Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Scared To Death

We’re all aware of the placebo-effect: a useless treatment that can become highly effective through the power of the mind. Yet many of us are not aware of its evil twin, the nocebo-effect.

Not only does the nocebo-effect reduce the effectiveness of a potent treatment, expecting the worst may even have the power to kill.

In 1974, a retired shoe salesman called Sam Londe suffered from cancer of the esophagus. An ailment that at the time left no survivors.

Nonetheless, Sam was rolled into the OR where surgeons removed all his visible growths. Although the salesmen left the hospital tumor-free, the medical staff was convinced the cancer would return.

To no one’s surprise, Sam died a few weeks later.

But not for the reasons the doctors expected.

The mandatory autopsy revealed that Sam’s esophagus was fine. He did have two cancerous spots on his liver and one on his lung, but not enough to kill him.

So what did kill Sam?

The attending physician thinks a lack of hope.

“I thought he had cancer,” said the physician in an interview with Discovery. And he continued, “He thought he had cancer. Everybody around him thought he had cancer.”

Did the medical staff’s beliefs about Sam’s condition unwittingly condemn him to an early grave?

We’ll never know for sure.

But we do know this: expectations have a great deal of power over us.

So when a man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck tells you, “This will only sting a little.”

Your body triggers a very different set of responses than when you’re told, “We’ll make this as pleasant for you as we can.”

So whenever you’re in a position of power, be careful with what you say. Because if we believe Sam’s story, you may just scare someone to death.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach