Chris Jack chris_jack at
Fri Sep 14 13:18:58 BST 2007

On Thu, 13 Sep 2007 at 15:34:19 +0100 David Cantrell david at wrote:> What *is* wrong, however, is peddling placebos as cures when they ain't.
> It would be wrong to sell, eg, a sugar pill as a "cure" for the common
> cold which had exactly the same effect as a placebo. Medical trials
> look for effects that are *more* than what you get from a placebo.
The way I see it is, psychology is not about curing people - it is about giving people better tools to cure themselves. Where as medicine is most concerned with physical ailments, psychology is more concerned with changing ones self-perception and gaining a better understanding of how ones feelings work - with the end result of feeling happier about oneself. Depression, for instance, (in my opinion) is a lot about internalising anger in one sense or another (aka at some level, whether fully consciously or not, saying "I'm no good", "people don't like me", etc and typically struggling not to have those feelings). There are lots of different psychological approaches to dealing with that - but reconceptualising or stopping resisting the feeling is a pretty common theme. Tantra, for instance, might really encourage you to have the "I'm no good feeling" - head towards the storm as they say.
(Aside: brain chemical imbalances and brain damage leading to depression is a whole other subject - and is more the realm of psychiatry and neurology and so on).
I see the placebo effect in medicine along the lines of "There is something wrong with, I need something external to make me feel better" leading to "Now I have something external, I feel better". But how can you separate that out from a "genuine" psychological effect. The person has still achieved the same end result of "no longer being in resistance to the feeling" and "feeling better". Now you might argue that the person doesn't "really" feel better - they are in denial about what is going on. But how do you assess this aside from asking or observing them? And how do you observe without projecting?
Distraction is one of the tools in my parenting kit - child starts winding up for mega-wobbly, parent goes - oh, look at X out the window and the child (sometimes) forgets all about having the wobbly. It could be that some of NLP works simply because instead of looping on something like "I'm rubbish at relationships" and giving off a nervous energy - you're suddenly looping on "I have lots of skills for dealing with relationships" and you're giving off lots of happy energy. Does it matter whether those skills are real or imagined. I read somewhere that a lot of the happiest people are the least realistic. Given a choice between happy and unrealistic or unhappy and realistic, I know which I'd go for.
Simply having people validate your experience can be highly therapeutic. Is that a placebo - or does it work because most unhappiness is caused by people resisting their feelings and the therapist has helped them give themselves permission to feel whatever is going on.
One theme in NLP is pointing out that the client has a choice about whether they let the techniques work for them or not - which makes sense if you view happiness to some extent as a choice. I can choose to hit the wall or not. One choice may bring greater happiness than the other - it may or may not be the one you expect. Of course, you could argue that this always gives NLP a ready opt out. If it works, it's thanks to NLP, if it doesn't - it's your fault for not using it right. But what if that element of choice is inherent in attaining happiness? How then do you assess NLP?
At the end of the day, in my opinion, it still all comes back to whether it works for you on an individual basis.
Apologies in advance if I've stuffed up my line breaks again. I'm using hotmail and trying to manually get it to do the "right thing". All I can say is it looks fine before I hit send but sometimes it obviously looks quite different once it hits the group.
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