I wanted to apply for the prize criticizing EA but unfortunately I’m too late. Here it is anyway.


EA is interested in big ideas but there are 8 billion people on this planet and you’ve got to bring them along with you - you can’t change the world for them, you have to encourage them to change the world with you.


So, encourage your followers: if someone self identifies as an EA supporter, acknowledge them. If you put your email address on the internet, you’ve got to expect people to write to you and you need to reply, partly because it’s polite and partly because you’re trying to build a community here.


You can have a standard reply that is both encouraging and yet non-committal.


Some of the ideas may sound strange- if you’re going to set yourselves up as idea specialists, you need to investigate new ideas.That takes time and has many blind alleys but occasionally you’re going to find gold. You can’t decide without doing some investigation or you could miss a big idea.


So here’s a new idea that I can’t get anyone in the EA community to investigate -a way to get rid of chronic pain.


It’s quick and free. According to EA guidelines, I need to give 3 reasons why this is a good idea- can you not kind of work it out for yourselves?


If not, let me fill in the blanks. First, it stops pain. By freeing people from pain, you allow them to live more productive lives. Second, you massively relieve health care burdens worldwide. Third, people can save a ton of money on painkillers and anti-inflammatories (not such good news for pharmaceutical companies but they will still be needed for acute pain.) Fourth, it should reduce the number of people getting addicted to opioids. Fifth, it could bring in a  new era where doctors try to treat the whole body, lifestyle, diet, exercise etc rather than just hand over a prescription. Fifth, you can retrain a whole bunch of back care surgeons to work on another area of the body.Sixth, you encourage people to believe that some problems do have a solution and that solution lies in their own hands.


How does it work? You write down your emotions on a piece of paper, rip it up and throw it away.

Full details here:https://stuartwiffin.substack.com/p/pain-and-what-to-do-about-it 


I’m sorry if this sets the wrong tone but when I saw what Dr David Hanscom had discovered, I couldn’t imagine why it’s not better known. I’m trying to spread his work and I’m tired of banging my head on closed doors.





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As someone with chronic pain, this post infuriates me. I read the linked page. It basically says "chronic pain is caused by your neural pathways learning unwanted behaviour. Solution: this piece of paper trick!". It doesn't make any sense and doesn't link to any actual research.

In reality, I don't expect to have better treatment options in the coming decade or two. We're leagues away from understanding chronic pain mechanisms.

Hi Guy,  

Have you tried it? It only takes a few minutes- what I'm looking for here is anecdotal evidence- please post on my linked page WHETHER OR NOT IT WORKS- I need data/anecdata

You also say I don't link to any research, but there are a few links on my post(which I'll repeat here)  which I think are interesting:

Why things hurt Lorimer Moseley

Dr Hanscom at google https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5cwZ2iu8jU&t=2327s

Dr Howard Schubiner at google https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VyH1laOd2M&t=1052s

2 articles in slate



Lorimer Moseley on pain https://trustmephysiotherapy.com/50-shades-of-pain-with-lorimer-moseley/

Another blistering talk on back pain here- how to understand and control your pain Dr Stuart McGill


and the history of expressive writing. James W Pennebaker talking to Jordan Peterson



I would say the evidence here is enough to justify spending money on a trial to get the research!

Anecdata in this case is worse than no data.

Hi Guy, 

Have you tried it? It would take a few minutes of your time and it's really a win-win- either it works (as it did for me) and your pain goes away or it fails and you get to call me out as a charlatan and a hoaxer with actual data rather than just a prejudice- hope to hear from you soon! Both here and on the substack.

ok but without anecdotes we can' t even try new things, which is the basic criticism of EA I was making in my post. There are many people (how many? who knows?) who have been helped by these methods, we're fairly sure our current ideas about pain are wrong.


and yet we're unable to move forward and try something new.

Have a look at this man talking about his journey away from pain and then tell me it's not worth our time investigating. It's 6 minutes of your life, from 2.54 to 9.00


And, as I said before, please feel free to try the "method" and , if it really doesn't work for you, call me out and say it didn't work- but don't tell me it won't work before trying it because that's even worse than anecdata.

here's Richard Feynman explaining that you can't make assumptions about the world- you have to test them.  http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/607/2/Feynman.pdf 

I don't know if you've seen Peter Singer's thought experiment of the girl in China?


Here's another thought experiment- imagine there's a way to cure millions of people of their pain for free but because it sounds a bit wacky you just refuse to try it- step over their bodies and carry on walking down the road. You wouldn't, would you?

It's optimistic to hope that chronic pain can be cured as easily as by writing problems on a piece of paper and ripping it up. This probably only works for some people, though, and for many others the suggestion to do this would come across as condescending and probably make matters worse.

This might be a useful tool in the chronic pain management arsenal, along with CBT (which is already a staple chronic pain treatment) and other mindset-based approaches like that of Dr John Sarno.

Yes, it might only work for some people- what I would like to know is whether those "some people" are 5%, 10%, 50% or 90%- that would tell us how many of the 65 million disability years could be saved.  And when I went to the doctor and physiotherapist, CBT  and mind-body wern't mentioned- just painkillers and anti- inflammatories- and lots of exercises, which I've detailed here: https://stuartwiffin.substack.com/p/fascia-and-lower-back?s=w 

So, data!  I posted this as a reply to another post:

Has anyone ever done a proper trial (with independent funding!)  of the methods proposed by James Pennebaker,  John Sarno, Howard Schubiner, Alan Gordon or (my personal favourite- it worked for me) David Hanscom?

I saw that Scott asked for volunteers for a trial here : https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/06/26/book-review-unlearn-your-pain/ 

"Part of me is tempted to recommend Unlearn Your Pain to my patients on the same principle. And if any readers of this blog have chronic pain and want to try  the month-long self-help therapy course in this book, I would be very interested in hearing back from you (please tell me before you start, so that there aren’t response biases).  "

But I don't know if anyone ever took him up on the offer. The actual treatment costs are virtually zero, so if these methods work (partially?) they could potentially save a large number of those 65 million disability years. It's the ultimate effective altruism project. Surely someone who reads this has the authority and cash to get a proper trial done?


As Guy points out, I don't link to any research because I can't find any- let's do some!

It's not a useful tool if noone has heard of it...

And it's not optimistic, it's factual, evidence based- I've done it now on 7 people and I've basically run out of people I know with pain- does anyone out there know anyone with chronic pain who would be willing to give this a try? If so, please get in touch so I can keep a tally of the results.

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