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?
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?
I have heard some quite remarkable reasons for wanting to give up smoking but the client I had last week must be unique.
He wants to stop smoking because he wants his wife back. She left him because of his unsocial behavior. He loves her and wants her to come back into his life.
He doesn't think that he could find another woman who would accept his cross dressing the way she did. So he wants to show her how much he loves her by stopping smoking. He hopes this will prove that he would do anything to win her back.
It doesn't get more romantic than that.
Do you want to give up smoking Test
Every smoker is different. Every smoker needs a therapy matched to their unique particular needs. But knowing which therapy to use can be a problem. I start by using two simple tests to stop. I ask them to rate themselves on a scale of one to ten on how much they want to give up smoking. Then separately on a scale of one to ten on how much they think that they can give up smoking.
I find these two simple tests very effective sometimes. Most people give an eight or a nine to both. It is the ones who are at the extreme ends of the scales who are most interesting. People who are a ten on motivation to give up only need to be given hypnotic suggestions that they have the ability. Then they are pretty much done.
However, you also need to probe as to why they have not already given up. Usually you find they have a history of good intentions, but deep psychological problems about self esteem and self regard. People on the low end of the motivation need to be questioned about why they are in my office at all if they really don't want to give up. Their answers are always revealing. It may be that they have had a health scare, or they want to please somebody else. But it does let you know where to start probing and how to design your therapy.
Can you give up Smoking Test
The same applies to the can-you-give-up scale. People who score a ten are ready to give up on their own. They only need a little bit of hypnotic convincing. People who score low are telling you something very important. If they don't believe they can give up, but haven't really tried very hard, then you need to work on their belief system.
Other people have given up many times but always start again. I find this type of smoker needs the most attention, so this gives me an opening to talk about why they start again, what their motivation is, what is underlying their smoking behavior.
These two simple tests are an excellent way to get your stop smoking sessions going.
What do you think?
Have you used these tests? Do they give a good indication of how to deal with a smoker with hypnosis?
I had an interesting session today. My client was an Indian IT guy, recently arrived in this country. He came from a traditional Indian family. There is a lot of pressure to conform. They don't like him smoking.
He wants to stop smoking but can't. He stopped for two years but then started again due to stress in his marriage. Says he smokes because it is always the easy way out of stress. He feels that he's got some sort of mental block. He doesn't want to smoke but keeps doing it. The block was mentioned several times in his description of the problem.
Targeting the block
Because he mentioned the block so often I decided to use that as my starting point. I asked him to think about going to work, walking up the steps, with his cup of coffee. Not wanting to smoke but feeling that block that stops him stopping. I developed the idea and he then began to talk about the block.
He said it was shapeless and limitless. I got him to describe what it looked like and eventually he said it just looks like smoke. I got him to talk about how he felt about that smoke. He said he felt that it was like smoke under a glass jar. It kept changing. I asked him what he wanted to have happen to the smoke. He said he wanted to disappear. I asked "And if that disappears what would that mean for you?". "I would be able to see through it." "And what could you do then?". "I could manage it, I could get away from that black smoke, and manage to stop."
This confirmed the link between "disappearing" and "manage to stop".
Clearing the smoking block
I then said "and what would have to happen for that smoke to disappear". He hesitated for a long time. I said to him "look around you and see what else is there in that place." To my surprise he said "there is a painting."
I developed the painting. He said "it has flowers. It is beautiful." I suggested to him "this is the source of power for you." "You can use this to get rid of that smoke." I used that resource until he agreed that the smoke had disappeared.
When the smoke had disappeared, I deepened him to a deeper level of trance. To be sure, I did an eye catalepsy test. He could not open his eyes. Then I did the DRAIN metaphor therapy. This had him clear the block so that it drained out the soles of his shoes.
I then used the TALK TO THE PARTS method. I got him to talk to his lungs and listen to what they said. I got him to talk to his heart and listen to what that said. Then I suggested that he listen to all the other parts of him that are being affected by smoking. He said there were all complaining about his smoking. I got him to apologize to those parts for having betrayed them by smoking. Then I got him then to ask for their forgiveness. He negotiated all this internally.
Then I used direct suggestion and him that he would never smoke again. I told him that he owed it to his organs to live for a long time. It was his job to keep himself healthy. He owed it to those parts to live for a long time.
Reinforcing the message
I tried for a hand ideomotor signal. I am not sure that I got one. But I suggested that this was his unconscious mind signaling to him. Then I told him to thank his unconscious mind for having made this change and making him a non-smoker. I suggested that he might get a message back of some sort. I am not sure what he got. His fingers did not move as I expected.
I then counted out and back to the present. He was clearly still partly in trance. I explained what had happened in terms that he would understand using a metaphor about operating systems. He could barely remember what had happened, except when I prompted him.
I was interested to see if his cultural background would have suggested something unusual in terms of his unconscious mind communicating something to him. Apparently not.
SMOKING AND MY TIME
Smoking is often claimed to be addictive, more addictive than heroin. But a moment's thought will bring up any number of examples of people who have smoked for decades and then gave up overnight. Or of people who can smoke a whole pack at the weekend and never think of a cigarette again during the week. Or who can smoke like chimneys on holiday and then stop completely until the following year. So smoking cannot just be a simple substance addiction.
The reasons why people smoke are as different as the people themselves. One reason that I come across again and again is that smoking is 'my time'.
'My Time' is how smokers describe the period after all the kids have been put to bed, or all the customers have been dealt with. It is a time to withdraw from the demands of others. A time to satisfy yourself, to have a break and chill out with your cigarette. They can put up with anything as long as they know that they can have some time to themselves later. Over many years they have come to associate having personal time with having a smoke. They now think that it is the cigarette that is making them feel better. In fact the cigarette is just incidental, the benefit is coming from the break, not the cigarette.
Smoking and addiction
This type of smoker has very little 'addiction' to tobacco. What they do have is a strong association between smoking and getting away from the incessant demands and responsibilities for others. This type of smoker is actually quite easy to get to stop smoking. Essentially all you have to do is to assure them that they are still entitled to their own quiet time, but to link this to doing something else. The smoking habit will go into extinction quite quickly, since it was never about nicotine in the first place.
More bad news for smokers
Smoking is bad for you in so many ways. It causes heart disease, lung cancer, skin wrinkles and emphysema. It also makes you smell, keep you addicted, and uses up all your money. But that actually is more bad news for smokers.
New research shows that smoking can prematurely age a man's sperm. It has long been known that older women have a greater risk of having children with birth defects. Apparently this also applies to men. The older the father, the more likely it is that his children will not be healthy.
The risk seems to be associated with epigenetic tags on the of the father's DNA. These DNA tags determine how active the genes are. The tags are altered by age, and diet, and now it appears, also by smoking. In fact, the correlation is so clear that scientists can now very accurately predict a man's age by examining these DNA tags. Scientists got a surprise when they matched their estimated age from the tags to the actual age of the man donating the sperm. They found that smoker's sperm showed much older tags than their actual age. The conclusion is that smoking ages your sperm prematurely.
Pregnant women should stop smoking
This is a worrying development. Older men have an increased chance of fathering children with autism and schizophrenia. It is not known if there is a connection between smoking and this, but the possibility is there.
Pregnant women are routinely advised to stop smoking when they get pregnant. This research suggests that men who want to have children should also stop smoking. Particularly if they are older men to start with.
There is some good news. Sperm is produced fresh throughout a man's life. Therefore there is a chance that if the prospective father stops smoking he may be able to reverse some of the damage.
Smoking weight gain
I had an unusual client yesterday. She was very insistent that when she stopped smoking, she does not want to start eating instead. She is very afraid of putting on weight. And of something much deeper.
When we were talking about the reasons for her smoking, she hinted at various dark things in her childhood. But she was also adamant that she was not going there. She told me that she wanted me to stop her smoking. That was her number one priority. And when she has successfully done that she might look into dealing with the other things in her past. She had stopped smoking for four days when she was taken into hospital to have a stent put into her heart after having had a heart attack. In the hospital she felt great. She could clearly feel the benefits of not stopping. But as soon as she got into the car on the way home it smelled of smoke and her husband was smoking. She immediately said "give me one of those." And has been smoking continuously since then.
Reasons for smoking
We talked at length about why she smokes. She smokes whenever she is agitated, whenever she is unsure what to do, whenever she is getting stressed. Basically smoking is an avoidance mechanism. She is using cigarettes as a way of putting off dealing with whatever it is that she has to deal with. I spoke at length about finding out what it is that is driving her to smoke, what is that is making her nervous and unsure. I asked her for examples. She said "when I'm giving a presentation, when explaining things to a client". I said that after 30 years surely she should have gotten over that. I said that "this is just a clear example of the way that something is making you uncertain and unsure of yourself".
I said that we really should try to deal with the deeper issues. But she absolutely refused. I told her that I could stop anyone smoking, and I didn't want her coming back in a few weeks. If she was in a smoking household the pressure is so much stronger. Her husband smokes around her, he smokes indoors, she needs to put some pressure on him to be more supportive. He needs to recognize the danger he is posing to her. We left it at that.
Hypnosis for smoking
I suspected that she needed some willpower, some strength, some belief in her own ability to get through this. So I hypnotised her and took her to a bridge. On the bridge there was a powerful figure waiting for her to give her the strength that was missing. The figure got her to realize that she was carrying something around with her. The figure said that these were stones. She dropped the stones off the bridge. And in return the figure gave her a magic talisman.
I then reconnected her to the feeling she had in hospital, of being a non-smoker. After she had experienced what it was like to be a non-smoker, I did a metaphor of draining all the doubt out of her mind. This removed her belief that she could not give up smoking.
When she came back from trance she said that one of the stones was white and the second one was black. She said that she knew what they represented. She told me that the talisman was just a light. She went away convinced that she could stop smoking.
But I still wonder what deep secret she is holding.