“Within you is the light of a thousand suns. Within you is unimaginable beauty.”
– Robert Adams
Most of us are quite familiar with the phrase, “ask your doctor _________.” We are told by the media and society to ask our doctor if our sadness is actually depression and we need to be prescribed Trintellix or if our gorging ourselves on holiday cookies is actually binge eating disorder and we need to take Vyvanse. We are taught from a young age to distrust what our body is telling us and to place our trust in doctors, science, and medications instead. The pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare industry benefit from this model, of course. If we believe that only they know what is best for us, they have us as customers for life.
But what if none of this is actually true?
It turns out, that it’s actually not. If we look to more ancient models of health such as Ayurveda, we can understand an entirely different way of viewing our bodies, health and sickness. It turns out that we are actually born with the capacity to know ourselves and listen to the internal wisdom of our bodies. However, we are taught from a young age to ignore the signals that our bodies are giving us and to instead place our trust and guidance in external sources such as our parents or doctors who “know best.”
By minimizing our own innate healing abilities and looking to outside experts for help, we are disempowering ourselves. Once we believe that our problems are diseases caused by forces outside of ourselves, we accept the sick role and can easily believe in the power of a pill to fix anything. This is the model that has been sold to us, and it’s terrific if you are a pharmaceutical company or physician selling the next miracle cure.
Okay, so here is the punchline: humans actually have within them the ability to heal themselves. Sounds like a pretty crazy idea, right? Well it turns out that it’s not that crazy at all, and has actually been proven by science in thousands of studies. Have you ever heard of something called the placebo effect? The definition of the placebo effect is “a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.”
In short, the placebo effect is a fancy way of saying that we can heal all our bodies with our own minds. If we believe it to be so, it will be so. You might be thinking that this sounds too good to be true and is not scientifically sound. Well, it turns out that we have an extensive amount of research that has established the placebo effect to be responsible for 35-100% of the response that we see from treatments. In fact, the placebo effect is so powerful, that it is considered the benchmark that all medications must compete with in order to prove that they are efficacious. In other words, science must prove that a given intervention is better than what we could do with our minds alone. But if we can heal ourselves with our minds, why not instead emphasize that ability and teach how to harness it? Because that’s not a profitable industry, of course.
At Free Range Psychiatry and other likeminded practices, we do not believe that we have all the answers. In fact, we know that our patients are the real experts on their own bodies and minds and we are just here to be partners, along for the ride. We can help people along the way, but our goal is to connect each patient with their own innate ability to heal, so that we can hopefully become obsolete. If we are doing our jobs, our patients won’t need us forever and will instead come to realize that they had the wisdom within themselves all along.
So, I am here to suggest that “asking your doctor” is not actually the best course of action. I believe that instead of relying on “experts” to tell us what is going on with our own bodies, we should all start listing to our inner “gurus” or “teachers.” We are all born with the light and wisdom of a thousand suns within us. If we can learn to access that inner light, instead of looking for it outside of ourselves, we can all begin to harness our innate ability to heal.