Tuesday 29 October 2013


The mysterious question of mind over matter: I have been thinking about this for as long as I can remember. It really is the most challenging of phenomena. (Actually, I suspect the true plural of 'placebo' to be 'placebi', but I am not going to get off my chair, find the dictionary and look it up - nor search-engine it. Why not the latter? Because, the moment my back is turned, the jolly old Wizard will take this page away to the waste-paper basket of Cyberspace to which only he, and sometimes the Guru, has the key. Good Lord, he may even shred it.) That having been acknowledged, I will proceed. Before my illness of last year, I had taken to the application of Chinese Herbal pain patches, placed directly on and over an area of pain, inevitably on my back. Having fulfilled the prophesy that it would take me a year fully to recover, I found myself, twelve months later, in the course of a little tidy up, confronted by the bright orange packets in which they came. Delighted, I immediately applied one. It occured to me that it was thinner than I had recalled but, never mind, my back felt instantly better and I did my trolley-dolly thing with the hospital mobile library much more comfortably and came home much less achy. Then I  took the patch off in order to shower. Assiduously, I went to replace it once clean and dried - me, not the patch. Dear Reader, I had applied straight to my skin the sticky plaster that was meant to keep the patch in its place. Of course it was thinner than I remembered. It wasn't the goods at all. Now, I had enjoyed a day of minimalised pain through the medium of a sticky device designed purely as a fail safe for the nice thick, herby patch otherwise at risk of detachment every time one pulled one's underwear up or down. There you have it, incontravertable, the placebo effect. In defence of my inner world,  or unconscious as some may have it, I should tell you that the real thing did make my back feel even better - or was that the placebo effect times two?

I suppose the first palcebo effect comes with a baby's dummy. (I forget what that would be called in Mountview California: comforter, perhaps). I do wonder what the pre-verbal little one makes of this substitute for Mother's breast. Is he/she aware that this is not the real thing? Is there an inner world discussion, in pictures, of course? For example: " I am confused. It felt softer and smelt nicer and produced the goods more readily - at all - that time before last when it was too dark to see but everything smelt correct" I have to confess I can't picture those pictures. But the child does feel pacified by this device, at least for some of the time and for some varying periods. In retrospect, I have a bad conscience about offering these to my children. I can see how it could sew the seeds of disaffection and lack of trust once the capacity to tell one from the other evolved. Oh dear! I seem, inadvertantly, to have uncovered a major factor in the struggle between the generations. As in: " My Mother misled me in to believing that great thick rubber thing was, truly, the Holy Grail of babyhood when it didnt even taste the same." It doesn't bear thinking about. At my great age substitutes are harder to come by.  I think I'll go and have a cup of coffee - no, I don't smoke - and pray for the placebo effect. Bora da.


Anonymous said...

Liz, I think they are called pacifiers in the United States. I shouldnt worry: if it wasnt that it would have been something else.

Anonymous said...

You have, again, placeboed (placebavit? no) me.

Liz said...

Anonymous, did you mean 'tibi placuerunt mihi'?