These results tended to contradict the idea that a positive outcome is entirely down to a placebo response, as those who wrongly believed that they received the healing did not do as well as those who rightly believed they had received it. The belief of the patient in his treatment—backed up by a healing intention sent by the healer—had the strongest effect.
A meaningful or special 'healing' relationship between healer and healee may help the healing response.
Mind-body psychologist Jeanne Achterberg of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology in California, carried out a study at a hospital in Hawaii using experienced healers, who selected as their 'patient' a person with whom they had a special connection. Each healer was isolated from his patient, who was placed in
an MRI scanner. At random intervals, the healers sent healing intentions to their patients. Achterberg discovered significant brain activation in the same portions of the brains-mainly the frontal lobes-of all the patients during the times that healing energy was being 'sent'.
When the same procedure was tried with people the healers did not know, there was no effect on the patients' brain activity. Some sort of emotional bond or empathetic connection may be crucial to the success of both prayer and healing intentions (J Altern Complement Med, 2005; 11: 965-71).
Both the energy and intention of the healing itself and the patient's belief that he has received healing promotes actual healing. A belief that the particular treatment or modality works on the part of both doctor and patient is another important factor.
Perhaps the most remarkable case of the placebo effect, recounted by Lemoine, concerned Annie, a woman whose severe depression landed her in Lemoine's psychiatric hospital for more than a decade. Most of her days were spent curled up in an armchair in her ward. After Lemoine struck up a friendship with her, he persuaded her to take part in a trial of a new antidepressant. She agreed and responded so well to the drug that she was able to leave hospital. Eventually, she found both an apartment and a boyfriend. Her case, in fact, may have helped put the drug on the market.
Much later, however, Lemoine found the pills that Annie was supposed to have taken buried deep in the folds of her armchair. On counting them, he found that she hadn't taken a single one. So, either she didn't want to disappoint him, or-more likely-she got better to avoid taking that new drug.
Instances like this make a powerful statement about the healing contract. Just the expectation of-or, in this last case, the desire to avoid-being given a healing drug by the doctor did the trick.
It may well be that we don't need drugs, but just our sincere trust-as doctors and patients-that what-
ever it is we most believe in-drug, alternative therapy or divine intervention-will work.
- Lynne McTaggart
Some of this research is included in Lynne McTaggart's new book The Intention Experiment: Use Your Thoughts to Change The World. Order your copy, and join her at The Intention Experiment Conference, where scientists will demonstrate how your mind marshals the healing capacity of your body. For more information or to place your order, see www.theintentionexperiment.com or phone 0870 444 9886.