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I left a recent comment on HN about this[0], and at the risk of sounding like a shill I'll share it again as it helped at least one person :) My experience tracks with yours, and it really does seem like modern medicine is missing something important.

The book The Mind-Body Prescription[1] by Dr. Sarno covers this exact topic, and made a huge impact on my life and the life of a friend of mine. It's a worthwhile read for scientifically-minded skeptics who are feeling frustrated that doctors seem stumped by their chronic pain/illness. I had a worsening pain that jeopardized my ability to work a desk job, and that book resolved it in a matter of weeks.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17899992

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Mindbody-Prescription-Healing-Body-Pa...




I've seen this book recommended from time to time. I have a condition that falls within the book's purported domain, but when I read the synopsis, it raised all kinds of red flags. As a skeptic, what about this book let it through your filters? I really want to be open to it.


What let it through my filter was:

(1) I'd already spent time and money on traditional treatments with neutral or even negative results. So $11 and a few hours reading wasn't that hard to stomach

(2) I heard it recommended by others who were similarly skeptical, which put it on my radar. Otherwise I may have just given up.

(3) I felt confident I could read the whole book with a truly open mind. I told myself before starting that I'd suspend any disbelief for the duration of reading the book and implementing its practices, and only critically re-engage after that period ended. I.e. I felt I could read it as a practitioner and not a theoretician.

To elaborate on #3, this may sound very uncomfortable, but the book's value is not in accuracy but in efficacy. It's an open question to me if the author's explanation as to why the system works is 100% "true" in a physical sense, but he explains it very well to an audience that is unsure. Regardless, whether it's "true" is ultimately an academic concern compared to the book clicking with a (possibly less rational :)) subconscious part of your mind in a way that resolves your very real chronic pain/illness.


Thanks for this. I've struggled with the effective-vs-true question, even to the point of panicking that I had read too much about the placebo effect for it to work on me. I like your #3 - I'll give it a real shot.


The pattern of "I am a skeptic, eventually I was desperate enough to read the book despite that, and it genuinely helped me" has happened to more than one person I know. The standard testimonials is of the form "I thought it was magic crystal BS but it's actually pretty sensible". I find it a bit amusing that each person thinks they're somehow even more of a skeptic in the face of of the previous people who themselves tried to disclaim their skepticism.

But ultimately you have very little to lose beyond a bit of time to just give it a shot. It very well may not help, too.


I'm not the person you're replying to, but I'm curious about the other side of this: what were the red flags you found, and why do you consider them red flags?

I find that open-mindedness can be as simple as questioning and rethinking one's heuristics for detecting bullshit. These heuristics are useful for keeping us sane, but we should recognize them for what they are: epistemic shortcuts that allow us to dismiss something as false without really investigating it. What we gain in efficiency we lose in accuracy, and sometimes we end up missing out on something potentially useful.


I agree with you on this. Ultimately I think there's an element of pride ("I don't get taken in by scams!") that I would do well to shed. But looking at the vague list of attributes:

  - celebrity doctor  
  - passionate followers  
  - findings not accepted by mainstream medicine
  - touts a worldview I want to be true
I have trouble seeing what's qualitatively different from your average daytime TV doctor selling supplements. The big distinction is almost certainly that people who seem smart recommend it, which as I mentioned to the poster above, may now be enough.




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