x SUGGESTION AND THE FACTOR OF FAITH 369
doctor's visit acts as a mental tonic to the patient, and to the patient's family, so does the medicine, for it is symbolical to the patient of the doctor. With every drop of medicine, he imbibes a portion of suggestion. Medicine alone may be good ; if combined with belief in its efficiency it will be better.
This suggestive power is peculiarly potent with new methods of treatment which are constantly being discovered for every illness from the common cold to cancer, and each is heralded by glowing accounts of the wonderful effects it has procured, but how and why is not always clear. The only certainty that emerges is that the result has been obtained and that, after all, is the important matter. Others hearing of the results try the treatment with success, especially if the advertisement has behind it the authority of eminent people.
Gradually, however, the treatment seems to lose its efficacy ; the proportion of successes is not maintained as the number of people who try it rises. At last it is abandoned, except by a few staunch disciples, in favour of another method which is launched with all the acclamations which were awarded to its discarded predecessor. The reason for this apparently arbitrary change of fashion is that at first the new treatment is practised by enthusiasts who believe in it. Their conviction is so powerful that their patients catch it from them and are thus given a new buoyancy which immensely assists their recovery. Later it is tried as a kind of experiment, or as a last resort, by people who only have a half-hearted belief in it. Very often the reason why one physician succeeds with a treatment when others fail lies not so much in superior skill as in a greater enthusiasm, which carries with it a greater power of suggestion. In the doctor-patient relationship the patient is generally only too willing to accept a sub-