Placebo, Nocebo, Tim Tebow?

Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow has truly made a name for himself.

For those that don’t know him, Tim Tebow was a college football star that overnight became a household name while gaining a massive cult-like following. He’s known for probably being one of the most optimistic sports players in recent history. He made it to the NFL where he gained a lot of attention as probably one of the most popular yet mediocre players on the field.

Above is a snip from the urban dictionary. Tebow was very open and proud of his Christian faith which could have also contributed to the hatred many had for him. Often, a good percentage of people don’t like others that are always positive and optimistic. Yes, overly positive people can get annoying but you’ve also heard that ‘misery loves company’ and all that jazz.

Tim Tebow prayed before every game. This is one reason why he had such a massive Christian following. He was overly optimistic and I believe that his positivity was a major reason for his popularity. I don’t know if Tim realized what his actual skill level was but I don’t think that really mattered. Tim Tebow carved out a spot for himself in this world despite his skill level which is still paying dividends today.

In reality, Tim Tebow wasn’t good enough to play in the NFL, let alone on two separate teams. Tebow built a massive following with many across the country although he wasn’t very talented and largely disliked. Today, he is an inspirational speaker who charges anywhere from $50,000-$100,000 for a virtual event. A virtual event.

How was any of this possible? How could someone with very little skill/talent make this happen?

I believe that the true reason for his success is that Tim Tebow exemplified the benefits of the Placebo Effect. He expected more than he probably deserved, and he got it! You get what you expect.

Definition of the Placebo Effect: 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.

The Incredible Mr. Wright

The true story of a man named Mr. Wright and his amazing recovery from cancer simply because of the Placebo Effect. In a nutshell, Mr. Wright was on his deathbed and begged for a new treatment (useless horse serum) to be used as a last-ditch effort to save his life. Within just a few days of getting the treatment, Mr. Wright was lively again, his tumors had shrunk and he was up and walking around. Two months later he discovered that the treatment he received was not real and so he immediately relapsed. Tumors came back and he began to die again. His doctor told him not to believe what others were saying about his previous treatment and once again injected him with the “miracle” cure (water) and once again he recovered. Tumors shrank back down. Source

There are actually countless examples of this happening in the medical world. This effect has accounted for poison ivy’s itching or lack thereof, effects on blood pressure, pulse rate, gastric function, recovery from cancer, and much more.

How can this be possible?

The short answer is who knows? Modern medicine still can’t account for the benefits of the placebo effect on the human body. The medical world has no clue on how it works yet they even have to account for it with double-blind placebo studies.

The limits and power of your mind are vastly underrated and frankly just unknown. What this tells me is whether you believe something positive or negative, you have the ability to make it happen.

Placebo’s Evil Twin

Similarly to the Placebo Effect, the Nocebo Effect works in the opposite direction. Placebo’s evil twin brother so to speak.

Harvard Health: A placebo makes patients feel better for reasons unrelated to the specific healing properties of the treatment. A nocebo makes patients feel worse (or does other harm) in the same way.

If you think the pill will give you side effects, well then, you’ll probably experience them. Once again, this plays off of your expectations. What you expect, you get.

In one study, volunteers were told that they might experience a headache due to an electrical current that was going to be passed through their heads. No current was used but two-thirds of the volunteers experienced a headache.

In another similar study, volunteers were told that they would be injected with a liquid that included substances they were allergic to but in reality, were only injected with saltwater. Many of the volunteers produced allergic symptoms.

Brujo Power

In the Mexican culture, for the right price, you can pay a witch doctor to curse someone. These Brujos (Spanish for male witch) will create a powerful curse for you to place on whomever you’d like. The scary part is that most of the time these curses work. Why’s that? Are there some evil forces at work? Are demons summoned to torment this poor curse-ee?

I’m not too sure about the demonic workings but one thing that I find funny is one of the qualifiers. In order for the Brujo’s curse to work, you have to tell the person being cursed that they’re cursed. How strange is that? Just maybe could it be that it’s not the curse that is doing the cursing? Could it simply be just their expectations created by their cultural belief in black magic? I think so.

So, what does all of this mean for you?

Well, what desires/fears do you focus on most of your days? They say, if your vehicle is sliding on ice it’s helpful to keep your eyes focused on where you want the car to go rather than the ditch or embankment. Where are your eyes focused? Do you expect positive things to happen in your life?

What do you allow your mind to repeatedly tell your awareness all day? Do you meditate? Pray? Listen to positive or uplifting speakers, podcasts, or music? What do you program your mind with all day, every day?

Your mind is a super-powered, magic, squishy computer that is also programmable but often, like most of us, you let it slowly go to waste. You feel it with destructive self-talk, negative music, or useless information.

What would your life look like if you did it on purpose?

I hope you found this interesting and helpful. More articles on similar topics to come!



Tweeting about Helpful Herustics, Mental Models, Learning Techniques, & Body Hacks | Speaker learning how to write.

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Tweeting about Helpful Herustics, Mental Models, Learning Techniques, & Body Hacks | Speaker learning how to write.