The Placebo- Or, “Have a Little Faith, It’s Just a Flesh Wound”


My brother was sick for a week. A week is a long time, and trying to catch up a week worth of study is not an easy task. From what I see, it’s not that bad. A common cold, some dizziness, and  a little bit of diarrhea. I kept saying – “this should be just ‘a flesh wound’. Fight it a bit, and you’ll get healthy in no time.” Rather, he seemed to just let it be, let the sickness get the better of him, which prolonged to a whole week.

The black Knight, having lost his two arms, still insists on fighting. "just a flesh wound", he says. (From Monty Python & the Holy Grail)

The black Knight, having his two arms severed by King Arthur, still insists on fighting him. “It’s just a flesh wound”, he says. (From Monty Python & the Holy Grail)

So, every morning that week, I just send my other brother to school. Apparently I was listening to Lite FM where they had a panel from a health expert, a doctor, to talk about common misconceptions of home remedies. One interesting question the DJs asked the doctor :”Is the Chicken Soup  good for your soul?”, referring to the common remedy of eating chicken soup, that can help any cure any common disease.

The doctor’s response, was pretty surprising.

He did not outright reject the idea, which I thought he would done. Instead, he said that there is research proven chicken soup helps lower blood pressure a bit. This makes a person more relaxed, and this state of relaxation might have helped to get better indirectly. He concluded with a quote that I could not recall- something positive about placebo.

Chicken Soup is, indeed, good for the soul, although indirectly.

Chicken Soup is, indeed, good for the soul, although indirectly.

Placebo is something that supposed help in treating medical purpose, yet in actuality, it does nothing. Remember when you are a kid, you got hurt. Mom or Dad would do something, like blowing the part of the body that hurts, rubbing it softly, and telling you it’ll get better? That’s an example of placebo. Basically, it treats you psychologically, by making you believe after getting that treatment, you’ll eventually get better. Most of the time, it works.

As a Muslim, I have been taught on one interesting principle: It’s not the food you eat that makes you full. It’s the will of Allah that allows so. It’s not the employers that gives you pay (‘rezeki’) that feels just enough for your monthly needs, it’s the will of Allah that allows so. Same goes to medicine, it’s not the medicine itself that cures you, it’s, again, the will of Allah.

Think about it, not always that after taking the amount prescribed the pain or hurt goes away. Even if you have the exact amount of salary each month, it’s not necessarily just enough each month, sometimes you have plenty to save. Sometimes, you have none. Same goes to eating. Having the same roti bakar telur manis cheese at the same mamak restaurant may not make you full every night- even taking account of what you’ve eaten the whole day. Sometimes it’s fulfilling. Sometimes, you ask the macha for another round of serving.

A Seri Iskandar delicacy found at mamaks around town. Image is clearly not mine,. Click the image to read the image owner's impressions (in Mala)

RBTM cheese, a Seri Iskandar delicacy found at mamaks around town. Image is clearly not mine,. Click the image to read the image owner’s impressions (in Malay)

But don’t get it wrong. It doesn’t mean you should stop taking medicine, or stop eating. “No worries, the will of Allah will make me full”. It doesn’t work like that. What we discussed here is the concept of ‘tawakkal’, basically leaving it to the Almighty to determine the fate of what we do. So,we have to do something first.

And by that, I mean do it really, really well. Strive for success, eat, drink and take your pills, yet leave the results to Him. Even if we failed, we’ve tried so hard and had gone so far, in the end, it doesn’t even matter   we will still be proud of what we have done, we felt satisfied with our work.

Back to the placebo story, it’s always a good thing to give your own way of placebo. Feeling sick? Don’t give in to the feeling, try to follow the Black Knight,  shrug it off, tell yourself it’s nothing. Just a flesh wound.

I once felt sick during which I have to be at my utmost fittest, having to bear responsibility for a key position during a an important event back in campus. Alhamdulillah, it was limited to two days, thanks to a panadol pill a colleague insisted me on taking, a good night sleep as recommended by a housemate, my own willpower fighting it, and of course, the will of Allah that makes it all possible.

Whenever we feel anxious or down, give ourselves some placebo of our own, and have a little faith on fighting it. Hopefully divine intervention will come. If it didn’t, at least we pulled out all the stops, we did everything we could. Consider ourselves not lucky today, but maybe another day, it’ll be better.

I wished my brother listened to me. Good luck catching up with classes.

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