Every smoker is different
This case shows the power of the magic smoking question. A young woman came for stop smoking hypnotherapy. She told me that she really wanted to stop because of possible health issues in the future. She had no health issues now. I asked if she had ever stopped. She said that she had stopped once for three months but then started again when she arrived in this country. She liked to use cigarettes to break the ice at social events and meeting people. I couldn't get any real reason for why she wanted to give up. She told me she liked smoking and smoked whenever she could. Nobody was allowed to smoke at work so she smoked on the way to work, and after she got home at night. Even so she was getting through 15 cigarettes a day.
She said that she liked to smoke when she was stressed. Sometimes she would deliberately pick a fight with her boyfriend so that she would feel bad. That meant she could go outside and have a smoke to calm down. She did other things to provoke these feelings that let her light up to relieve the stress. Although she was completely honest and open about it, at the same time she wanted to hide her smoking from her parents back home and the people she worked with. She agreed that smoking was her secret and she got a bit of thrill out of that.
Asking the magic smoking question
I was at a bit of loss as to how to start with this client so I decided to ask her my favorite question 'What do you feel when I say "you will never have another cigarette as long as you live''?
Her answer was 'anger'. She felt angry at the idea that she would not be able to smoke again. She felt that she was being prevented from doing something that special to her.
I had never come across this particular response before. But it was an emotion and whenever an emotion surfaces I always do a metaphor replacement therapy on it. In this case I got her to visualize the anger, she saw it as a black triangle, made of squishy sponge, light and soft. You could squeeze the water out of it, but it would always fill up again.
I got her to imagine making the triangle a little smaller, and then a little smaller still. It stopped being able to hold water, and then she tore it in half and put the bits in the bin.
I asked what she felt about smoking now, and she said 'I think I can stop smoking now'!
I find the power of that simple question quite extraordinary. And just as extraordinary is the fact that smokers have these rather bizarre beliefs that stop them stopping.
I love doing smokers, no two are ever the same.
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community and is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international hypnotherapy conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.