Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Does Mind Rule Body?

I read a news item in " The Spectator, " London that Medical colleges in England are contemplating to start an additional course for the doctors regarding the mind-body relationship in the context of placebo effect. French pharmacist Emile Coue (1857-1926) noticed that his clients seemed to respond to treatment when their cures were accompanied by words of positive affirmation-how good the cure was, how quickly it'd work, and so on. This has opened a debate on does the mind rule body?


What Coue had really chanced upon was the placebo effect, which proposes that the attitudes and expectations of patients play a significant role in their recovery. Of course, Coue's cures were not mere 'sugar pills' (placebos), but the better-than-expected improvement suggested to him that a key part of health consisted in healthy thinking.

Coue's method was simply to repeat a positive phrase a number of times each day in the manner of a meditative mantra like: Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better. In this way, Coue realised that the patient could influence his own unconscious  attitudes-which were the things that really shaped health and feelings. Coue termed this process autosuggestion and we discuss it while discussing the topic does mind rule the body?.


For science and medicine, the placebo effect or you can say does mind rule body is something of a conundrum. It's one thing to train oneself by repeated suggestion to feel differently, perhaps, but quite another to use this process to affect the body's health. However, it's well-documented, and modern drug trials need to account for the percentage of patients who get better of their own accord.

However, it needn't be seen as a mystical phenomenon: the process of healing is something which the body mostly undertakes itself, and many medical treatments merely work to encourage or supplement natural processes. So, if the brain can be tricked  into kick-starting a certain healing process through suggestion (rather than chemically, via the administration of a drug), then the result is still the same.


However, whilst it'd be dangerous to take this too far-a cancer patient would be foolish to reject chemotherapy in favour of autosuggestion-it does suggest that modern medicine still has much to learn regarding the mind-body relationship and in the context of does mind rule body? Should we blame Rene Descartes (cogito- ergo sum: I think, therefore, I'm)?   

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