Very interesting interview with Ellen Langer. I have not come across her work before but I will be looking out for her work in future. I completely agree regarding the mind / body split. After reading Patrick Wall's book on the science of suffering I began to think in terms of the thinking or conscious body. We talk about the mind in a very ambiguous way, sometimes in the sense of the mind being the brain, other times as that which gives rise to consciousness experience. I now conceptualise the mind as a phenomena that arises from the thinking or conscious body and it's environment (both internal and external), rather than it being an entity in itself. Our whole body thinks, it's not a function confined to (that admittedly amazing organ) the brain; and the body, with it's internal and external senses, is dependant on it's environment as part of that thinking process. Sensory deprivation soon leads to pathology in the thinking body. Could the mind then be the (conscious) experience of that process, not an entity which functions in its self?
I also completely agree with Ellen regarding placebo. This powerful phenomena has been long overlooked. As has it’s darker counterpart, nocebo. I dislike the term placebo because of its negative connotations. I have been playing around with different names. Symbolic healing? Symbiotic healing even!
One of the threads I have come across time and time again in healthcare it that people need their suffering acknowledged and validated. I think that is why diagnosis are frequently sort and so important, especially in our Western culture which has many systems in place which fail to acknowledge your suffering unless you have a diagnosis - preferably with lots of tests to back it up!
I think part of placebo is about acknowledging suffering, validating the individuals experience and giving them ‘permission’ to heal. Louis Gifford frames placebo as primarily a social phenomena – as social creatures we respond biologically the people around us. The thinking body!
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