Volition and placebos | Seth’s Blog


If a placebo heals your illness, does that mean it was all in your head in the first place? That you weren’t really sick, or didn’t really want to get better?

If expensive wine tastes better to you, but you can’t tell wine apart in a double-blind taste test, does that mean it doesn’t really taste better to you, or that you have shallow tastes?

Can luxury goods, spiritual practices or a change in the weather change our situation?

Knee surgery works for some people, and those people, apparently, had an actual injury and the surgery fixed it. And yet, sham knee surgery (in which the patient is sedated, cut and stitched, but no internal changes occur) is just as effective as ‘actual’ knee surgery for certain physical ailments. Does that mean that those ailments weren’t real, or that the patient was not trying hard enough to get well?

Along the way, we’ve persuaded ourselves and others that our brains don’t matter so much, and that the stories in our lives are not nearly as important as the molecules.

And yet, every time we look closely, the opposite appears to be true.

Stories are a balm. And our brains are powerful, though not always (or even often) under our conscious control.

“It’s all in your head.” Where else would it be?


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