What The Gurus Don’t Tell You About The Power of Belief

self development guruIn 1957 a guy by the name of Mr Wright provided possibly the most amazing story when it comes to the power of belief, the medical world has ever known.

There are some incredible stories about people having complete belief in themselves and pushing through to amazing heights in spite of the good opinion, and often ridicule, from others.

Roger Bannister didn’t allow the medical profession stop him running a sub 4-minute mile even though they insisted his lungs may explode and he would certainly die.

Walt Disney ignored people and the 102 banks that told him building Disney World on a swamp was a less than stellar idea.

And Gandhi didn’t listen to those people who thought the only way to usurp the evil British Empire was through violence.

And of course I could go on and on because there are literally thousands of such examples.

A Different Kind of Belief

But Mr Wrights story was somewhat different.

Bannister a doctor himself saw no medical basis for what he was being told. Disney had a vision propelled by the advent of the automobile and the growing ability of people to travel. And Gandhi had the foresight to realize the British couldn’t withstand full blown civil disobedience by such a huge mass of people.

All were amazing, but in retrospect all make sense as do many such stories. These people weren’t just believers, they were visionaries and implementers.

Even to this day though Mr Wrights story is part of medical folklore.

Wright’s body was riddled with lymph node cancer to the point where it was breaking through his skin all over his body and he was given a matter of days to live.

In his desperation he sought the services of a Dr Klopfer who was doing research into a brand new cancer treatment called krebiozen, and hoped he could help him.

Dr Klopfer knew that the new drug was almostcertainly useless for somebody with end stage cancer and refused to admit him into the trails.

Wright didn’t give up though and insisted he be treated. After much back and forth Klopfer relented, more for a quiet life than because any good the trial drug could do for somebody in his situation.

So he brought him in on a Friday and treated him intravenously before then leaving for the weekend sure that Wright would be dead by the time he returned to work on Monday.

But Wright was far from dead, in fact his symptoms were markedly improved. All the swelling on his skin had all but disappeared and he felt much better and stronger.

Klopfer was stunned because it wasn’t known if the drug even worked yet as it was still in its trial stages and not one of the other trial participants had shown any sign of improvement.

Nonetheless, after a period of evaluation Wright was sent home a few days later leaving Klopfer mystified.

Two months later Wright returned to the hospital as his cancer had aggressively returned. He once again asked Klopfer to give him the new wonder drug, but this time Klopfer did something very clever.

Knowing that the drug looked for all intents and purposes like a lost cause, he placed Wright into the Placebo Group to see what would happen, injecting him with saline rather than krebiozen.

Once again Wrights cancer retreated and he started to recover as before much to the astonishment of everybody involved in the trial.

Two weeks later things went wrong. The American Medical Association released the results of the trial effectively saying the drug was worthless and trials were being halted.

Two days later and aware of the news, Wright was back at the hospital his cancer running rampant. A few days after that he was dead.

Wayne Dyer And Some Dodgy Knees

Wayne Dyer tells a story in one of his books, (actually it’s probably in all his books because they all seem to be the same to me, but that’s another matter) about another amazing medical story.

This case involved people with knee pain and the efforts of doctors to find out if a procedure that was common place at the time was actually effective.

They set up a trial in which one group of sufferers had the real operation. Another had the knee cleaned out with saline and the final group merely had a small incision where the surgeon would have cut. Of course there was also a control group of people who went operationless.

Shortly after the knee procedures and going through rehabilitation all patients reported a similar yet significant lessening of pain, irrespective of which group they were in.

That’s where Wayneyboy leaves the story, and why not? Because that’s amazing, will get any crowd of elderly women whipped into a frenzy of belief and probably sell a few more books.

It also goes to ‘prove’ what Dyer regularly says and that is “if you believe it, you can have it”. And let’s face it, even Gurus like to be proved right.

The slight problem is though, that like Wright, the improvement was only temporary and the patients who had undergone the sham operation (something that is now highly illegal by the way) soon returned to hobbling around like the old dude with the long beard in The Simpsons.

I have no idea if Dyer knows this, and even if he does I understand his desire to drive home the point in an attempt to improve peoples belief system.

But if he does know, is it right? Is it ethical to hold information back that undermines the point you are trying to make?

Do You Believe Written Goals Are More Likely To Be Hit?

There was an experiment done at Yale Universities in the early 1950’s regarding written goal setting. The researchers tracked the progress of 100 students, 3 of whom had written goals and 97 who were too busy out partying to bother.

10 years later when the researchers returned to question the subjects,  the 3% had outperformed the 97% combined on every major parameter, except presumably drinking ability.

If there were ever any doubts that written goals were paramount, then this report banished them.

There was one slight drawback though. The research never happened, it’s a self development urban myth

I’ve heard many of self-developments old guard quote this study. Brain Tracey never tires of it and apparently when he was told by somebody that it never took place supposedly responded with:

“Well it should have” And continued to use the story when addressing audiences.

Again I get Tracy’s point that he wants to get people to believe, and I’m sure it’s well intentioned.

I happen to think written goals can help (although latest research casts some doubt on that, certainly for certain types of people) but don’t we have a duty of care to deliver honest information as best we can?

Something A Bit Odd

I’m sure you were amazed and maybe even inspired by the story of Mr Wright, but did anything strike you as odd?

It happened over 50 years ago.

Since then tens (probably 100’s) of millions of people have contracted cancer and there has been no verified and documented proof of anything quite like Wrights case in the Western World.

Sure people have recovered from stage 4 cancer when all hope was lost, and I’m sure a lot are convinced they believed themselves back to health.

However, millions have died even though they truly believed they would beat their condition, so it can’t be just down to belief.

Belief Is An Amazing Thing

Here’s my take on the power of belief.

Forget what Wayne Dyer says, you cannot have anything you want just as long as you believe in it fervently enough. Dyer is just promoting false hope to people desperate to lap it up.

However, beliefs are mind-blowingly powerful and having a strong belief system is a huge benefit to you.

Here’s the reality of the situation.

Correction, here’s my reality of the situation.

The human brain and mind are capable of way more that we can possibly imagine at this time. I happen to think self-healing is possible, I just don’t think we have evolved that far yet to know how to tap into it.

I was reminded of that this week with the untimely death of Debbie Ford from cancer. Much of her material was published on Hay House and founder Louise Hay is well known for her book “You Can Heal Your Life”, which she wrote after herself beating cancer.

Leaving aside I thought the book was the biggest load of nonsensical gibberish since I tried to read the Chinese version of How To Be Rich and Happy, couldn’t Hay have helped out one of her stalwarts?

Has Hay Stumbled Onto The Cure For Something Thousands of Scientists Can’t Fathom Out?

If she actually knew how to cure cancer, wouldn’t she use that information?

Or did she just get lucky and drew a bunch of conclusions based on her circumstances and her recovery and decided to write a book about it?

Again I believe her intentions are good, but my concern is too many people (and I know this from my wife) are turning to this kind of thing and dying because of it.

If you have cancer you definitely want to believe recovery is possible no matter what the odds.

But shunning medical advice because a book tells you that it’s a blockage in your colon caused by some unresolved guilt from the time you imagined humping your local Preacher when you were 16, isn’t helpful.

Let me reiterate, I’m not saying that belief isn’t critical, because it is. I’m not saying self-healing isn’t possible because it maybe is, and I’m not even dismissing the possibility that manifestation is possible – I simply don’t know.

But what I am saying is nobody knows for certain. I don’t care who they are, what letters they have after their name or how many books they have written, they are simply offering an opinion.

If and when science swings behind these beliefs (and I’m not ruling that out) based on evidence rather than conjecture and anecdotal evidence I shall change my tune.

Until then I’ll try and tell people what we know about the power of beliefs, not what we hope.

Sure an unfortunate side-effect of that maybe that I dent some peoples confidence, but if that means they see an oncologist for their cancer rather than a Witchdoctor, then I’m cool with that.