on July 17, 2014
You are The Placebo
Dr. Joe Dispenza
A funny thing happened on the way to a deterministic model of biology. It was to be derailed by an ambitious international endeavor called the Human Genome Project, launched in 1990 and funded by the United States government. The Human Genome Project was based on the assumption that genes determine our destiny. Its mission was to map the entire human genome. Since genes construct proteins, and there are about 140, 000 proteins, it was reasoned, that there should also be about 140,000 genes as counterparts. Thirteen years later the project ended in a whimper. As it turned out, the project discovered about 23,000 genes, the same number as the lowly round worm. It took biologist more than 100 years to recognize what physicist had discovered with the advent of quantum theory at the beginning of the twentieth century--nature is indeterminate. No one to one correspondence exists between genes and their expression. We are not the sum of our parts. The Human Genome Project effectively ended the era of genetic determinism and the philosophy of genocentrism.
The decade of the 1990s opened up the fields of epigenetics and neuroplasticity as serious disciplines of study for neuroscientists, while at the same time, the concept of self-directed neuroplasticity (SDN) has democratized these disciplines, giving everyone the power to select their own gene expressions from a vast pool of possibilities. Not only has it been shown that we can change the architecture of the brain with our minds, but it now appears that our entire physical make-up, our gene expression, is subject to moment-by-moment feedback from the environment. Eric Kandel's Nobel prizing winning work demonstrated that seventy-five to eighty-five percent of our genes are not static, but are responsive to the environment, and many of these regulatory genes, which control hundreds of other genes, can be turned on and off by our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs in just minutes, thereby, explaining many miraculous examples of healings in the literature.
About one-third of the population responds to placebos in whatever form they manifest, from sugar pills, to voodoo, to sham surgeries, or injections of saline solutions. Joe Dispenza asked the obvious question. If placebos are inert substances or practices having no causal effect, what is curing these people of disease? The answer had to be that these curative effects were coming from the patient's own thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. If this is in fact the case, the next question is how can we change our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs to live a healthy life? Our task, Dispenza says, is to make our inner thoughts more real than our outer environment. If we are able to do this repetitively, it is possible to change our body by activating new genes to produce epigenetic changes. Dispenza states:
"In our minds, we are picking a different future potential and hoping, anticipating, and expecting that we'll get that different result. If we emotionally accept and then embrace that new outcome we've selected and the intensity of our emotions is great enough, our brains and our bodies won't know the difference between imagining that we've changed our state of being to being pain-free and the actual event that cause the change to a new state of being. To the brain and the body, they are all the same."
If enough emotion accompanies our imagined new state of being, the brain fires the same circuitry as if the event happens in reality. In cases in which a patient receives a placebo rather than a proven efficacious drug, the patient will often get the same benefits from the internal pharmacy of the body, as if she/he had taken the pharmaceutical.
When we have thoughts, neurotransmitters such as dopamine and acetylcholine are produced in the brain. At the synapse they exist in a quantum superposition of states of fire/no fire. When a critical potential is reached the neurotransmitters cross the synaptic gap, creating an electrical discharge of information. Neurons that fire together wire together, and as a result, our brains architecture creates physical evidence of what has been learned. Thinking the same thoughts or repetitiously practicing athletic skills, for example, enhance the number of connections making the pathways automatic. When large bundles of neurons fire together, a protein within the nerve cell is created that travels to the nucleus of the nerve cell where it interacts with the DNA. This protein switches on genes that, in turn, create proteins that construct new branching connections between the neurons. As a result, repetition not only strengthens connects but generates new connections.
In addition to the neurotransmitters produced when thoughts occur, protein neuropeptides are produced and interpreted by our brain and body as emotions. When the brain senses the chemicals of the emotion, it generates similar thoughts that produce more of the neuropeptide in a complementary loop. This further hardwires the subconscious brain making it difficult to break out of the loop. The neurotransmitters and the neuropeptide chemicals of emotion latch on to specific receptor sites on the cell wall throughout the body and the electromagnetic code of the messenger molecule is read creating or altering a new protein that travels to the nucleus of the cell and activates the DNA. The DNA is unzipped and transcribed by the RNA, which then travels outside of the nucleus to the Ribosome, where a new protein, such as a hormone, is produced and released into the body. Dispenza writes:
"You can think positively all you want, but that 5 percent of your mind that's conscious will feel as if it's swimming upstream against the current of the other 95 percent of your mind--your unconscious body chemistry that has been remembering and memorizing whatever negativity you've been harboring for the past 35 years; that's mind and body working in opposition. No wonder you don't get very far when you try to fight that current!"
Yet, somehow taking a placebo is able to change all of this in a moment. The key, of course, is not the placebo but the three key components of conditioning, expectation, and meaning in addition to the emotional qualities of acceptance, belief, and surrender.
Ernest Rossi, Ph.D. writes in The Psychobiology of Gene Expression: "...While the process of genetic evolution can take thousands of years, a gene can successfully alter its expression through a behavior change or a novel experience within minutes, and then it may be passed on to the next generation." (qtd. in Dispenza, 86)
If you practice focused attention your physical brain will change by creating new pathways and connections and as a result will produce the chemical signals that can change your body. Research has shown that focusing attention on skills such as playing piano or shooting basketballs have nearly the same positive results as physically practicing these skills. The more you rehearse a desire or an outcome of a future event, the more changes take place in the brain wiring and the neural chemicals. Your thoughts become the placebo.
"If you bring up the emotion of gratitude before the actual event, your body and the unconscious mind will begin to believe that the future event has already happened--or is happening to you in the present moment. Gratitude, therefore, is the ultimate state of receivership."
This quote precisely mirrors aspects of the Buddhists' idea of gratitude. If one has gratitude, it is as if the end result has already happened. It doesn't matter how it will happen, only that it will. Trying to analyze how it will happen, incorporates the analytical mind, which is the faster and shorter Beta wave state of the brain, in effect, collapsing the wave function and destroying the many possibilities involved in meaning. If we can calm ourselves and drop down into the Alpha brain wave state, in which we become unplugged from the body, environment, and time, we become more suggestible, and at the same time, it lowers the volume of the brain circuitry, especially the analytical mind. The slower brain wave states of alpha and theta gets us closer to timelessness and maintains the integrity of the experiment from the beginning to end, thereby conserving meaning. So, the important thing is to envision what you are trying to achieve without forcing the situation. Having gratitude is to surrender your ego and to simply believe, and allow, that your autonomic nervous system is in control in all of its wisdom.
To summarize Dispenza's wonderful book, our genes are mutable. They are subject to change by our thoughts and emotions on a moment-by-moment basis. To change our situation, it is not necessary in most cases to take a drug or for that matter a placebo, because we, our thoughts and our emotions, are the placebo. By eliciting the placebo response we are opening the door to our bodies own pharmaceutical warehouse. Our genes do not determine our destiny; rather, through SDN, self-directed neuroplasticity, we are in control, not by forcing an outcome, but by simply envisioning an outcome, silencing our egos, expressing the emotions of gratitude, and allowing our autonomic system to create our new destiny.
Dispenza's book, "You Are The Placebo" is top on my list of recommendations and has contributed considerably to my understanding of the nature of reality.
This book review by David Kreiter, author of "Confronting the Quantum Enigma: Albert, Niels, and John. (Amazon)