Was Angelina Jolie “Medically Hexed?”



In her New York Times piece published today, Angelina Jolie bravely announced that she just underwent elective bilateral mastectomy as a breast cancer prevention measure after losing her mother to breast cancer, and testing positive for the BRCA gene.

Told by her doctors that she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer, Jolie chose to undergo radical elective surgery to remove her breasts. According to her doctors, this would reduce her risk of breast cancer to 5%.
Jolie explains that after losing her mother to breast cancer, her children have been fearful that they would lose their own mother, too. She feels relieved to reassure them that this is less likely now.

The Nocebo Effect
As I discuss in my new book Mind Over Medicine, the medical establishment has been proving that the mind can heal—or harm—the body for over 50 years. When hopeful, optimistic beliefs heal the body, we call it “the placebo effect.” When fearful, pessimistic beliefs harm the body, we call it “the nocebo effect,” placebo’s evil twin.
The placebo effect occurs when patients in clinical trials get better—as they do 18 to 80% of the time—even though they know they have a 50% chance of not getting the real treatment, but instead are likely to get a sugar pill, a saline injection, or fake surgery. On the other hand, the nocebo effect happens when patients believe something may harm them—and it does.
In clinical trials, patients getting sugar pills often experience the very side effects they’re warned they might experience if they get the real drug. For example, patients getting saline injections who think they’re getting chemotherapy may throw up and even lose their hair.
A Nocebo Effect Case Study
One case study reported in the medical literature is the stuff of fairy tales. A woman born on Friday the 13th in the Okefenokee Swamp near the Georgia-Florida border was one of three girls delivered that day by a midwife, who proclaimed that all three girls, born on such a fateful day, were hexed. The first, she announced, would die before her 16th birthday. The second would not survive her 21st. And the patient in question was told she would die before her 23rd birthday.
As it turns out, the first two girls died within one day of their 16th and 21st birthdays. The third woman, terrified that she would die on her 23rd birthday, showed up at the hospital the day before her birthday, hyperventilating. Soon afterwards, just before she turned 23, she died, proving the midwife’s predictions correct. This is an extreme example of the nocebo effect, when fear-based thoughts about your health can actually kill you.
How The Nocebo Effect Works
The body is equipped with natural self-healing mechanisms that kill cancer cells, fight infectious agents, fix broken proteins and influence how genes express themselves. These natural self-repair mechanisms are under the influence of hormones that respond to positive or negative thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. In this way, the mind can harm every cell in the body by poisoning the cells with toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine.
When the body experiences what Walter Cannon at Harvard coined “stress responses” (also known as “fight-or-flight”), the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are disabled, so the body can’t maintain healthy homeostasis.
If someone is “hexed” with a negative diagnosis, whether it’s a midwife saying you’ll die before your 23rd birthday or your doctor telling you that you have an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, or your oncologist telling you that you have a 5% five-year survival, or your internist telling you you’ll have to take drugs for the rest of your life, fearful thoughts are likely to activate stress responses.
When this happens, your body’s natural self repair mechanisms are deactivated and the likelihood of a negative health outcome becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this way, doctors can unwittingly make us victims not so much of our genes, but of what Dr. Andrew Weil terms “medical hexing.”
When Doctors Hex Patients
When doctors pronounce our patients “incurable” or even label them with a “chronic” disease, insisting that they will be afflicted their whole lives, are we not, in essence, activating the nocebo effect? What proof do we have that they will not be one of the case studies who winds up in the Spontaneous Remission Project, having been cured of a so-called “incurable” illness?
When we pronounce patients with “chronic” or “incurable” or “terminal” illnesses, or when we tell them they have an 87% risk of breast cancer or a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, we may be programming their subconscious minds with negative beliefs and activating stress responses that do more harm than good.
By labeling a patient with a negative prognosis and robbing a patient of the hope that cure might be possible, we may ultimately make our negative diagnosis a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wouldn’t we be better off offering hope and triggering the mind to release health-inducing chemicals intended to aid the body’s self-repair mechanisms?
Do I Support Angelina Jolie’s Decision?
In Mind Over Medicine, I teach patients how to make their own Diagnosis and write The Prescription for themselves. So I certainly support Angelina Jolie’s decision to listen to her intuition and write her own Prescription. It’s her body. Her choice. Her family to consider. Her breasts.
I also admire her courage to go public about such a sensitive issue.
Though I’m grateful to her for bringing this issue to the light so we can discuss the pros and cons of such decisions, I’m concerned that her decision will trigger an onslaught of women with family histories of breast cancer who choose to undergo BRCA testing—and if positive, will choose elective bilateral mastectomy, modeling themselves after Angelina Jolie’s choice.
Then it’s a slippery slope. Once we start cutting off perfectly healthy body parts, what’s to keep us from cutting out appendixes and gallbladders in all babies, since appendicitis and gallbladder disease could kill you? Should we cut out uteri and ovaries after childbearing, since all they’re doing is waiting to get cancer? Should we cut off all moles because some could become melanomas?
How is it that as a culture, it has become not only acceptable but even medically advisable, that we should even consider undergoing such barbaric surgery—surgery not without risk, mind you—ostensibly so we can live longer, healthier lives?
The Good News For Angelina
Because she has made what she considers the right choice for herself, and embraced the courage to go public with this information, Angelina Jolie is surely reducing stress responses, activating relaxation responses, and further reducing her risk not only of breast cancer, but of other diseases. This is why we must each write The Prescription for ourselves in order to optimize our health.
But at least in Angelina Jolie’s case, this peace of mind came at a huge cost.
Is genetic testing really worth the price? I’d love to hear what you think.

 article extracted from: www.mindbodygreen.com

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

The Karpman Drama Triangle


Extracts from: www.fortrefuge.com/Karpman-Drama-Triangle.php

Mental health is about growth, taking responsibility for how you affect others, recognizing choices, and being willing to risk mistakes. The Karpman Drama Triangle is a game played all too often in relationships. If this game defines a pattern of your relationships with others, then you have serious work to do.


The Purpose of The Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor Game

  • Keeps responsibility out there.
  • There is a lack of internal conflict within the individual. It’s all created in others.
  • Players lack empathy, are very self absorbed in their own role of the moment.
  • Patterns of the game prevent problem solving – the drama rules
  • Maintains bad boundaries.
  • The game provides identity and fills emptiness, because two people can jump around in all three roles to fuel the drama.

Good guy/Bad guy split thinking leads to drama. Drama obscures the real issues. People are seduced by the false excitement the drama offers – all style, no substance. Manipulation is the core of the game. It creates confusion and upset, not solutions. Playing Victim, Rescuer has become a powerful cultural pastime. It is at the core of all the repetitious plots of soap operas. This game could be used to describe Bill, Hillary, Monica, and Ken. Here’s how it works: Let’s suppose Bill was emotionally dependent on Hillary to feel good about himself. Perhaps Hillary was persecuting him through emotional distance because she lost the national health care bill and was licking her wounds after the Arkansas State Troopers reported Bill’s philandering. Monica enters the White House, ripe for the role of Rescuer to Victim Bill. The beauty of the game is that roles can be switched to enhance the drama. For example, Bill could rescue Monica by finding her attractive, while Monica feels like a victim because she’s a chubby girl no one would ever love. Enter Ken Starr to play Persecutor in his own over-the-top style. Another example could be O.J. He was accused of being the Persecutor and Nicole was the Victim. One way to look at what O.J.’s attorneys did is that they flipped him from the Persecutor role to the Victim role. Then the Jury stepped in to play the rescuer. This game is what operates in many relationships. It is all style and no substance. It has become a lifestyle for too many people. The game provides people with their identity as Victim, Rescuer, or Persecutor. People generally favor one or two roles.


Most of us in the helping professions (nurses, teachers, counselors) all begin with favoring the Rescuer role. (So be sure to choose a therapist who’s been a client and seriously worked on issues in their own backyard. This means they’ll more clearly see who you really are instead of projecting their own issues onto you.) Rescuers get caught up in enabling. They see themselves as good and have to learn to back up. Doing too much for someone else is rationalized because “I care so much.” Rescuers are often unaware that pity and disrespect are the fuel for this role. “I know what’s best for you.” is illustrated in the mother’s role in the movie “The Deep End”. The reality is that backing up from the rescuer role means learning that indifference can be a useful tool. Wait and see if the person you’re trying to rescue steps forward for themselves or how they do it differently.


Victims can be easily manipulated. Victims can also learn to be manipulative, particularly if they are operating on a “love me no matter what” basis. Being loved no matter what is not something two honest adults should expect from each other. After the age of 18, love me no matter what should be hard to come by. Victims are trying to remain blameless. Remember: an unhappy relationship is always created by two people. Blame may be distributed 60/40 or 70/30, however it always takes two. The more blaming and finger pointing someone does, the more fragile the point of view. Noise simply creates smoke and mirrors, and it is less likely that an honest reality is being addressed. Elegant truth is generally never “I am good/You are bad,” it is usually a more complicated frame of reference. “I did this part and you did this part” etc. Finding the bravery to look at your own part in creating problems can change and transform your life. If you’ve been loving the victim role over many years it is time to face the truth – it is a boring way of life. One key to interupting this pattern would be to relocate your imagination, to find other ways of conducting your life.

20 Questions to Determine Whether or Not You Set Yourself Up to be a Victim:

  1. Is it easier for you to stay silent instead of asking for what you want?
  2. Do you believe the lyrics of the old Dean Martin Song; You’re Nobody Until Somebody Loves You? So you end up feeling bad about being single.
  3. Would you be convinced to leave your friends behind ending up isolated?
  4. Are you too committed to pleasing others?
  5. How desperate are you to be loved?
  6. Do you swallow your anger?
  7. Are you able to say NO, and to set limits & boundaries?
  8. How over responsible are you?
  9. Do you suffer from exaggerated guilt?
  10. Do you feel appreciated in your own life or are you hungry?
  11. Do you end up feeling lost in relationships?
  12. Are you afraid to disagree?
  13. Are you an extreme caretaker who does not take care of yourself?
  14. Are your relationships follow a lopsided pattern where you do too much catering to the other person?
  15. Do you apologize so often it’s become a habit?
  16. Are you easily taken in by others, perhaps a bit sappy?
  17. Do you allow others to suffocate your own spirit or creativity?
  18. Is it easy for you to hang onto false hopes & ignore your own suspicious inner voice?
  19. Do you minimize your problems in relationships & avoid addressing them?
  20. Are you too eager to forgive?


Persecutors love the power of moving people around on the chess board of life. Brad Pitt in Fight Club is an extreme example of this. Everything is win or lose, with very little ability to be a part of a team. There is a desperate need to be right at all costs and you can end up doubting yourself even about the facts of what happens. Playing in this drama triangle ultimately leads to a very boring life. Over and over again the game is repeated, and there are never any solutions. Nobody grows as all the players are very stuck in the cycle of repeating their tired roles, all for drama.

Emotional Manipulators

10 Types of Emotional Manipulators:

  1. The Constant Victim – No matter what happens, with many twists and turns, this emotional manipulator becomes the victim. They love to triangulate.
  2. One-Upmanship Expert – With skillful manipulation, like put downs, this person always needs to gain the high ground with others.
  3. Powerful Dependents – Dependents who hide behind the guise of being weak & powerless, but gain considerable power through helplessness, in the lives of those they are dependent upon. Their hidden message is “Don’t let me down.”
  4. Triangulators – “You are so special. I’m so happy you’re on my side. Let me tell you what these terrible people are doing to me! Plus they are saying very nasty things about you too!” They turn people against each other.
  5. The Blasters – It is not uncommon for teens to be blasters. Hopefully, they grow out of it. The goal for blasters is to not be confronted on any issues. They blast you with anger & side issues to throw you off topic. It’s a good technique to hide secrets.
  6. The Projector – A projector denies they have any dysfunctional issues and only see their own issues in other people, which is very convenient. You are manipulative, not them.
  7. The Intentional Mis-Interpreter – They intentionally misinterpret information to feed you bad information about others & themselves. Or they feed other people bad information about you. They appear friendly & trustworthy.
  8. The Flirt – “Look at me! Be attracted to me! I have plans for you!” They use flirting toget what they want. They need to be preferred & admired.
  9. The Iron Fist – Intimidates & demands that you give me what I want! They scorch & burn & may become physical.
  10. The Multiple Offender – Uses a blend of these techniques.

Ten Ways to Recognize Emotional Manipulators:

  1. Emotional manipulators often begin by being charming, but they are never really accessible.
  2. Too early in the relationship, your every need seems to be filled.
  3. They lie by exaggeration, distorting the truth & by omission.
  4. You notice that you end up apologizing a lot!
  5. The manipulator persuades you to do things you would not normally do.
  6. You constantly have second class status & your opinion is never really good enough.
  7. The manipulator has huge reactions that are way too big over small irritations.
  8. Manipulators promise a lovely future that never materializes.
  9. The manipulator is successful when they give only vague indications that something is bothering them & you jump to fix it for them.
  10. Problems are never the manipulators fault, they never take responsibility & are always quick to blame you.
Specific Guidelines for Playing VRP Roles VS. How to be a Grown Up
Creating drama and chaos vs. Solving problems
Dodging, deflecting, and blaming others vs. Taking on responsibilities
Denial/pretending vs. Honestly facing painful situations
Making excuses and instigating bad boundaries vs. Maintaining boundaries to have true respect for others
Ignoring damage that has been done and pretending it has nothing to do with you vs. Making amends and recognizing consequences
Maintaining your illusions at all costs vs. Having the courage to become more self aware
Giving yourself too much respect (narcissists) or too little respect (martyrs) vs. Balancing both respect for others and yourself
Letting drama rule vs. Letting integrity/character rule
“I know what’s best for both of us” vs. No one has a market on truth – it always lies in between people
Creating doubt in the other person vs. Seeing what hard truths the other person may have to teach you
Assuming others are there to be an audience vs. Realizing what happens between people is unknown, not orchestrated
Thinking in simple terms of Right/Wrong, Good/Bad vs. Recognizing complexity
Manipulating others, which is a shell game that ends up hollow vs. Using your heart and head together to be more emotionally honest with others
Trying to have it both ways vs. Facing sacrifice
Taking the easy way vs. Knowing the right thing to do is the hard thing to do
Monologue vs. Dialogue
Short-term thinking vs. Long-term thinking
Manipulating/Controlling vs. Negotiating

How To Listen When Someone is Venting


Five.Bolt.Main – Venting CD Cover

Even the most level-headed among us deal with anger and frustration at some point. A common reaction? Venting. We’ve all done it. But what’s the best way to handle being on the receiving end of someone’s vent session? Harvard Business Review’s Mark Goulston explains.

Disclaimer: It’s probably not a good idea to read this before you eat.

I still remember how it felt when, as a medical student, I drained my first abscess in a patient. We called the procedure “I & D” which stands for “Incision and Drainage.” (I told you not to read this just before you eat!)

When you do an I & D, you locate what is the most protruding and bulging part of the abscess, wipe it off with alcohol, then pierce it with a scalpel. At that point the pus comes out first, followed by any blood. After this procedure, you may put the person on an antibiotic. Over time, the wound heals from the inside out. If you don’t drain the abscess first, and just start with the antibiotics, the undrained pus may prevent the wound from healing.

Today as a practicing business psychiatrist and CEO advisor, I’ve noticed that when you’re faced with an upset customer, client, employee, shareholder, child, parent, spouse, or friend, it can actually feel like they’re bulging with emotion and about to explode. Your instinctual and intuitive reaction may be to try to calm them down, urge them to cool off, suggest it’s not worth getting so upset about. And sometimes that may work. But in cases where they’re really upset, you may need to drain their emotional abscess just as you would have to do with a physical abscess. In those situations, asking them to calm down before they’ve vented will be about as useful as skipping straight to antibiotics before cleaning their wound.

And yet a lot of people don’t know how to listen to someone venting. Usually, people take one of two attitudes. Option 1 is to jump in and give advice—but this is not the same as listening, and the person doing the venting may respond with “Just listen to me! Don’t tell me what to do.”

Option 2 (usually attempted after Option 1) is to swing to the other extreme, and sit there silently. But this doesn’t actively help the person doing the venting to drain their negative emotions. Consequently, it’s about as rewarding as venting to your dog.

The way to listen when someone is venting is to ask them the following three questions:

What Are You Most Frustrated About?

This is a good question because when you ask them about their feelings, it often sounds condescending. And if you start out focusing on their anger, it sounds as if you’re coldly telling them to get a hold on themselves, which may work, but more often will just cause the pressure inside them to build up even more. However, asking them about their frustration is less judgmental and can have the same effect as sticking a scalpel into their abcess.

Let them vent their feelings and when they finish, pick any of their words that had a lot of emotion attached. These can be words such as “Never,” “Screwed up,” or any other words spoken with high inflection. Then reply with, “Say more about “never” (or “screwed up,” etc.) That will help them drain even more.

What Are You Most Angry About?

This is where their emotional pus drains. Again let them finish and have them go deeper by asking them, “Say more about _________ .” Don’t take issue with them or get into a debate, just know that they really need to get this off their chest—and if you listen without interrupting them, while also inviting them to say even more, they will.

If you struggle to listen when someone is venting because intense negative feelings make you feel upset yourself, try this: Look them straight in the left eye (which is connected to their right emotional brain) and imagine you are looking into the eye of a hurricane, allowing whatever they’re yelling to go over your shoulders instead of hitting you straight in your eyes.

What Are You Really Worried About?

This is like the blood that comes out of wound following the pus. It is as the core of their emotional wound. If you have listened and not taken issue with their frustration and anger, they will speak to you about what they’re really worried about. Again push them to go deeper by asking them: “Say more about ___________.” After they finish getting to the bottom of it, respond with, “Now I understand why you’re so frustrated, angry, and worried. Since we can’t turn back time, let’s put our heads together to check out your options from here. Okay?”

As I’ve written before, when people are upset, it matters less what you tell them than what you enable them to tell you. After they get their feelings off their chest, that’s when they can then have a constructive conversation with you. And not before.

How to Listen When Someone is Venting | Harvard Business Review

Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A. is a business psychiatrist, executive consultant, keynote speaker, and co-founder of Heartfelt Leadership. He is the author of Just Listen and co-author of Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In (Amacom, 2013). Contact him here.


Learning From the Embryo: Imprinted for Change

Human Embryo at 1 to 2 weeks

Human Embryo at 1 to 2 weeks

When we were an embryo our whole body formed from one cell that underwent division. It underwent division once, twice, tens of thousands of times. At every stage of forming ourselves we were complete, fully functioning organisms. We often did not look like our final human form, but the only way we could have any chance at surviving our own creation was by being 100% complete and 100% not complete at every stage.

We had to accept change. The embryo undergoes over twenty different shapes before it arrives at it’s final human form (23 Carnegie stages based solely on morphologic features). And that’s the number science has come up with so that it is easier to study the stages of embryonic development. Your whole creation was a making and unmaking of yourself. A building and deconstructing. An expanding followed by a contracting. It was your first experience of self expression in pursuing something you believed in. In the case of the embryo, your life depended on how determined you were to survive and how willing you were to change in order to do that. If the embryo does not change, it dies.

Just to give you some perspective on what that means, approximately half of all human embryos die in the first two weeks after conception. Most women don’t even know they were pregnant.

You are imprinted with the ability to survive even some of the most dangerous, life-threatening experiences. You are imbued with the willingness to give up what is familiar for what is unknown in order to pursue your path. You have a spirit that, despite change, difficultly, confinement, illness, and loss, will pursue self expression.

Trust yourself to know how to handle change and pursue your path. If you were unable to, you would have died as an embryo in your first two weeks of life.

extract from: www.biodynamicthought.wordpress.com