Sunday, April 7, 2019

Our Worst Enemy Can Be Ourselves

by Michael Grosso:

I think that anybody given to self-observation will notice that sometimes our worst enemy is ourselves.  They say we have guardian angels; I think we also have inner saboteurs.  There is, I believe, a war going on in us all the time.  But the enemy is not Satan but rather our rogue thoughts.
So I perk up at stories that show how people wreak havoc on themselves with their own beliefs. 

Walter Cannon has described the phenomenon of voodoo death.  A perfectly healthy man learns that some sorcerer has pointed the bone at him, with the intent of a spell to kill him.  The victim is terrified and feels defenseless. He lies down, his whole vital apparatus crashes, and he dies.  Voodoo death illustrates the violence we can inflict on ourselves--all by virtue of what we believe and what we expect.

Voodoo death is an extreme form of so-called nocebo, the opposite of the well-known placebo effect.  The placebo is a mystery in plain sight, an embarrassment to doctors and pharmacologists.

Example: antidepressant drugs are only a small percentage more effective than placebos, non-drugs whose beneficial effects are based solely on the positive beliefs they induce in patients.

The positive effects of placebo are well known but not the negative effects of nocebo.  My guess is that we seriously underrate the amount of harm we can do to ourselves.  We are after all immersed in pathogenic ideation; just watch the commercials on the evening news—or the news itself.  The harm is not deliberate but the result of subconscious suggestions operating on us.

In one case, a man was depressed over a fight with his friend and swallowed 29 anti-depression pills; he became lethargic, blood pressure dropped abnormally, and his pulse raced abnormally. When the man’s doctor told him the pills were placebos and not the cause of his physical distress, the man was relieved, and his symptoms disappeared.  He took the pills believing something would happen to him; something physically real did, but because he expected it—the effects were literally manufactured by his mind.(See Shayla Love, Power of Nocebo Effect, VICE. March, 2019)

Normally, we have no way of knowing what beliefs, images and emotions are affecting or threatening our lives. Most people today are not vulnerable to voodoo death; we’re too rational to believe it is possible.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t  more subtle kinds of sorcery. I can think of one possible agency where vulnerable minds may become victims of subtle ‘voodoo’ death or possession—the Internet.  A big topic. Ideas on this, anybody?


1 comment:


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