Lissa Rankin and the Theory of Self-Healing
In her book, she talks about the placebo effect with medicine, a subject that’s also very puzzling. The scientific world is very clear about the fact that people’s attitudes can have a self-healing effect. The thing is, there aren’t many studies about these mechanisms.
“Sickness is an attempt at self-healing. It’s a biological survival reaction that happens when we encounter an uncontrollable emotional event.”
-[Translation] Christian Flèche-
What do our bodies do to heal themselves? That’s the central question in the research Lissa Rankin has been doing. In her book, she talks about the six necessary steps for the body to voluntarily heal itself. She also mentions the best ways for you to build a “preventative” mind frame when it comes to physical health.
A symbolic precedent
In 1957, there was a case about placebos that became a model for the studies we have now. Dr. Philip West was treating a patient with the last name Wright. He had lymphosarcoma, a kind of cancer. The disease was advanced and had metastasized all over his body. He was declared terminally ill.
But Mr. Wright had heard people talk about an experimental medication called Krebiozen. He constantly pestered his doctor to try the medication on him. Mr. Wright wasn’t fit enough to enter the drug trial, though. Still, he was so insistent, almost to the point of begging, that Dr. West allowed it, knowing he only had a few days left to live.
Dr. West gave him Krebiozen on a Friday. The following Monday, Mr. Wright was lively and showed no signs of pain or any other symptoms. When they examined him, his tumors had decreased by 50%. But the most fascinating part of all is that, not long after, a study came out that stated that Krebiozen didn’t work. Then, Mr. Wright got sick again. That’s when Dr. West decided to trick him. He said there was a new version of the medication and that it was much more effective. All he did was give him distilled water and Mr. Wright got better again.
Even with all his evidence, the American Medical Association refused to accept Dr. West’s findings. They revealed the fact that Dr. West had tricked his patient. Of course, once Mr. Wright found that out, he got sick again. This time he didn’t get better. There are tons of similar cases, and that’s what Lissa Rankin based her book on.
Lissa Rankin and self-healing
What Rankin did was start documenting the huge amount of cases where the placebo effect came into play. The cases she found dealt with all kinds of serious illnesses like cancer, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, ulcers, and even baldness and HIV.
She also dug up some experiments where, for example, doctors told their patients they’d be receiving chemotherapy. In reality, they were just giving them a placebo. People still lost their hair and vomited over and over again after they’d ingested the medicines. All these things made Rankin believe without a doubt that our mind has the power to cure our body.
They showed that, if we create the right conditions for a patient to think they’ll be alright, then they will be. Their body receives that message, that instruction from their brain, and it acts accordingly. In the same way, if they think they’re sick, then they’ll get sick.
The different ways to practice self-healing
Dr. Rankin mentions multiple ways to help make your body more efficient when it comes to self-healing. But she says there are actually only two that she sees as definitive in this area of medicine.
The first thing is preventative medicine, which is all the different kinds of healthy practices you have in your daily life. Outside of its effect on your body, a good lifestyle will also make you feel much healthier. People who have a healthy lifestyle are much less likely to get sick.
The second thing has to do with stress. According to Dr. Rankin, stress has extremely toxic effects on our minds and bodies. It negatively activates what she calls the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. To put it more simply, this part of our body reacts to threats. The problem is that your body can’t tell the difference between a big argument and an earthquake. It experiences them both the exact same way.
Although there are no formal responses to Lissa Rankin’s studies, most doctors agree that the placebo effect really does work, they just don’t know why. It’ll be better for us all if we start to dedicate more studies and research to this subject.