Open post
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.
Open post
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.

Open post
Smoking Reinforcement Cycle

Smoking Reinforcement

I find it helps to understand smoking reinforcement. 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 was for three months, but started again 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 smoking reinforcement 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 his 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?

Open post
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?

Open post
cross dressing and smoking

Cross Dressing and Smoking

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.

Open post
simple tests to stop

Two Simple Tests to Stop Smokers Smoking

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?

Open post
smoking block

Smoking Block stopping stopping

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.

Organ talking

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.

Interesting session.


Open post
smoking my time

Smoking Stress 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.

Open post
bad news for smokers

More bad news for smokers

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.


Open post
smoking weight gain

Smoking Weight Gain

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.

Posts navigation

1 2 3 4
Scroll to top