Suggestible You | Erik Vance

Summary of: Suggestible You: Placebos. False Memories, Hypnosis and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain
By: Erik Vance


Embark on a captivating exploration into the power of the human brain with ‘Suggestible You: Placebos, False Memories, Hypnosis and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain’ by Erik Vance. This summary will delve into the extraordinary impact of placebos and the significance of storytelling in our lives. Discover the role of brain chemistry in chronic pain and uncover the enigma of false memories. Learn about everyday suggestibility that influences our choices and how to harness the power of expectation in everyday life. Throughout this summary, you will grasp the fascinating world of human suggestibility and unravel the incredible potential of our astonishing brains.

The Power of Suggestion

Have you ever experienced immediate relief after taking a painkiller? If so, you have experienced the placebo effect, which works by tapping into the power of suggestion. Placebos are usually inert substances, but they still have a positive effect on patients. Take, for instance, homeopathic remedies, which are believed to cure patients even though they have no active ingredients. The key message here is that stories create our vision of the world and ourselves, and they shape how we see things. By helping us make sense of our feelings through stories that resonate with us, we can let go of fears that trap us indoors. The snow in the vial that a homeopath gave to a depressed woman was just a prop, but it revealed the power of suggestion.

The Power of Placebos

Pain is our body’s way of telling us when something is wrong. But sometimes, it lingers long after its cause is gone, and it afflicts millions of people in the form of chronic pain. While placebos are known to work well for this, it can be challenging to prove whether a treatment is more than just a placebo. Interestingly, the body has its own chemical arsenal that could enhance the placebo effect. Opioids are the drugs responsible for stopping pain, and the brain already produces them naturally. Placebos help activate the brain’s opioid-producing section, which releases endorphins that alleviate pain. The body also has other chemicals like endocannabinoids, serotonin, and dopamine that are particularly receptive to placebos and can overcome conditions like pain, depression, anxiety, nausea, and addiction.

The Mysteries of Placebo Effects

Researchers have discovered that certain individuals are more likely to respond to a placebo than others due to genetic factors that regulate hormone production. By excluding those who are more responsive to placebos from drug trials, personalized therapies tailored to a person’s genetic makeup can be developed. This ultimately benefits both placebo responders and those whom the drug works. However, the question of what makes placebos work for some still remains, as findings are not easily replicable. Nonetheless, this ongoing research provides exciting opportunities for alternative therapies.

The Dark Side of Suggestibility

The power of suggestibility that allows placebos to heal also has a harmful twin called nocebo. Nocebo causes pain and illness in humans and is easier to induce as our fears are more powerful than our hopes. Nocebo effects can be induced through bad news, panic-inducing headlines, and superstitions. The wind turbine syndrome is the result of nocebo effects.

Understanding the Power of Hypnosis

Hypnosis is an exceptional example of human suggestibility, but its effects are often misunderstood. Hypnotists don’t hold endless power or the ability to hypnotize individuals against their will. Only about 10% of the population can enter into a trance-like state, with another 10% not susceptible at all. Despite its difficulties in studying, hypnosis can have dramatic effects, particularly in managing pain. Researchers are making progress in discovering more about how electrical brain waves play a role in the effectiveness of hypnosis.

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