I get a lot of enquiries from people wanting to stop smoking but I work with very few of them. Many people are wanting to ‘try hypnosis’ for stopping smoking or want ‘to see’ if it works. They are the people I ask to come back and see me when they are ready to make a change. The language used by this man was different and gave me what I needed to hear. He said that it’s got to stop, and it’s got to stop now. That tells me that he’s ready to do this and to take responsibility.
I also only ever take on people who want to stop smoking for themselves. If a Dr has told them to, if their partner or children want them to, although motivating, it is not enough for permanent change. The desire has to come from the person sitting in front of me. One of the things I ask people to do before they see me is to not have a cigarette on the day of the session. If people can not do this, I send them away as it tells me a lot about their motivation. If someone needed an operation with a general anaesthetic, they are asked to abstain from food or drink for a period of time before they go into hospital. People stick to these rules because if they didn’t the operation would not take place. The people who are successful in stopping smoking are the ones who think to themselves, ‘ok, I might not like what I’m being asked to do, but I really want this and so I’ll do whatever it takes.’ So not only does this help me assess the motivation but it also enables me to help them with the craving they may have, even if when they come in, they are climbing the walls for want of a cigarette.
This particular chap had started smoking at 13 and was now 56. He believed he had tried everything and was addicted to cigarettes. He hadn’t and he wasn’t. If he was addicted, he would not have been able to sleep through the night or go on long plane journeys. He also believed that smoking relaxed him. In fact it’s the action of the breathing as he inhaled that relaxed him rather than the cigarette itself. I also ask people how much they enjoy smoking and whether they enjoy every single puff. He acknowledged that he probably only enjoyed four or five of the cigarettes he smoked every day and out of them he actually only enjoyed the first few puffs of each. He was quite shocked that he had thought he was enjoying every moment of each cigarette he was smoking and yet when he thought about it, it was reduced down to ten puffs or so or four or five cigarettes. Suddenly it seemed a very expensive habit to have.
Most cigarettes are smoked purely through habit or conditioned response to certain situations. People go onto auto-pilot and light up without really thinking because the habit has become an automatic response. Something happens, you feel a certain way and automatically reach for a cigarette. The man in front of me recognised that he smoked when he first woke up or during a break at work. He described it as a part of him that made him smoke because ‘that’s just what he does.’ That part is indeed there however it can be asked to do things differently, to fulfil the same need he was getting from smoking but in a much more beneficial, healthier way. He also talked about how he started smoking at age 13 to fit in. Now he is 56, that need is no longer there.
Stopping sessions are dealt with in one session. He remembered the first time he had ever smoked a cigarette and how disgusting it tasted. We built on these sensations and asked his mind to think differently about the need to smoke. Through visualisation and his powerful imagination, he adopted the mindset of a non-smoker. After the session, I asked him to pick up a cigarette he had in his pocket. He was totally repulsed and put them in the bin in the therapy room.
I contacted him a few months later. He hadn’t smoked since. The urge was simply no longer there. The craving for a smoke left the day he saw me.
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