PARANORMAL..OR PLACEBO EFFECT?
Anyone who has studied Medicine, or Psychology- and many people who haven't (including me!!) -will have heard of the Placebo Effect.
What is it? and why might it have something to do with some perceived paranormal experiences?
WHAT'S THE PLACEBO EFFECT?
The Placebo Effect is defined as "a measurable, observable or perceivable improvement in an individual's state of health or behaviour that can't be attributed to the administered drug or invasive treatment", and studies have shown it to be a very real thing, too.
In looking into this topic, I found an article published in a journal from the American Psychological Association. In the article, its author (Irving Kirsch) mentions that a significant part of the action of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, can be attributed to the Placebo Effect- the recorded response to the drug and recorded response to the placebo show a difference between one another that's considered practically irrelevant for measurement purposes in trials.
The Placebo Effect is a whole-body response to the provided stimulus (the placebo) that is illustrated by observable or measurable differences in areas such as heart rate, blood pressure, mood, and behaviour.
When we are given a placebo (let's say it's a "sugar pill") and told to expect a certain effect or outcome, our bodies and minds respond accordingly where possible, in order to achieve that outcome- in order to ensure that what we expect to happen, happens.
So what's this got to do with paranormal experiences?
Whilst I'm not stating definitively that it's the case in all experiences (one never can, nor should- there's no universally applicable, one-size-fits-all answers, after all!) I do wonder if perhaps something perfectly explainable is sometimes interpreted as something paranormal, due to a sort of Placebo Effect occurring..
I think to start here we could perhaps look at the importance of our acquired information (that could be either verbally imparted to us, or that which we've learned), and how it's translated by us, and therefore becomes our perception and the resultant effect of perception on our emotional and energetic state..and then we could move on to how these might mean the Placebo effect could possibly be a consideration in some experiences we may initially perceive as paranormal.
A HYPOTHETICAL HAUNTING
Let's say for example we visit a location. Perhaps it's old..or perhaps it's not that old, but to us it still looks gloomy or a little shabby. This might make the place "feel" a bit odd to us too. We start to form initial perceptions based upon this sensory information.
While we're there, perhaps we meet someone who is familiar with the history of the location, and we are told of the violent or tragic deaths that allegedly occurred there..and we also hear about the subsequent haunting that has been reported- or perhaps we'd already uncovered all that information via research.
Either way, we are in possession of information- and the way we interpret that information can shape and affect our perceptions and expectations, and thus our energy and emotions too.
We maybe feel our mood alter a little after that interaction, and are now perhaps feeling a little low, or a little on-edge, partly due to our sensory impression of the place, and also partly due to the history we were given, or already knew..
Later still, whilst exploring the location, let's say we have what we feel is a paranormal or unexplained experience.
A LITTLE TANGENT (SORRY!!)
One thing that can be measured and observed with the Placebo effect is that it induces a whole-body effect- it has been shown via clinical studies to alter behaviour, mood, and health. It also therefore would cause changes in our energy, and thus our own "personal energy fields", which are an important factor in this too I think, as they are linked to not only our mood and emotions, but also to our physical status. Stay with me on this little tangent, as there is a reason for it!
If we were to discuss the concept of our personal energy fields we could also use a couple of associated terms, "L-Fields" or "electro-dynamic fields", to describe them.
My thanks (yet again) to Brandon Massullo for this particular consideration, as it was his book that first introduced me to the research conducted around it.
There is actually a large body of research that has been conducted into measuring those fields- the first extensive experiments were conducted in the 1930's by Harold Saxton Burr, a Bio-electrical researcher and a Professor of Anatomy at Yale University.
I'll go into Burr's work to a further extent in another piece, but in the meantime if you'd like to read more about it, here's an online link to his 1972 book "Blueprint for Immortality", which discusses it in great detail (I've bought the book, but the link is there so you don't have to- I don't expect you to share my book addiction!).
To cut a long story short, Burr's research demonstrated quite admirably that our emotional state, our physical state, and any changes in any of those, correlate with (and are often preceded by) measurable and detectable changes in our energy flow; our L-Field.
Emotions cause physical changes to us- for example, if we're nervous or worried we may feel queasy or have that "butterflies in the stomach" feeling, and our heart-rate or blood pressure might rise. If we're angry, we may physically tense up. If we're sad, we may cry. If we're afraid, that can induce a "fight or flight" instinct. These are all physical responses, changes dictated by our emotional state.
The concept of an energy current that flows through all living organisms has been around much longer than Burr's research, though. For instance, it can be seen in the ancient Chinese concept of Qi, or the Japanese concept of Ki. Many ancient beliefs from all corners of the globe have different terms for this energy flow, although the philosophies behind each are quite similar in their fundamentals.
So therefore if the Placebo Effect causes changes in the emotional, mental, behavioural, and physical status of an individual, it is also causing a change in their L-fields; their energy flow.
Our perceptions, which are dictated by the way we interpret information, have a direct impact on our mental and emotional state- our behaviour and mood, and thus cause the shift in our energy flow, which indicates and correlates with changes in our mental and emotional state.
There's sort of an eternal loop going on there- perception affects emotion, which affects energy flow, which then causes physical changes, which then affect our emotional state, which can then cause changes in our perception, which affects our emotional state..on and on it goes.
What comes to mind for me symbolically is comparable to the symbol of Oureboros, the snake that eats its own tail, which depicts an eternal cycle.
If the Placebo Effect induces changes in our mental state- our emotions and L-fields, and thus by extension affects our physical state too, then those energetic shifts are one of the key factors in any equation or formula that could be devised to illustrate the Placebo effect.
It stands to reason that they would also therefore be part of any equation for the equivalent effect, that to which some perceived paranormal experiences could be attributed.
I mentioned equations just previously...the Placebo effect, and its comparative equivalent effect in perceived paranormal experiences, could actually be summed up as basic equations, when we stop to think about it..
For the Placebo effect, the equation might look like this:
PLACEBO (SUGAR PILL)
EXPECTED OUTCOME INFORMATION (PERCEPTION)
BODY AND MIND RESPONSE TO EXPECTATIONS (ENERGY SHIFTS)
= IMPROVEMENT IN PHYSICAL AND/OR MENTAL HEALTH
And for our "hypothetical haunting" instance, it might look like this:
PLACEBO (LOCATION, PERCEPTION, AND SPECIFIC INFORMATION)
EXPECTED OUTCOME (EXPECTING A GHOST OR EXTRASENSORY EXPERIENCE?)
BODY AND MIND RESPONSE TO EXPECTATIONS (ENERGY SHIFTS)
= PERCEIVED PARANORMAL EXPERIENCE
For my mind, the similarities between the two equations lies in the necessity that both contain as factors the information we possess, the expected outcome created in our minds by that information, and the changes that can occur in our mental, emotional, energetic, and thus physical states, in order to facilitate that expected outcome.
That information, viewed in the context of perceived paranormal experiences, could be partly in the form of the appearance of a location and our impressions of it, or the information we discover, have researched, or are given regarding the place. It could also be in the form of any information we possess or have learned regarding the nature of paranormal experiences had by others, and how we translate that information into expectations regarding what might happen were we to have such an experience ourselves.
Whatever the nature of the information, it nonetheless creates an expected outcome in our minds.
The first two factors in either of the above equations (Placebo and expected outcome) are capable of shaping our experiences and realities- causing a sort of chain reaction within us due to our mind's initial response, and encompassing our physical, emotional, energetic, and neurochemical responses.
Our minds are basically powerful "energetic computers" that are responsible for initiating and regulating changes to any and all functions in our bodies.
If we are told that a location is supposedly haunted, or we have heard or read thus, might we then develop the expectation that we may have a paranormal experience there? and having developed that expectation of a certain outcome might our minds, and by extension also our bodies, thus be capable of facilitating the changes required in order to achieve that expected outcome?
Might we be essentially creating a sort of Placebo effect sometimes?
I'm not saying this is the case in every single paranormal or extrasensory experience, by the way- I'm sure there are many cases in files spanning the history of paranormal and psychical research that perhaps negate it as being a consideration, and indeed I've had a few very odd occurrences take place throughout my life too, which I can't explain away using the placebo effect..but I do believe it's important to be aware of the extent of the effect our information and our subsequent expectations can have upon us.
If a medical patient reporting pain is given a sugar pill, and told it contains a powerful painkiller, within half an hour or so they may begin to report reduced pain. Their minds, signalled by their perceptions and their translation of information, are facilitating physical, emotional, and energetic changes.
Might our information, and our translation of it, sometimes be the "sugar pill" in this field?
What do you think? please feel free to comment, It'd be great to hear your thoughts!