A young knight went off to school to train in the art of handling weapons and of self-defense. He did not show any special enthusiasm for these knightly skills and also gave the impression that he lacked bravery. His instructor devoted a lot of time teaching him the art of slaying dragons. At first they were paper dragons, then cardboard dragons, and finally wooden dragons. He was a good student and within a short time learned the art of hacking off the heads of dragons with one swift stroke.
One day the trainer told the knight that he was now ready to go out and kill real dragons. But the very thought of meeting a real dragon frightened the knight. In order to build up his courage, the trainer gave the knight a magic word to take along. If he met a dragon, all he had to do was pronounce that magic word and the dragon would become helpless. So the knight went out into the real world and became a famous dragon killer.
He was fearless. Then one day, after spending the night at the pub, the knight wanted to go home and when he stepped outside, he met a dragon. With his mind foggy from wine, he could not remember the magic word. But he had to fight anyway and managed to slay the dragon. When he next met his instructor, he told him what had happened.
The instructor smiled and informed him that that was exactly how he had killed all the other dragons, too. The magic word had nothing magic about it. Its purpose was only to give the knight self-confidence.
On hearing that, the knight’s face went white with fright when he recalled how many close calls he had been through when he was out there slaying the dragons. The truth about the magic word, which really was not magic, overwhelmed him so much that that night in fright he crawled deep under his bed covers and pulled his knees up to his chin. The next day he met his fifty-first dragon. He never came out of that fight alive.
He was convinced of the power of the ‘magic word.’ Each subsequent encounter with deadly dragons enhanced and strengthened his self-confidence that he was invincible. That conviction lead him on to victory after victory. All what any ‘talisman’ or any ‘placebo’ does is just that – enhance one’s confidence. As long as they are taken seriously, they work.