Making Sure Your Magick Works: Avoiding Placebo

by Mike Sententia on October 4, 2010

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The only healthy way to become confident in your magick is by testing it and seeing it work.

But you can’t just do a healing session, see that the person feels better, and call it a day. What about placebo? It’s very real, impacting medical treatments, drugs, even surgeries. You need to control for it.

Here are 3 easy ways I avoid placebo in my magick testing.

What the Placebo Effect Is

If you already know about placebos, skip to the next section.

The placebo effect is when you take a sugar pill (no medicine in it) that you think is a real drug, and your expectation of getting better makes you stop hurting.

Modern medicine uses placebo-controlled studies: Randomly assign some subjects to receive a sugar pill. The effectiveness of the treatment is the improvement of the group that got the real drug minus the improvement of the placebo group.

See Wikipedia for more on placebo-controlled studies,

Avoiding Placebo Effects in Magick

Here are 3 ways to avoid placebo in magick:

Make Failure OK

First, make it socially OK to tell you the healing technique didn’t work. Tell friends you need real data to get better. Say you’re trying a new technique — working on this tissue, some change you’re testing, whatever — and it might not work. Make it OK to tell you it failed, so when they tell you it succeeded, you know they mean it.

Work with a Non-Believer

Do healing work for someone who doesn’t believe in magick and therefore expects no results. It’s easy to do, and gives a fair amount of assurance the results aren’t placebo. For best results, have another friend ask the clint about the results, so you don’t get polite white lies mixing up your data.

Sometimes, Don’t Do Anything

Sometimes, act like you’re doing the healing technique, but don’t do anything. This is the equivalent of the sugar pill: They will get all the placebo results, but none of the real magick results. In my experience, they usually report no change (meaning there was no significant placebo effect).

Don’t do this on someone’s first time with you. Saying “That’s because I was doing a placebo control” sounds like the lamest excuse ever.

Proper Placebo Control

The gold standard for placebo controls is a double-blind study — Not only doesn’t the client know if you did a real healing technique, when you are in the room with the client, you don’t know if you’ll do the real technique, either. It’s a lot of work, but here’s how I’d do one:

  • First, meet the person. Explain what you’ll do. Connect to the injured tissue.
  • Go into the other room. Flip a coin. If it comes up heads, do the healing technique.
  • Have someone else collect the results. Don’t tell them whether you did the real healing technique or not.

More on Creating Good Tests

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy my post on avoiding coincidence in magick testing.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

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