is impossible to obtain, plan for the un-planable. The result being, we just can’t help but make mountains out of molehills. Nature abhors a vacuum and so it naturally fills the mind’s immense inner space (trillions of synaptic possibilities) with anything available, be it fact or imagination’s fiction.
Now, if these were actual physical mountains we were making from molehills we would be grounded in reality… tentative and hesitant as we ford the river of life. Our mind keeps us ‘high strung’, and that interferes with an ability found in other animals to respond spontaneously with problematic situations they encounter. Our responses seem to swing from one extreme to the other. Yes, we are very creative and accomplish much more, but at what cost? Are we as successful as we think we are—truly?
We are so anxious to answer that question in the affirmative that we actually fail to ask it, or ask it in a self righteous and hypocritical way (e.g., “We are all sinners and those who fail to take Jesus as their savior go to hell”). Maybe the self-doubt that naturally compliments an idealized self image, forces that (i.e., Hence existence and nothing give birth to each other).
I’m afraid I ended up saying more about the dis-ease that the placebo effect assists us with, than the effect itself. Of course, viewed from a symptoms point of view, that makes sense, i.e., the placebo effect is more a symptom of underlying causes than anything real in its own right. This is why I say the placebo effect is the process at work in religion. Oh well… No wonder I lament not being a better writer, and capable of putting the whole picture I see into words. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but alas, the more words I write, the more bored you’d become. Ah yes, this is what makes a skilled writer; they can write thousands of words and keep it interesting!