Like most of his fans, I look forward to Joe Dispenza’s provocative ideas with relish. Combining solid scientific evidence with stimulating insights, Joe stretches the horizons of the possible by extending the boundaries of the known. He takes science more seriously than most scientists, and in this fascinating book, he ex- trapolates the most recent discoveries in epigenetics, neural plasticity, and psychoneuroimmunology to their logical conclusion.
That conclusion is an exciting one: You, and every other human being, are shaping your brain and body by the thoughts you think, the emotions you feel, the intentions you hold, and the transcendental states you experience. You Are the Placebo invites you to harness this knowledge to create a new body and new life for yourself.
This isn’t a metaphysical proposition. Joe explains each link in the chain of causality that starts with a thought and ends with a biological fact, such as an increase in the number of stem cells or immunity-conferring protein molecules circulating in your bloodstream.
The book starts with Joe’s account of an accident that shat- tered six of the vertebrae of his spine. Suddenly, in extremis, he was confronted with the necessity of putting into practice what he believed in theory: that our bodies possess an innate intelligence that includes miraculous healing power. The discipline he brought to the process of visualizing his spinal column rebuilding itself is a story of inspiration and determination.
We’re all inspired by such stories of spontaneous remission and “miraculous” healing, yet what Joe shows us in this book is that we are all capable of experiencing such healing miracles. Re- newal is built into the very fabric of our bodies, and degeneration and disease are the exception, not the norm.
Once we understand how our bodies renew themselves, we can start to harness these physiological processes intentionally, directing the hormones our cells synthesize, the proteins they build, the neurotransmitters they produce, and the neural path- ways through which they send signals. Rather than possessing a static anatomy, our bodies are seething with change, moment by moment. Our brains are on the boil, teeming with the creation and destruction of neural connections in every second. Joe teach- es us that we can steer this process with intention, assuming the powerful position of driver of the vehicle, rather than the passive role of passenger.
The discovery that the number of connections in a neural bundle can double with repeat stimulation revolutionized biology in the 1990s. It earned its discoverer, the neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize. Kandel later found that if we don’t use neu- ral connections, they begin to shrink in just three weeks. In this way, we can reshape our brains via the signals we pass through our neural network.
In the same decade that Kandel and others measured neuro- plasticity, other scientists discovered that few of our genes are stat- ic. The majority of genes (estimates range from 75 to 85 percent) are turned off and on by signals from our environment, including the environment of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that we cul- tivate in our brains. One class of these genes, the immediate early genes (IEGs), takes only three seconds to reach peak expression. IEGs are often regulatory genes, controlling the expression of hun- dreds of other genes and thousands of other proteins at remote sites in our bodies. That kind of pervasive and rapid change is a plausible explanation for some of the radical healings you’ll read about in these pages.
Joe is one of the few science writers to fully grasp the role of emotion in transformation. Negative emotion may literally be an addiction to high levels of our own stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. Both these stress hormones and relaxation hor- mones like DHEA and oxytocin have set points, which explains why we feel uncomfortable in our skin when we think thoughts or countenance beliefs that drive our hormonal balance outside of that comfort zone. This idea is at the very frontier of the scientific understanding of addictions and cravings.
By changing your internal state, you can change your exter- nal reality. Joe masterfully explains the chain of events that starts with intentions originating in the frontal lobe of your brain and then translating into chemical messengers, called neuropeptides, that send signals throughout your body, turning genetic switches on or off. Some of these chemicals, like oxytocin, the “cuddle hor- mone” that’s stimulated by touch, are associated with feelings of love and trust. With practice, you can learn to quickly adjust your set points for stress hormones and healing hormones.
The notion that you can heal yourself by simply translating thought into emotion might sound astounding at first. Not even Joe expected the results he began to observe in participants at- tending his workshops when they fully applied these ideas: spon- taneous remission of tumors, wheelchair-bound patients walking, and migraines disappearing. With the openhearted delight and open-minded experimentation of a child at play, Joe began to push the envelope, wondering just how fast radical healing might occur if people applied the body’s placebo effect with complete conviction. Hence, the title You Are the Placebo reflects the fact that it’s your own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that are generating chains of physiological events in your body.
At times, you will feel uncomfortable reading this book. But read on. That discomfort is just your old self, protesting the inevi- tability of transformative change, and your hormonal set points being disturbed. Joe reassures us that those feelings of discomfort may simply be the biological sensation of the dissolution of the old self.
Most of us won’t have the time or inclination to understand these complex biological processes. Here’s where this book pro- vides a great service. Joe digs deep into the science behind these changes to present them in an understandable and digestible way. He does the heavy lifting behind the scenes in order to present el- egant and simple explanations. Using analogies and case histories, he demonstrates exactly how we can apply these discoveries in our daily lives and illustrates the dramatic breakthroughs in health experienced by those who take them seriously.
A new generation of researchers has coined a term for the practice Joe outlines: self-directed neuroplasticity (or SDN). The idea behind the term is that we direct the formation of new neural pathways and the destruction of old ones through the quality of the experiences we cultivate. I believe that SDN will become one of the most potent concepts in personal transformation and neu- robiology for the coming generation, and this book will be at the forefront of that movement.
In the meditation exercises in Part II of this book, metaphysics moves into concrete manifestation. You can do these meditations yourself easily, experiencing firsthand the expanded possibilities of being your own placebo. The goal here is to change your beliefs and perceptions about your life at a biological level so that you are, in essence, loving a new future into concrete material existence.
So embark on this enchanted journey that will expand your horizons of the possible and challenge you to embrace a radically higher level of healing and functioning. You have nothing to lose by throwing yourself enthusiastically into the process and dump- ing the thoughts, feelings, and biological set points that have limited your past. Believe in your ability to realize your highest potential and take inspired action, and you will become the pla- cebo that creates a happy and healthy future for yourself and for our planet.
— Dawson Church, Ph.D. Author of The Genie in Your Genes