[ Use expectation and the placebo effect to your advantage || Does pre-warning help reduce anxiety || Placebo’s don’t need to be a secret to work || Choosing to believe something can work instantly || How to use this with clients ]
There is enough evidence to be found that proves that ‘alternative’ practices like hypnotherapy, meditation or in this instance audio visual brainwave entrainment are effective in their own right. Some people would call the effects a placebo effect or just expectation. But there is science to back those claims up as still being reason enough to use them.
Positive expectation is well known. If you expect a positive result, you are more likely to be in a state of mind more conducive to being prepared for that result. Also you are more likely to have a positive experience even if the experience is at best neutral or even experienced as negative by others.
What about purposely preparing someone for negative experiences though. IE: Does creating a potential negative expectation help the person be prepared and therefore have less stress and anxiety?
Does pre warning of potential stressful situations help reduce anxiety and stress
Obviously warning of potential physical or mental harm are under a different category here.
This is more about emotional warnings.
One of the idea’s of preparing for a negative expectation centres around an ongoing debate about a practice called ‘trigger warnings’.
This is a term used for pre warning people (mainly in the education system) about negative or disturbing content of written, auditory or visual material before they read, hear or see it.
The argument from one side is that it lets people prepare and be less shocked by the material. Some would call this overprotecting but there is a science to it. For example people who watch horror movies know they are going to see shocking scenes. But often they emerge from such films less anxious generally because they have already experienced something much worse than real life will ever likely show them.
A kind of inoculation against horror. Of course for people who get anxious easily, pre warning may not be the best strategy or they may be forever worrying about the future.
The argument from the other side, is that pre warning stops people building anti-fragility or resilience. Anti-fragility is the ability to learn and grow from stressful situations in a way that makes a person not just immune to the stressor, but actually made stronger by it.
So anti-fragility is a form of adaptation. A common example of this adaptation is what happens to the body when it is put under stress in a gym.., it grows and adapts to become stronger.
The mind can have the same response by taking one mastered stressful situation and generalising it to include others. IE: One success becomes the catalyst for a whole set of new skills in life and not just one skill in one subset of life. This attitude and skill results in people who test and push boundaries and thrive on challenge and even trauma.
A growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset has this flavour to it. A knowing that there is no such problem that learning cannot solve will go a long way toward creating a stress and anxiety reduced life.
Recent studies tend to agree with the second idea that pre warning is not so useful.
Pre-warning increases stress
In most cases when someone is warned about violent or disturbing content ahead of time.., they report afterwards that it was more stressful and traumatic than those who were not warned ahead of time. When pre warned, there tends to be more pre anxiety and avoidance of the material also.
At best it seems that pre warning does not make the experience any better, but has the potential to make it worse.
And there are a number of studies that show that people who were warned of distressing material reported higher levels of ongoing personal stress also after experiencing the material.
People with previous traumatic experiences are usually not allowed to participate in these studies; thus excluding a useful set of information.
What is a powerful lesson here though is the power of expectation.
Both sides of the debate agree, that what someone expects effects their experience.
Placebo’s don’t need to be a secret to work
And now it gets even more interesting.
The general understanding of a placebo effect is one that is made just by someone thinking that something they do or take is different that what it really is. In other words it is essentially a trick played on the persons mind where they may think for example that a sugar pill is actually proven medication. And therefore by belief alone, they get the expected result that the medication would have provided.
There is even evidence that putting someone under anaesthetic for a surgical operation, and doing nothing more than making an incision in the persons skin and then stitching it back up is enough for healing to take place. Without any surgical procedure at all.., the person so strongly believes when they wake back up that they had the surgery, that they heal themselves of the condition the surgery was going to be for.
Nocebo’s work too
Worth mentioning briefly here is the effect called a ‘nocebo’. This is the same effect as a placebo but in reverse and there is plenty of research around this also. Basically, what this means is that if you tell someone that they will have a negative effect from a positive situation or medication.., that the persons belief can override the positive effect and give them a negative one.
So essentially someone could be having a beneficial vitamin but believe it to be a poison and get sick. Powerful stuff.
So all this evidence assumes a logical conclusion in that surely the person needs to think they are using a real proven medication to get the desired result from a placebo.
It turns out that is not true.
Non deceptive placebo’s
Studies show that even when people know that what they are taking is nothing more than a placebo (called a non deceptive placebo), if they still choose to think it may help them, it will. And this isn’t just a subjective experience either.., it actually changes the persons brainwaves in response to that decision.
And this effect can be made real by either simply asking the person to think it will help them, or showing them previous studies of the success of placebo’s.
So in essence, there is a placebo effect for the placebo effect.
Sounds funny I know, but just think of how powerful this is.
Is this research showing that simply by choosing to think even in the face of no evidence that you will get a positive result from something will help you get that positive result?
Yes it is!
Does that mean that practices like affirmation, goal setting, gratitude practices and others have more to them than just creating a positive mindset?
Yes to that too!
Science proves that choosing to believe something can work instantly
So this and similar studies show that even an ‘in the moment’ chosen belief can be as powerful as a long term belief formed by experience.
Belief after all is not always fact. And what is fact and what is just someone else’s personal or peoples collective belief anyway?
Think about it this way. What is going to be better for your health if just choosing to believe something, can effect your neurological and chemical balance? Eating that chocolate bar and feeling guilty about it being unhealthy, or eating that chocolate bar and feeling blessed by it’s flavour and nutritional content being used perfectly by your body?
I’m not saying of course that eating a crap diet can be totally offset by belief but people do get that result.
My uncle passed away when he was 96 years old and outlived three doctors that told him to stop drinking whiskey and smoking cigars every night. He loved every minute of those drinks and smoking.
Again not in any way promoting alcohol or smoking but you get the idea.
Something to think about isn’t it.
And the above study is in no way isolated in it’s proof that thinking can and does effect you mentally and physically beyond just emotion.
How to use placebo effects and expectation with clients
As a roXiva RX1 owner or therapist who gives sessions to clients.., what you set as an expectation is an important part of the process.
Obviously if you take a step back from that even.., the first part of any session or interaction with another person is to have your own intention set. And if that intention is anything other than for the greater good of the person you are interacting with then you shouldn’t be in the helping profession. Simple.
For example telling people ahead of time that they are always in control and that the more they relax, the more they will get out of the experience, will make all the difference to someone’s experience.
This is about setting a frame for the session.
This doesn’t mean you don’t tell them that it might be intense or strange things might happen.., it means you do so in a way that is exciting and totally under their control.
And as the studies above show, it goes further than that.
What is the person wanting to experience? If they are with you to relax more, then tell them that the session they are about to use will relax them more.
This isn’t giving a promise that you may not be able to produce for them.., this is using science and experience purposely to maximise your intention of helping them. If they don’t get the result they wanted then you have learnt something and can make adjustments.
And in the case of relaxation.., very few people have ever had an audio visual entrainment session and not finished more relaxed than when they started.
Expectation is a powerful tool when used purposefully.., something that many people overlook. Incorporate the purposeful use of placebo effects and expectation in your practice and your results will improve dramatically.
And remember to not limit using this information to just with other people. You are and always will be your own most important client or customer.
Happy travels fellow RX1 owners.