Saturday, December 4

Autosuggestion: The Power of Imagination | The stone ax

Work titled 'Untitled (Blue Placebo)' by Cuban-American artist Félix González-Torres.
Work titled ‘Untitled (Blue Placebo)’ by Cuban-American artist Félix González-Torres.Marta Perez (EFE)

Sometimes, social networks provide surprises and stop being a latrine to become structures for cultural exchange. The other day, the writer Martín Sotelo published an entry on his Facebook where he related the placebo effect to one of Montaigne’s essays (1533-1592), where the French philosopher tells us the story of the cat stalking a bird. When the cat stared at him, the bird “dropped like dead between the cat’s paws, well upset by his own imagination.”

The power of autosuggestion, or what is the same, the lack of will when it comes to being guided by fear, made the bird fall to the cat’s paws. He was not the victim of the cat’s gaze, but of a mental process that has a direct connection with the placebo effect, where it is shown that the mind is separated from the body by an imperceptible shadow line. Something like this came to explain in his day the English doctor John Haygarth in his book published in 1800, where he affirmed that the imagination was the cause and the cure for disorders of the body. In the aforementioned study, Haygarth would show that the imagination is cheating and that it can be as curative as a drug or as pernicious as a disease.

Still, the placebo effect dates back to ancient times. Without going any further, in one of his dialogues, Plato tells us that Socrates’ remedy for migraine consisted of a herb to which certain magic words had to be added to regain health. Montaigne tells us something similar in his essay, taking us back to the time of spells, when he tells us that the effect of fantasy makes up for the uselessness of certain potions. To illustrate, Montaigne tells the story of a Swiss apothecary who treated a patient by preparing enemas that were never applied, because just by getting into position, the patient felt as if the medicine had been applied.

But it will not be until the beginning of the 20th century when autosuggestion acquires scientific stature thanks to the figure of the French apothecary Émile Coué (1857-1926), who developed a method based on the repetition of words or images to condition the mind in a positive way. Based on the curative slogan “Every day, in all aspects, I am getting better and better”, Coué managed to show that the imagination plays with us like an illusionist.

The placebo effect dates back to ancient times. Without going any further, in one of his dialogues, Plato tells us that Socrates’ remedy for migraine consisted of a herb to which certain magic words had to be added to regain health

According to Coué, the first faculty of man is not the will, but the imagination. What happens is that most of the time, will and imagination conflict and, when this happens, the dominant force is always that of the imagination. In this way, the “I can not”, of the imagination, predominates over the “I want”, of the will, and What happened to Amasis, king of Egypt, may happen, who married a beautiful Greek girl whom he could not enjoy. According to Montaigne, the king of Egypt was thought to be the cause of his weakness to be a matter of witchcraft. To remedy his misfortune, he offered prayers and promises to Venus, thus restoring her vigor for the following night.

These examples show that something without active ingredient can have a favorable effect on health. Therefore, chemical compounds that are pharmacologically useless are distributed to serve as controls in clinical trials, even curing some people, in the same way that that other woman who believed she had swallowed a pin with bread was cured, and felt the prick caught in her throat, until one of the diners made her vomit and, as if it were the trick of an illusionist, placed a crooked pin on the vomit.

The bent pin served as a placebo and the woman was relieved of pain. Montaigne tells it in his essay entitled From the force of imagination”Packed with examples of deceptive therapies that illustrate the power of imagination over the will.

The stone ax is a section where Montero Glez, with the will of prose, exercises his particular siege to scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge

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