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reasons for smoking

Reasons for smoking

Reasons for Smoking

My client yesterday was a middle aged woman who just could not give up smoking. She could not give any reasons for smoking.

I asked if she had ever stopped smoking. She said "I stopped when I got pregnant". I then asked her why she started again. "About a year ago. A friend offered me a cigarette, and said it might help, so I took it. And then it was a case of another one, and then two, and then very quickly I was back smoking again."

I asked what else was going on in her life at that time. She said "I discovered that my husband was having an affair with my best friend."

The real reasons for smoking

It seems strange to me that someone would blame starting smoking again because a friend suggested that it might help them, and totally ignoring the fact that their life had fallen apart around them. It is a peculiar kind of blindness that seems to affect people who start smoking again. They will blame the smallest thing, and completely ignore overwhelming emotional changes.

It is also strange that even after years of not smoking, people can believe that smoking will help them. I have had many clients who told me "I took the first cigarette. It tasted horrible. I felt sick and dizzy. But I kept on with it, until I had started again."

I asked "how did you feel when you stop smoking when you were pregnant?" She said, "I felt that I had to quit, and I resented it. Even though I stopped for 11 years I still resented being made to stop. Especially at the beginning of the pregnancy when my husband did not stop smoking but I had to. I hate it when I cannot do what I want and other people make me do things."

And there was the real reason for smoking. It was also the best indicator of how to go about helping her stop smoking again.


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smoking procrastination

Smoking Procrastination Fear of doing it wrong

You never stop learning in this business. My smoking client today said she loved smoking but had to give up because it was affecting her health. I asked what she loved about it and she told me that it calmed her down. It turned out that she had anxiety all the time. Smoking was how she self medicated. She actually had smoking procrastination.

Smoking Procrastination

I discovered that she came from an alcoholic family. This led me to suspect that she would have some form of depression and I started probing gently about that. When we got to the questions about Black and White thinking she said that she was a procrastinator. She would stay in bed in the morning and her husband would bring her cups of tea. And with every cup she would have a cigarette. She said that sometimes she would stand in front of her clothes closet and not know what to put on, so she would have a cigarette and think about it.

I traced this to the perfectionism associated with B & W thinking. She agreed that rather than take a decision that might be wrong she would put it off: smoking gave her an excuse to drag it out by another ten minutes. I think that she was fearing the wrath of her parent and wanted not to commit to anything in case it was the wrong action. In childhood when she got things wrong  she would get shouted at, and an argument would ensue.

It seemed that she was mainly smoking to avoid taking action. If she didn't do anything then there was no danger of anything that would trigger those old feelings of fear. This fear of doing things wrong was also the source of her ongoing lifelong anxiety.

Have you dealt with procrastination? How can it be overcome? Share your ideas below.


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switching to vaping

Should smokers be switching to vaping?

Many smokers are switching to vaping. Most assume that the change will be beneficial. By switching to vaping they are trying to avoid the well-known health problems of smoking tobacco. But is vaping actually better for you? And how exactly?

A recent pilot study looked into what effects vaping has compared to smoking. It only investigated a small number of people but it is the first research into smokers versus vapers. It suggests that vaping actually is better for you. But for a very surprising reason.

Switching to vaping

The study looked at the bacteria living in the gut of people who used vaporizers and people who smoke tobacco. The study found that participants who used vaporizers have the same gut bacteria as non-smokers. But the tobacco smokers had a significantly altered gut biome.

The term "gut biome" refers to the total collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi living in your gut. We all have trillions of bacteria working away inside us. Most of them are harmless, some of them are potentially hazardous, and a very large proportion of them are actually essential for good health.

Scientists are realising more and more that we have a symbiotic relationship with all the critters that make their home in our intestines. It is becoming clear that the gut biome can have significant health effects. Gut bacteria have been shown to influence obesity, depression, confidence, and even some quite severe mental health issues. So a healthy biome is of critical importance to everyone.

More research will have to be done but the initial results are intriguing. Who knew that smoking could adversely affect the bacteria living inside you?

How many of your clients are switching to vaping? Share it below.


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weirdest reason for smoking

Weirdest reason for smoking

Today I had what I thought was a very ordinary, normal client. But she actually had the weirdest reason for smoking ever.

She wanted to stop smoking. Then she gave me a long list of all the things that were going wrong in her life. This was all delivered in a quiet monotonous voice. She sat there with her head down, avoiding eye contact and radiating unhappiness.

Smoking to respect grandma

She knows that she has depression but chooses to do nothing about it. Her mother died a few years ago. The issues she had with her mother were never resolved. She loved her grandmother. Her grandmother was the best and brightest thing in her life. And all her memories about her grandmother include her grandmother smoking. The client said that part of the reason why she smokes is to honor the memory of her grandmother. Somehow, if she stops smoking, this disrespects her grandmother.

She wants to have a child, so she thinks it would be best if she stopped smoking. On the other hand she fears that she might be too old to have a child. Overall, I felt this client's despair. I really wanted to help her.

There was no point in trying to address the depression, because she's already said that she is not going to do a thing about it. So I did what I could with standard stop smoking therapy. To my surprise, she went into trance quite easily. I later learned that she had done a lot of meditation in the past, which would explain it.

Different realities

I took her through a series of hypnotic metaphors and visualizations. In trance I got her to look at her own reflection in a pool of water. I encouraged her to look at the reflection as if she was someone else. I encouraged her mind to consider different perspectives, alternative realities and to re-evaluate her own role in life. She was taken to a place where all her friends and relatives were assembled. There she proclaimed that she was changing, that she was stopping smoking, improving her lifestyle. And she outlined what her goal was and how she was going to get there. Among the people gathered there were people who had been a bad influence on her life in various ways. She identified those and banished them from the place.

Ego strengthening

I then did a series of ego strengthening statements. I sought out her personal beliefs and tried to establish a connection between her body, and her soul, and her mind. By the end of it, I had really pulled out all the stops and done everything I could to get this woman to a good place.

I brought her out of trance, and asked her how she felt. She told me that she felt relaxed and clearheaded and was seeing everything differently. And that was a problem.

Weirdest reason for smoking

She then told me one of the most extraordinary reasons I've ever heard why someone smokes. She said that she smokes because it "fogs her mind". When she doesn't smoke, she has "a sharp mind". Having a sharp mind, seeing everything clearly, means that she sees all the faults of others. Noticing those faults makes her angry at them. So she becomes unpleasant, and unsocial. And that's why she smokes, so that she can get on with people.

So my work with her was the exact opposite of what she wanted!


What is the weirdest reason for smoking you have heard of? Share it below.

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smoking and mindfulness

Smoking and Mindfulness

I have been reading Alan Wells' excellent book on metacognition and depression.  It is perhaps a  bit hard for the lay person to follow. But with the academic jargon stripped out it makes a lot of sense.

He introduces the idea of Detached Mindfulness; a state of being able to observe thoughts without acting on them. He differentiates between able to experience a thought from the point of view of an observer, and experiencing a thought as some thing that fuses together reality, belief and behavior  into one unbreakable unit.

Smoking and Mindfulness

I was thinking about this in the context of how to use it to get people to stop smoking. Smoking and Mindfulness are not often linked but there may be a way to combine them in therapy. I got to wondering about how it fits into the classical psychology conditioning model. That model sees learned behavior as the result of conditioning: stimulus →  response → reward.

However all these studies were originally based on non-sentient being like clams and worms. Humans are different in that they don't have to respond instinctively to everything. If you blow a puff of air into a person's eye, they will  blink. No matter how often you do it, they never unlearn it, and they cannot not do it.

But many stimuli cause different responses in different people, so perhaps the model needs another element: stimulus → thought → response → reward.

If that is a better model of how people actually respond to stimulus then it suggests that intervention based on changing the thought should work just as well as intervention based on changing the reward.

What do you think? Share your ideas below.

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smoking again

Why do people start smoking again?

I have had some interesting clients this week. One of them was a woman who came to see me to stop smoking six months ago. It was a success but then suddenly she just felt that she had to start smoking again.

She stopped smoking completely for about five months. She told me that she felt a wonderful sense of freedom. What worked for her was my hypnotic suggestions that she would feel as if she had never smoked. She had no cravings, no weight gain, no desire at all. The result was that she could mingle with smokers and be completely unaffected.

Start smoking again

But then someone close to her died. She went to the ceremony and felt totally devastated, understandably. On the way home she felt the emotional wrench so bad that she stopped and bought a packet of cigarettes, and smoked one, and then a second. She didn't think the cigarettes helped. But she just felt compelled to go on. It was the only thing she could do. So without wanting to, she had started smoking again.

I have never understood how this happens. How can a sensible person who hates smoking and has stopped for months allow themselves to start again?

Why do people start smoking again?

I have interviewed many people who have done this. Sometimes they have not smoked for years, in one case for seven years. Yet given a big enough emotional jolt, their instinct is to reach for a cigarette. I have never seen any explanation of this phenomenon that makes any sense to me.

I think the hypnotist who cracks that problem will become world famous. I'm still trying.


Why do you think people start again after a long time? Leave your comment below.

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tarot hypnosis

Tarot Hypnosis and your unconscious mind

Yesterday, I met with a friend who has done an extensive study of meditation, psychology, and matters of the mind. He and I discussed what meditation is. His opinion is that it has some connection to a universal consciousness. He believes that there is a reason why everything happens. For example, at every critical point in your life, you meet the right person. I politely but forcibly disagreed. I believe that meditation, like hypnosis, is simply a way into accessing our own unconscious minds.

Tarot Hypnosis

We were in my office where I see my hypnotherapy clients and he noticed that I have some tarot cards on my bookshelf. He expressed interest in the tarot cards. Apparently he had heard of Tarot cards, but had never examined a pack closely. I let him handle the cards, and I showed him several other sets I have which have different themes. I often use the Tarot to open up the unconscious thoughts of my clients.He said he thought I was the last person on earth who would have used tarot cards, given my strictly logical view of the world. I started to explain to him how I used them and why. He was trying to reconcile his view of tarot cards as some sort of mystical gateway, with my view of tarot cards as logical tools to understanding the unconscious mind. We got into a heated discussion. In order to give him a specific example, I offered to do a tarot reading for him.

The tarot spread

I told him to select five cards and lay them out face down.  I then offered him the chance to rearrange the order if he wanted. In this reading, the first card was his current situation. The second card represented the near future, and the third card represented the longer term future. His fourth card represented a surprise, something unexpected. And the fifth card was something that influenced all the others, that gave a particular interpretation to them.My friend was looking for a career change. The new job he is in is now is not working out. He is likely to be offered another job but isn't sure about it. He is completely undecided about even what industry he wants to work in, or whether to move to a different place.

The Tarot Reading

To do the reading I began to explain the cards one by one. The first card, the immediate part, was the Four of Cups. This shows a man with 3 cups in front of him turning his back on a castle and the offer of the fourth cup. I explained that this was him refusing to look at the things he was being offered, by focusing on what he had. I suggested the card meant that he was focusing on only part of his assets.The second card was the High Priestess. I explained that this was about mysteries revealed and that he could expect to find things happening for which there was no explanation. I also pointed out that the crescent moon is on top of the columns. These suggested that things come and go, wax and wane, and that he can expect variations in his progress.The third card, the long-term future, was the Moon. I explained again that this was about things changing, not being one thing or the other, constantly moving. On the card, the crab symbol is partly in the water and partly on the land. The whole card is about things being in flux, that nothing is ever fixed, or right, or final. Its message is: there is no certainty.

Influencing cards

The surprise card was the King of Pentacles. I explained that this meant success in physical pleasures, luxury, abundance. He then started talking about what abundance meant. saying that was different for everyone. The card started him pretty much thinking aloud,  and  allowed him to firm up his ideas of what 'abundance' might mean for him personally.The fifth card, the card that underlies or influences all the rest of the cards in the set, was the Two of Pentacles. the Two of Pentacles represents the beginning of a journey. Its meaning in this case is that he has started on a journey and that there will be no straightforward progression. No one knows where the journey will go, but he has made a start on it, whether he realizes it or not.

Interpreting the Tarot cards

We then started to talk about this and he agreed that this was a very good description of his life at the moment. I told him that I found that more times than not the cards actually did match people's current situation. He thought that was deeply significant and had something to do with a universal consciousness of that kind of thing. As he talked about the cards in front of him, it seemed to me that he had clarified his thoughts. He seemed more sure of what to do, more focused.

Why does Tarot work?

Thinking about it later, I wondered "why do the Tarot cards seem to match so well, so often?" I think I have come to an understanding. I watched this man trying to make sense of the cards he choose and then listened to him rationalize the connections.I think that most people do not actually understand their own life, and cannot put into context. I think people unconsciously think about their life as a series of random, unplanned events. This gives them a large number of different, possibly conflicting, views of where they are, and who they are, and what they should be doing. This leaves them looking for confirmation and guidance.

Tarot creates a life story

My theory is that the normal way that people understand themselves is incomplete, biased, uninformed, and in constant change.I think what the tarot cards do is to offer a symbolic representation that they can then create sense from. I get my client to look at a tarot spread and I explain the symbolism and what it means. They then can sort through the partly formed, incomplete ideas and possibilities in their mind. And from that random jumble they can find some combination that makes a sensible pattern that connects the tarot cards. I think that what the tarot card reading does is to give them a template around which they can arrange incomplete thoughts and ideas. They then link those incomplete thoughts and ideas to other incomplete thoughts and ideas until they make some kind of sense of their life.

Find the pattern

This is why it works with almost any cards. The symbolism is like the crystal seed that allows everything else to form a regular and understandable pattern around it. Having created that pattern, the client's mind then goes through all the other currently unconnected bits and reinforces the pattern that crystallized around the tarot card symbol. The client's mind is much happier with the idea that the tarot somehow pulled out symbols with a meaning  special to them.It works because they can create a complete "story" around that symbolism.  The "story" helps them to make sense of their own life and their current problems. It gives them a sense of certainty, that this is the correct interpretation. It makes sense out of the mass of uninformed, incomplete, and contradictory half-understood feelings and beliefs. The fact that it comes from an external influence helps to validate one particular interpretation of all those partial feelings and beliefs.Do you use Tarot? Share your thoughts below.
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start smoking again

Why start smoking again after many years?

It has always intrigued me as to why people start smoking again after many years of not smoking. I think I might have some sort of answer from a client I had in for smoking this week.

She says she has stopped and started smoking in the past, for example when she was pregnant, but always something made her start again. I asked why. She said that she does it when she feels she is losing control. The last time was when her son was sick in hospital and she thought she might lose him, so started smoking after seven years stopped.

Original Incident

She said she started smoking when she was 14. She came home from school to find her mother and father arguing and both had blood on them. They shouted to her to go to her room. She felt terrified. The next day they both had left the house and she and her sister were alone. Her mother vanished for two weeks. There was nothing to eat. She was alone and abandoned. She felt she couldn't tell anyone. She was terrified.

Her mother worked for a cigarette company and there were cigarettes in the cupboard so she broke into them and started smoking to give her something to do. Her mother returned but she never felt safe again. She later learned her mother had attempted suicide in that two weeks she was gone.

No need to look any further for why she starts smoking again when things go out of control.

Have you heard of similar cases? Leave a comment below.

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Smoking Reinforcement Cycle

Ending the Smoking Reinforcement Cycle

I had a young man today whose life is going nowhere. He smokes ten a day and does not know how to stop smoking. Part of him likes smoking but part of him wants to give up and can't.

He said he is able to stop but keeps starting again. The last time he gave up for three months, but started after a row with his dad. He could not tell me why he started again. I then asked him what had been going on in his life when he first started smoking. He said that he was 16 and got a job as a trainee chef and everyone smoked at work and he wanted to fit in.

I asked about his home life. He described nine people living in three bedrooms, including his disabled father and his pregnant girl friend. It was immediately obvious why he liked smoking: it reminded him of a time when he was happy and calm. Smoking let him get away from an environment that was chaotic. He agreed that smoking let him get away from things and to calm down. I asked 'calm down from what?'. He said that he usually smoked after an argument, either with his father or his girlfriend, who now had two children.

Smoking Habit Reinforcing

The cyclic pattern seemed to be:

argument leads to anger leads to smoking leads to calming down which reinforces the smoking.

This is a classic habit maintenance pattern. He smokes because it lets him calm down. So the smoking is reinforced every time he has an argument, and every time he feels bad about something.

The standard stop smoking treatment consists of treating one or more of the parts of the cycle. You can attack the reward, and make the smokes taste horrible. You can attack the behavior and suggest that smoking will no longer work. You can attack the feeling and teach ways of dealing with the feelings.Or you can attack the reaction and suggest ways of managing the reaction.

Ending the Smoking Reinforcement Cycle

In this case I felt that fixing the smoking would only last until the next argument unless I fixed the response to the argument first. So I asked him to imagine that he was having an argument with his father, and to allow the feelings of anger to come out. He did that. When I was sure that he was feeling the anger I started doing Metaphor Replacement Therapy. We worked on objectifying the feeling. He said that the feeling was red, and round like a disk, about the size of an old record. It was thin and perfectly round. I got him to imagine getting rid of the red disk. He came up with the idea of melting it. He used a kitchen blow torch and it melted and vanished.

I tested his feelings against another imagined argument. He reported that it just felt sad; the anger was gone.

I then used my standard hypnosis routine help him stop smoking from today. As part of that I wove in suggestions about taking control of his life, getting away from the environment and creating a better future for him and his kids. And to not allow himself to be held back by other people's needs and feelings.

I look forward to hearing how it all worked out.

What do you think?

How do you deal with cyclic behavior patterns? What ones have you seen?

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smokers worst employees

Are smokers the worst employees?

The study of smoking and quitting smoking continues to be misinf0rmed by bad science. A recent study in the journal Tobacco Control reported that each smoker costs an American employer $5,800 per year on average.

This does not seem unreasonable until you start to look at how the figure was arrived at. Most of the cost is estimated as lost productivity due to leaving work to go outside and smoke. Then there are the sick days taken by smokers; increased health care costs for the employer, offset by the reduced pension costs due to smokers dying earlier; and lower productivity during working time due to withdrawal symptoms.

Cost of withdrawal symptoms

It was this last one that caused me to query these figures. How does a smoker get withdrawal symptoms if they are still smoking? According to the researchers every smoker gets withdrawal symptoms within thirty minutes of putting out their last smoke. Having interviewed thousands of smokers this idea just doesn't stand up to checking. Many people smoke in the morning and then don't smoke all day if they are busy at work: they just forget to smoke. Are we to believe that they are suffering withdrawal symptoms all this time? It doesn't make sense.

Lack of original research

Then there is the issue of "smoking more costs the employer more". This is not addressed because the researchers didn't actually speak to any smokers. They read and analysed what other academics had written about smokers. That analysis is how they arrived at the main cost.

They did not actually measure how long workers took to go and smoke, they estimated from their reading that smokers would take five fifteen minute breaks during an eight hour day. It strikes me as astonishing that anyone would create an estimate of work time lost without measuring how long smokers actually took for their smoke breaks.

Are smokers the worst employees?

And once you start questioning the method, other issues come up. If smokers are to blamed for loss of work time, what about sports players, who lose time at work through injuries, pains, sprains and so on. I am no apologist for smokers, but if you are costing in smoking time, you also need to cost in the benefits of smoking to the smoker. Many smokers use the time to review what they have to done, or to plan the next move, or just calm down from a stressful situation. What about value of the ideas exchanged between groups of smokers as they congregate socially outside? I am sure that you can come up with your own list of objections.

The flaws in the reported methodology, in my view, make this 'scientific' report unusable. Sadly, too much research into smoking is done by non-smokers speculating about what smokers might be doing and thinking, and not enough is done by studying actual smokers' behavior.

What do you think?

Is smoking the worst waste of time at work? Is there some other habit  that actually costs more?

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