Here we are on the eve of a new year, where there is a natural, but also, implicit pressure to create change or start anew.   But why is it that even our best efforts to create change often fail?  Is it laziness?  Is it a lack of motivation?  Many would attribute our failed attempts to change as a function of laziness or poor motivation.  Although these dynamics can be contributing factors, another force is often more operative and pressing.  The driving force I am referring to is our lost faith or sagging confidence in our own inner ability to create change. 

Unfortunately, many of us feel we lack the inner power or resources to drive change.  Instead, we are typically inclined to attribute more power to external sources than to ourselves.  This is born out in the plethora of placebo research, where a high percentage of individuals experience improved health related to a "sugar pill" as opposed to an authentic medication.  In these studies, the powerless pill becomes capable of mobilizing the healing resources that are already within them.    Even more fascinating, is that the placebo effect produces results even when subjects are actually informed that it is nothing more than  a sugar pill (Lembo et al., 2010).

 What I believe is the most dramatic observation related to the placebo effect  is that, in some cases, the placebo response is affecting a greater percentage of people than it has in the past.   Historically, approximately a third of the individuals in research studies would be responsive to a placebo.  More recently, there have been several studies finding that the placebo effect is occurring in the upper sixty percent ranges.   

What would account for the placebo effect becoming stronger?  I suspect that, as a culture, external influences are growing in dominance, where we are attributing increasingly more power to external solutions than ever before.  If this is in fact true, then this is a significant and potentially foreboding trend, and ultimately at great cost to our health and our power to create change.  By   subordinating our inner power and resources to external forces, we lose faith in our own abilities to create change, which only makes us more dependent on external solutions.  Could this be the intent of companies' slick marketing campaigns?   I am sure it comes as no surprise that the number of prescriptions filled each year for depression, sleep, and anxiety medications continues to set new records. 

So let's ring in the New Year with a different type of New Year's Resolution - a fresh resolve to rediscover our own inner ability to create meaningful changes in our health.     Before turning to an external solution for a problem, what if we first look within ourselves for the resources to change?   But it is important to not expect instant results, for this is the allure of external answers.  Although instant results can be a tremendous relief, the changes can be ephemeral, while concomitantly increasing your dependency on external answers.   Drawing on your inner resources may require more effort and time at first, but they may produce more enduring results.   But why turn first to the outside for answers when there can be such a powerful lifeline on the inside?  Learning that you can be part of the solution will continue to reward you and bear fruit in the years ahead.    So on New Year's day imagine reawakening an inner power that can profoundly influence your health and many other areas of your life.  You can!

Copyright 2010  by Marc Schoen, Ph.D.

About the Author

Marc Schoen

Marc Schoen is an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA's School of Medicine.

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