Creativity Placebo

Say the word placebo and people’s noses wrinkle up. A placebo is a pill that doesn’t do anything, doesn’t cure anything, contains no drugs. And yet, between 35 percent and 75 percent of  people who are given placebos experience the same cure as people in the group that were given the real drug. If the doctor who hands out a placebo is optimistic and assures the patient the pill is the real thing, the cure rate is on the higher side of the statistics.

How do placebos work? They trigger the powerful body-mind connection we all have. They give the mind permission to do the healing work, and the body follows along. Not bad for a blank pill.

When I do book signings, I ask the people in the audience to make permission slips. I bring blank watercolor postcards, pens, colored pencils, markers, and glitter glue. As we make permission slips, I encourage people to give themselves permission to be creative, to let the housework slide, to take time to daydream.

Some people ask me to sign the slip. I encourage them to sign their own slip, as each person needs to give him- or herself permission to let go of their old beliefs. Occasionally, I do sign the permission slip. I look the person in the eye and say, “This is powerful, and you have to work an hour every day to make it work.” I’ve begun to hear back from people, who have discovered that their permission slip has power.

Like a placebo, the permission slip takes away excuses and replaces it with possibility. The chance that ideas will come, that creativity will flicker and catch pushes reluctance aside, and leaves space for success. When success gets breathing room, it expands.  The people who write me to say their permission slip worked–they always were creative. What they needed was the permission to believe it and act on it.

What would you like to take a pill for if it gave you what you were hoping for?

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling. She will be signing books and encouraging people to make permission slips at the Desert Ridge Barnes and Noble in Phoenix on October 6 at 7 p.m.

13 thoughts on “Creativity Placebo

  1. Actually, placebos have a perfectly useful place in medicine. “HOPE” is an overlooked, but vital part of any recovery process. Ask anyone who has had a doctor without any bedside manner about recovery!
    If I could have a placebo I’d believe in, I’d have one for cold-front migraines, please!

  2. Great connection between “the placebo effect” and the “permission slip effect”. There is tremendous power in stating intentions, especially powerful (for those of us who sometimes, ahem, look to others for approval and affirmation) when we share them with others.

  3. I love reading about obsolete scientific theories like “phlogiston”, “N-rays”, and the like. Some of these were never more than atheoretical flights of fancy, but here and there you find that some of these theories were supported by observed evidence…until they weren’t. I suspect the placebo effect, or something like it, goes a lot further than just medicine.

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