Is it possible to heal by thought alone—without drugs or surgery? The truth is that it happens more often than you might expect. In You Are the Placebo, best- selling author of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Dr. Joe Dispenza shares numerous documented cases of those who reversed cancer, heart disease, depression, crippling arthritis, and even the tremors of Parkinson’s disease by believing in a placebo. Similarly, Joe tells of how others have gotten sick and even died the victims of a hex or voodoo curse—or after being misdiagnosed with a fatal illness. Belief can be so strong that pharmaceutical companies use double- and triple-blind randomized studies to try to exclude the power of the mind over the body when evaluating new drugs.
Joe Dispenza does more than simply explore the history and the physiology of the placebo effect. He asks the question: “Is it possible to teach the principles of the placebo, and without relying on any external substance, produce the same internal changes in a person’s health and ultimately in his or her life?” Then he shares scientific evidence (including color brain scans) of amazing healings from his workshops, in which participants learn his model of personal transformation, based on practical applications of the so-called placebo effect. The book ends with a “how-to” meditation for changing beliefs and perceptions that hold us back—the first step in healing.
Our Interview with Joe Dispenza
Dirk Terpstra: In what way is your new book You are the Placebo different from Breaking the Habit of Being yourself?
Joe Dispenza: I look at ‘You are the Placebo’ more as a empirical way to explain that it’s absolutely possible for people to do the uncommon or to change something about themselves or their lives. I never planned to write any books. After my study spontaneous remissions with ‘Evolve your Brain’, the next most common question was “How do you do it?” So that’s why I wrote ‘Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself’. It was more of a ‘how-to’ as a foundation. I wrote that book years ago and so much has happened since then in our advanced workshops as I talk about in You are the Placebo.
You are the Placebo is a way to show people that they don’t need to take a sugar pill or get a saline injection to produce some physiological change, because it’s not the substance that’s making them better, it’s thought that’s making them better. If a certain percentage of people can be healed by thought alone, because it is thought that actually does the healing, do you need that external influence to do it, or can you teach people how to do it?
If you understand the physiological and scientific things of how the placebo works, you should be able to replicate the same effect without any external substance. I wrote this book differently because I wanted to tell a lot of stories – I wanted the stories to really catch people’s attention to a degree where they have to stop reading the book for a moment and think “Oh my God, that person died by thought alone” or “Oh that person actually committed a murder because it was suggestible to the thought”. Or like a group of men who pretended they were 22 years younger and somehow their bodies began to make their own pharmacy of chemicals that began to support the physiological changes that were taking place within them. So it begs the question: “Who am I pretending to be or who am I pretending to not be?” So I wanted to tell the stories in a little different writing style than I have in the past, to get people’s attention on the idea that if anybody else can do it, they can do it and that’s why I wrote it.
Dirk: How did you become so fascinated with the subject of self-healing and the effect of the placebo?
Joe: For me it all started when I got run over by a truck in a triathlon. I had broken 6 vertebrae in my spine and I had to weigh what I thought I knew at the time, against the new paradigm. I was willing to take a risk to see if I could actually change my body by thought alone and that started me on the journey.
I have seen people doing so many amazing things at this point in my life. I have seen people heal themselves of pretty serious cancers, I have seen them heal themselves of pretty serious immune-mediated conditions – from MS to lupus to organic thyroid conditions and so I’m at the point in my life where I’m not interested in trying to convince people that it’s possible. If I can inspire people who actually believe it’s possible for them, then they may accept, believe and surrender to the idea that they can be better by just using the resources within them.
I think in order for us to wake up we sometimes need a wake-up call and in 1986, that was my call. I never stopped thinking about it and I never stopped examining how we can present people, by using science as the contemporary language of mysticism, the necessary understanding about themselves to begin to apply this to their lives.
If a person comes to a lecture and they’re in a certain state of mind and they’re inspired by the time they leave and I have changed their state of being, they’re more prone to accept the thoughts equal to how they feel – their level of suggestibility goes up if their emotional state goes up and if they’re unhappy, unworthy and insecure, those thoughts usually bounce off those people because they accept the thoughts that are unequal to how they feel. I go to great measures to create a sense of inspiration for people because they will see a whole new landscape about their lives that they might not have seen before.
Dirk: Placebo is Latin for: “I shall please”. In You are the Placebo you describe a study with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) patients and that the placebo relieves symptoms. Is the placebo effect more to temporarily “I shall please” than to benefit a person long term?
Joe: I think it happens on different levels. There are plenty of people where the placebo response worked really well, like with the people who got a fake knee surgery as I describe in my book. After 2 – 8 years they’re still walking around with full range of motion in their knee and no pain.
In certain percentages of people like for example the IBS in patients, they knew full well that they were getting the placebo and at the same time, even they knew that they were getting the placebo, they still got better so there’s an element where people actually want to get better. So when we talk about ‘to please’ what we are really saying is, to create a greater sense of well-being, and the sense of well-being is a spectrum, because with some people the pain levels may have gone away, which means they are creating their own pharmacy of chemicals or anti-inflammatories or morphine-like substances that are reducing their pain. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people that are actually causing arteries to heal and genes to be switched on because they accept, believe and surrender to the idea, without analysis, to a greater degree. I think there’s a spectrum of change that takes place for each individual.
Dirk: More than 68% of U.S. adults is overweight or obese. While we intellectually know that being overweight is not healthy for us, we don’t seem to manage change very well. Why is change so difficult for us?
Joe: Aside from the fact that we’re creatures of habit, there’s always an emotional pay-off in staying the same, because you can anticipate the event, which is pretty much predictable, comes with a familiar emotion. It’s that familiar emotion that we become reliant on or addicted to that keeps reaffirming the same identity.
The moment you’re not gonna think, act or feel a certain way and you’re not going to make the same choices or have the same emotional pay-off and you’re not going to feel the same any longer and that loss of that familiar feeling is for most people very uncomfortable. It’s an unknown, it’s unpredictable.
In the book I talk about ‘crossing the river of change’ because a lot of people will return back unconsciously and make the same choices. The hardest part of change is not making the same choices you did the day before, because that same choice leads to the same behaviour, which will create the same experience, which will produce the same emotion and the person will say “this feels right”.
Whether someone is trying to lose weight or trying to break an addiction, whether they’re even trying to just get up earlier in the morning, there’s going to be an element of discomfort and that is fertile ground. We’ve never been told that discomfort, that unknown, that void is “now you are immersed in the process of change”.
You should be able to create your own level of inspiration and your own level of excitement and your own level of gratitude in that void – that’s when the magic happens. It never happens in the known, because the known is the familiar and you can’t create anything new from there. We have to step into the unknown and we have to be willing to be uncomfortable for a period of time – that discomfort is the biological, the neurological, chemical and even the genetic death of the old self. I have seen transformation enough now to know that the best way to predict your future is to create it, and to create it from that place of the unknown.
So, people who are overweight as an example, to follow through on your idea, they can’t see a vision of themselves in the future. They don’t think it’s possible. They really don’t believe that they can arrive there, because they have never come out of their resting state to be inspired enough to give their body a taste of that future experience by bringing up the emotion of how they would feel before it happened. If they had that clear intention, that vision, with an elevated emotion, it would move them in a matter of seconds from living in their past to living in their future. If they were able to create that, every single day, they would see that vision very clearly because they could see their thought equal to how they’re feeling.
The people who don’t then, never really see the vision or they choose the emotion or the feeling that’s going to remind them of who they are. And the moment they move back to that same feeling, they’re going to begin to return back to making the same choices because those choices are driving familiar thoughts, which leads to the same behaviours, which creates the same experiences that produce the emotions and that becomes their personality again.
It’s really possible to cross that river and sometimes it may take a year and so what!? What’s the alternative?
“Meditating is a means for you to move beyond your analytical mind so that you can access your subconscious mind. That’s crucial, since the subconscious is where all your bad habits and behaviors that you want to change reside.”
Dirk: In your book you suggest meditation as a method to create that same kind of change in our brain. Many people will know and have experienced that meditation will calm them down and make them feel more grounded but you are saying that meditation can change our beliefs or perceptions. What happens to our brain when we meditate?
Joe: My interest here is to get people to finish their meditation and to be different than to when they started. Because if they get up as the same person who sat down then not much has happened on a biological level. If they get up feeling differently than when they sat down, then there’s got to be some neurological, genetic, chemical and biological changes of a result them managing their inner state by thought alone.
A belief is just a thought you keep thinking over and over again until you hardwire it in your brain and because most thoughts come from past experiences and those experiences enrich the brain, then in time we begin to use the fundamental hardware to think within the resources of our own circuits, so we’re thinking in the box. If feelings and emotions are the end-product of past experiences and we keep re-experiencing the same events, sooner or later our feelings will become the barometer of how we judge our beliefs.
People don’t even know they believe certain things because it’s an automatic program. So in order for you to change a belief or perception about yourself and your life you’ve got to program it on a cellular level. In other words you have to make a decision with such firm intention that the amplitude of that decision carries a level of energy that’s greater than the hardwired programs in your brain and the emotional addictions in your body. In other words, that decision has to become an experience that you never forget and that experience is encoded in long-term memory because the new emotion from the inner experiences is greater than any past experience and that’s when you move from your past into your future. It’s a change in your energy that can happen in a matter of moments.
If you’re going to heal yourself by thought alone, then meditation is the perfect way to become thought alone because when you meditate you’ll eliminate your connection to the external environment. You no longer identify as a face or a body, you don’t even think in terms of linear time and when you become no-body, no-one, no-where and no-time you are an awareness in possibility. You are a thought in the infinite field of quantum potentials. You go from the particle into the wave and you begin to move into a realm where thought has dominion. So we use meditation as a way to teach people to get beyond their analytical mind because once they get beyond their analytical mind, they can accept, believe and surrender to whatever thought they’re thinking without analysis and that’s what begins to program their autonomic nervous system.
Dirk: For how long should we meditate in order to see change happening?
Joe: After all the research we’ve done, I have never seen the old paradigm that you change your habit in the 21-day period as often is suggested. It just don’t see any correlation because it depends on the person’s how long they meditate, what they’re doing to change, how addicted to an emotion they are, if there’s a substance, whether they have a good attention span or not and how organized they are.
We have seen people change in one meditation in our advanced workshops. There are many examples like that. But there are also examples of people who take a year or two years because they are turning around in genetic condition that they’ve had since they were a child. But when they finally break through, the feedback is always the same: “That was my greatest teacher”.
So we may get frustrated and impatient or try to force outcomes but that’s the ego just trying to control reality. But when you finally just decide that you’re going to do it and you keep at it long enough, you will see so many changes that take place at so many levels. People don’t really care how long it takes once they start seeing the effects.
Dirk: In the afterword of your book you write: “This whole process is tricky. If you try too much, you’ll get in your own way and always fall short of your vision. If you over-surrender, you’ll become too lazy and uninspired”. How do we find this balance?
Joe: We’re one of those two temperaments. For me, I grew up in an ethnic family and my Italian father was always pushing me to do more and to achieve more and when I over-intend I am in my own way and I am really bad at whatever I am doing. I have learned over the years that I am the best when I am silly and when I am relaxed and I am really not trying to force it. Surrendering to a greater mind is probably one of my greatest, greatest lessons – You open your heart, you let go, you free yourself, but at the same time you feel whole and satisfied and connected to something in the future. That’s the best way I can describe it.
But I also have friends that are not over-achievers, they’re more relaxed, they’re more type-B personalities and they don’t do a lot, but they over-surrender too much and they’re not clear on where they’re going in terms of their intentions.
If you really start creating the creative process, I think we already know how to do this. All of us have done something amazing. It requires getting clear on what we want, setting that vision, disciplining ourselves, getting inspired, feeding this dream… I think we all have done this enough times Dirk and there’s quite a bit of discomfort that comes with the creative process. I don’t even like to write, it’s not something I would want to do, but when I sit down and I start writing, I go through this whole thing and then I start falling in love with what I am writing. So what is that? You and I are at our best when we get out of our own way. Getting there, is very unique to every person. It’s never the same. When you try to reproduce the same experience the next time, you are already in your own way.
Dirk: What excites you the most in life Joe?
Joe: I am home for two weeks, it’s a gorgeous day in the Pacific Northwest, the sun is out, I have meetings all day today but I have such an amazing life Dirk. My real passion and my interest lies in some of the work we’re doing right now in our advanced workshops. We had one in February and it was by far the best event that I have ever done in terms of teaching and in terms of observing transformation. I am passionate about the idea that people are starting to latch onto this more and more and that we’re getting better and better results. I just love that I have the opportunity to contribute and have the opportunity to do what I am doing right now.
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER