The Muse

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

From Woods to Home to Placebos

 

I'm home from my cabin in the woods, and the irony is I moved out.

 

Not out out, as in leaving home, but I moved my office from the living room (where I had my desk) to the Wayback. The Wayback is an auxiliary building that's beyond our backyard lawn. Once, it was a dance studio with mirrors on the walls. For us, it was a shop and a storage unit. It now holds my office. 

 

First came the junk-be-done phase. Then the fixing up phase.

 

I put down a rug, bought fabric for panels, and curtained off an area. I have been preoccupied for the past week with fixing up my little hole. And now, I have a desk by a window, and a curtained bubble to hold in heat.

 

 The irony is that at 7 a.m. this morning, the sun hit me smack-dab in the eyes and wiped out my view of the screen. And my coffee didn't stay hot past two sips.

 

Most projects take some fine-tuning.

 

 

It appears that my excursion into the woods kicked me into action.  

 

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."— Henry David Thoreau. 

 

So, what is living deliberately?

 

For me, it's stepping out of the footprints I walked in yesterday. It is consciously deciding rather than reacting. It is living rather than enduring. 

 

If that sounds lofty, remember I went to the woods for only two days, Thoreau went for I don't know how long. Maybe I dare not stay longer—I might move to another country.

 

While at the cabin, I read Joe Dispenza's book You are Your Own Placebo. As I have mentioned in other blogs, I am interested in how the brain works and how we change beliefs. The Placebo effect is further evidence of the power of the mind.

 

An off sung phrase is, "If you don't take command of your own through processes, someone will do it for you." And, in clearing out files, I found a quote by Terry Cole-Whittaker: "Misery is a business plan."

 

First, you give a person a problem, then offer a solution. It works.

 

Yes, and a woman needs to have a new outfit for every occasion. 

 

Buy more clothes. 

 

And here I wanted to talk about Placebos, which intrigue me, for it's another window into the workings of the mind. 

 

Some say the Placebo effect is all in your mind, thus trivializing its miracle. "It happens," doctors say, "cancer goes into remission." They have discounted the mind-change the person went through to change their physiology. 

 

When a doctor tells a patient they have three months to live, they are usually dead in three months.   

 

One night Joseph McClendon III came home around midnight after a seminar. As he fiddled with his keys trying to get into the house, he heard his answering machine come on. 

 

His sister's hysterical voice came over the answering machine, "Momma's in the hospital."

 

He ran to the phone and called her back, but she had already left, so he got in the car and drove the 180 miles to the LA hospital.

 

When he got there, his sister was holding her baby and crying.

Mother was in surgery.

 

When the doctor came in, he was solemn. He informed them that McClendon’s mother had cancer. They took out part of a tumor but left the other part in for to remove it would kill her. The doctor told Joseph she had "Two months to live."

 

Joseph remembered what #Deepak Chopra had said. "If a doctor tells a patient they have two months to live, they will be dead within those two months."

 

Joseph told the doctor. "Don't tell her."

 

"But I have to."

 

"No, you don't. You can tell my mother she has cancer, but do not tell her she has two months to live."

 

"I must."

 

"No, you don't."

 

Back and forth, they went with the sister and her baby crying. Finally, Joseph grabbed the doctor's shirt and said, "Don't tell her!"

 

"I'll call security."

 

Joseph knew about L.A. police pat-down, and here he was, a black man. He released his hold.

 

So, Joseph wondered what to do—get to momma before the doctor. Then remembering what # Norman Cousins did to heal himself, Joseph ran out, bought a VCR and a pile of funny movies.

 

He ran to the room where momma was still unconscious and discovered she had a roommate. "Things will be happening around here," he told the woman, "you can either stay or move to another room."

 

Timidly she said, “I’ll stay.”

 

For two weeks in the hospital, Joseph and his mother laughed at funny movies. "Oh, stop," she would say, laughing. When the doctor came in, Joseph took up his arms-folded glaring stance.

 

The doctor never told her.

 

She lived for another 11 years.

 

I wonder how her roommate faired.

 

During WWII, morphine was often scarce or absent in MASH units. Dr. Henry Beecher, an American surgeon faced the problem of no morphine and a severely injured soldier. As he stood deliberating on what to do, and afraid the soldier would go into cardiovascular shock without a painkiller, a nurse walked into the room, and gave the soldier a shot. The doctor did the surgery with little discomfort to the soldier. Later, Dr. Beecher found that the nurse had given the man saline water. 

 

This experience led the doctor to study the effects of a Placebo. 

 

One take from Despenzia's book that astounded me is that it isn't just mind over matter. The body has a pharmacy and can produce the chemicals it needs to recover. 

 

Antidepressants are an excellent example of this phenomenon. Doctors have found that a sugar pill works as well or better than an antidepressant pill.

 

The trick is, how do you fool yourself? You know you have some ailment. You know you are taking a sugar pill. Do you believe it will heal you?

 

Just two days ago, a friend told me that her little girl was born with asthma. They tried everything the doctor prescribed or suggested. Nothing worked. Enter a new friend who was going to a naturopath. They decided to take the little girl to the naturopath. Her asthma disappeared.

 

The doctors concluded that she grew out of it. 

 

"Science is the language of mysticism," says Dr. Joe Despenzia.

 

The moment we begin talking in the language of religion or culture or metaphysics, we lose half of our audience. 

 

Science demystifies the mystical. 

 

Now we have the science of epigenetics, which says that genes can turn on and off. We have  neuroplasticity which says that environmental forces can alter the brain's ability to form new synapses, and that changes our DNA. On top of it all is the brain, our master controller.

 

How do we jump into the fray and control our own destiny?

 

It boggles my mind.

 

More on this later…

 


 

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