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Stop smoking NLP

Stop smoking NLP

Stop smoking NLP programming

I have just noticed the new stop smoking NLP service being offered on the Internet. The marketing approach is low-key. It avoids the common hype of screaming banners and flashing pop-ups. Which is nice.

What I find interesting is the approach. The marketing for this service says that it hypnotises you in order to remove the programming that makes you smoke.

Whether this works or not depends on whether smokers are actually "programmed". If you are not programmed, then you cannot be deprogrammed. The whole idea of "programming" is at the heart of NLP. NLP started back in the 70s when computer programming was the latest and greatest technology. Every business idea wanted to use the term "programming".  But there is no direct evidence that the human mind is actually programmed, in the same way that computers are "programmed".

The marketing also claims that NLP can program you to feel that you have never smoked. And if you feel like someone who has never smoked, then the idea of smoking will just never occur to you. In my experience, this kind of modelling works for a couple of days, at most. At the first touch of stress, the person reverts back to their standard way of responding.

Smoking to feel sad

The second part uses NLP to associate smoking with a feeling. The advertising says that the CD put you into hypnosis, then get you to think of something in your life that made you sad. Then they use NLP to link that feeling of sadness to smoking. So that every time you have a cigarette, a period of sadness overwhelms you. The marketing says that you will find no difficulty in giving up smoking, if every time you have a smoke you feel sad and tearful.

A separate part of the process uses NLP to link not smoking to some joyous event in your life. So that every time you think of not having a cigarette, those feelings rise up in you.

It is certainly an interesting idea. However, NLP has a very spotty record of success. I studied it personally for many years. But I came to the conclusion that most of it just didn't work. The NLP community has never managed to prove that "programming" is anything more than a metaphor.

I would be very interested to know if this actually works.

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Cigarette smoking habits

Cigarette smoking habits are now changing

Cigarette smoking habits are now changing

Cigarette smoking habits are now changing all over the world. But there is nothing new about this. During the history of smoking cigarettes have gone in and out of fashion. When first introduced to England, tobacco was seen as a sign of international travel. Then it was banned totally.  Then it was accepted by everyone, and created huge fortunes for tobacco merchants. Then there was a reaction against cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was blamed for mental illness. Then it flipped again. Tobacco was seen as being good, and smoking was recommended by doctors. And now smoking is evil.

In the 1700's the normal way of smoking tobacco was with a pipe.  Everyone, from the highest to the lowest; men, women and children, smoked clay pipes. However, fashions change. In the UK the more sophisticated classes took to using snuff. Some chewed it. Then, by the 1800s, the upper classes switched to cigars. Only the poorest people used cigarettes. In the USA it was different again. By the middle of the 1800's, the most common way of using tobacco  in the US was chewing it. 

Cigarette smoking habits in the Victorian Era

In Britain, the Crimean War changed smoking habits forever. The Crimean War was immensely popular in Britain, in part at least because of the mythology of the Charge of the Light Brigade. When the troops got home people started to copy what the returned soldiers did. During the war, British troops found themselves fighting in bitter cold and so were allowed to grow beards to avoid frostbite. This started a fashion for beards in all levels of English society.

The result was that most images of people in late Victorian times show them being covered in beards and sideburns. The British troops got to know Turkish troops, their allies. And the British troops started to copy the Turkish habit of rolling tobacco in paper and smoking it. They brought this habit back with them. Ordinary people wanted to copy their heroes, so cigarettes became fashionable. 

At that time manufactured cigarettes were available, but they were handmade, and relatively expensive. The first effective cigarette making machine was patented in 1880. In the next few years, cigarettes dropped in price dramatically. Machine-made cigarettes were much more practical. However, they still had the stigma of being associated with the lower classes. The upper classes in the UK still smoked their cigars. King Edward IV even had cigars named after him.

Cigarettes as social protest

The switch to widespread cigarette smoking was started by artists. At the turn of the 19th/20th century many doctors believed that cigarette smoking caused mental disorders. Therefore anyone who smoke cigarettes was defying social convention. And this suited members of a developing art movement. They wanted to show that they rejected everything that was normal and accepted. Artists were mostly from the upper class at this time. Ordinary people couldn't afford to be artists, they had to work.

So these upper-class artists started smoking cigarettes publicly, in the bars where they met. They started painting cigarettes into their portraits. This was shocking to the rest of the class they lived in. Which delighted the artists. They saw themselves as revolutionaries. They saw themselves as defying all conventions. Added to that, they were openly defying advice about risking sending themselves mad. And could use cigarette smoking as an excuse for any kind of wild behaviour.

Gradually, the association of cigarette smoking with glamorous artists, bohemian living, free love, open sexuality and all the rest of it, gave cigarette smoking a sense of glamour. Movie stars started smoking. This had an immense effect on public ideas about smoking, particularly seeing women smoking on screen.

Cigarette smoking habits dying out

Manufacturers and advertisers jumped onto the boom and promoted cigarettes everywhere. There was so successful at this that public perception changed totally. Cigarettes were now seen as a good thing. The Army actually gave cigarettes free to their soldiers. In the 1950s, doctors would recommend you take up smoking as a way of dealing with stress. Smoking reached epidemic proportions. In some places 80% of people smoked. You could smoke anywhere.

And then major health problems began to be seen in the population. There is nothing new about this. As far back as the 1890s, cigarettes had been called "coffin nails". It was obvious that smoking was unhealthy. But it took another 60 years for public awareness to turn into alarm.

Today, smoking is universally condemned. Governments are moving to stamp out smoking in their populations. So this may well be the very last stage of the history of tobacco consumption.

And we hypnotherapists can play our part too.




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Smoking behaviour

Finding patterns in smoking behaviour

Smokers do not know why they smoke

I had an interesting smoking client today. This man has given up several times but always starts again. He started smoking three weeks ago, after having given up for four months using Champix. Previously he had given up for a year and half , also with Champix.

I kept asking him why he smoked, and what he got from smoking. He said he did not know. I kept pressing him and he said "I'm not the kind of person who analyses things deeply." He did not know why he started smoking again. I asked him how he felt when he give up smoking. He told me that he felt stronger and more active but it stopped him sleeping well. The information about sleeping made me suspect that in fact he had "black and white thinking".
I showed him the dysthymia grid I use. This shows all the signs and symptoms of dysthymia. And he began smiling as he recognized himself there.

Indicators of dysthymia

We talked about dysthymia and it gradually unfolded that he had had it all his life. I explained to him that it was partly genetic and partly environment. I said you will probably find that some members of your extended family are angry, alcoholics, loners and so on. He immediately said "Yes, my grandfather was a drinker. And my father is a worrier".
We went back to talking about why he smoked and what he felt just before he smoked. He could not identify any particular feeling, or situation, which prompted him to smoke. He said "I just like to go outside and have a break now and then".

And that was the clue to why he smoked. He actually had a fairly mild form of dysthymia. He had expectations of how things should go. When he had done what you thought was right at work, and things still went wrong, he got irritated. This is classic dysthymia behavior. In his case he dealt with the irritation by stepping outside and having a smoke. He admitted he often didn't actually want the smoke. He would like one up, smoke half of it, and throw it away. And pace up and down for a while. But he couldn't give up.
He was smoking as a way of dealing with his frustration. As long as he did not understand the source of his frustration he would continue to start smoking again whatever the level of frustration got high enough.

It's not about stopping smoking, it's about stopping starting.

He had already stopped smoking many times. His problem isn't stopping smoking. He knows how to do that. His problem is stopping starting again. So we spent some time discussing how he was going to deal with his frustration. He said  that instead of going out for a smoke he would take my suggestion and go out for a walk around the block.
I therefore put him into hypnosis and used my standard stop smoking routine. But I added in some extra suggestions about monitoring his own level of frustration and using this is a trigger to get more exercise.

I think it very interesting that so many smokers never give a thought to why they smoke, or when they smoke, or look for patterns in it. The pattern is usually fairly obvious once you look for it.

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Smoking blindness

Smoking blindness

My local health district has proudly announced a new smoke-free effort to help people to cut down smoking. It is the result of years of planning and the combined efforts of seven area health boards. The initiative is "employing expert staff dedicated to helping people across the regions to become Smokefree".

The new service offers face-to-face coaching and 24-hour phone support. "The quick coaches will support you through a six-week program and provide free nicotine patches, lozenges and/or gum."
The service is embracing all the latest in technology. As well as weekly face-to-face meetings, they are using texting, videoing, Skyping, and emails to keep constantly in touch with the smokers. And it costs nothing. People wanting to quit get any combination of nicotine replacement therapy patches, nicotine gum, and lozenges free and unlimited.
The government has said publicly that it intends to make the whole country smoke-free by 2025. This initiative is part of that policy. And I applaud anything that is being done to help people stop smoking.

Smoking Blindness

However, this looks like another case of smoking blindness. Everything in this new initiative is based on a model of smoking which regards smoking as a purely physical or biomedical affliction. This reflects the widespread view in medicine that smoking is the result of physical addiction. If you believe that smoking is the result of addiction to tobacco then of course the correct response is to help eliminate the addiction. This is done with pharmaceuticals and encouragement. In my view this is just official smoking blindness.

It is surprising to me that this entire multimillion dollar initiative seems to give no weight at all to the psychological side of smoking. Hypnotherapy is very successful at stopping smoking. It does not use pharmaceuticals, and does not offer ongoing multiweek support. This is because you don't need them.

Smoking is at least as much about the psychology of the smoker as it is about the physical side. In fact I believe that smoking is almost entirely a psychological issue. It is rather disheartening to see yet another instance of smoking blindness by the medical profession. I wish the initiative well, but I really think that they are working on a flawed model.

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stop smoking metaphor

Using a personalised embodied metaphor to stop smoking

Occasionally I get a client who gives me a wonderful example of how people naturally use embodied metaphor. In hypnotherapy, metaphors are usually discussed only as parts of speech. Metaphors are seldom discussed when they represents an embodied feeling. This is a case of using a personalised embodied metaphor to stop smoking.

I had a smoking client this morning who told me that she can stop smoking OK, but something always makes her start again. It's like this thing on her shoulder constantly egging her on to smoke. As the days and weeks go by of not smoking, it gets stronger and stronger until she just has to give in and have a smoke.
This kind of personalised embodied metaphor has always intrigued me. For some reason, I have always been attracted to metaphor therapy. I like the visual element to it, and I like the way metaphor therapy can remove even the most stubborn unconscious behaviour. In this case I did not have a client after this one, so I felt I had some spare time to experiment.

Developing a personalised embodied metaphor

I began the induction by asking the client to take three deep breaths. Then I stopped the induction and asked her to become aware of the thing on her shoulder. I got her to think about this feeling of smoking, this thing that was always on her shoulder when she stopped. I talked about noticing its colour, size, and how it felt physically on her shoulder.
Even after only three deep breaths, she was clearly in a light trance. She began to describe the thing that appeared on her shoulder. She described it as being a brown mass. Then she said there was white. She said it is tall. I asked how big it was. She told me "about the size of my finger". I asked what it looked like. She said "it's a cigarette", like I was an idiot.

This completely surprised me. Metaphors are usually just that, a metaphor. In other words, something that represents something else. This woman was experiencing it as the thing itself. Usually when I do this exercise I find an imp, or something like a gargoyle, something that represents an evil spirit of some sort. This woman was visualizing just a cigarette with a filter tip.

Using the personalised embodied metaphor to stop smoking

However, a metaphor is a metaphor, so I just went with what she gave me. I asked her to confirm that this represented her feeling of needing to smoke, of having to smoke. She said, "Yes, that's what it is". So I asked her what she would like to have happen to it.

She said "I want to break it up into little bits". I told her to do that. I then asked "And what is happening now to that thing?". She said "It is scattered on the ground". I then encouraged her to squish it all into the ground, to utterly destroy the cigarette.
Then I went over it all again. I used the suggestion that any time in the future when she might feel like starting smoking again, she would become immediately aware of this thing on her shoulder. She would reach up, break it into little pieces, scatter it on the ground, and utterly destroy it.
I brought her back out of trance, and we discussed it. She said "I don't quite know why, but I feel that I'm in control of it now".

Metaphor therapy can be quite amazing. Fast, flexible and powerful.

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stop smoking aversion

Spiegel’s method for stopping smoking

Herbert Spiegel was an American physician in North Africa with the US Army during the Second World War. He had learnt to use hypnosis clinically before the war. As an army doctor he had to deal with hundreds of soldiers who were physically injured, but also hundreds more who had what is now called PTSD. As always in any wartime situation he was short of morphine and other drugs. So he turned to hypnosis. He discovered that he was able to greatly reduce the amount of morphine by using hypnosis instead. He was also successful in using hypnosis to reduce battlefield induced psychological injuries.

Spiegel's method

When he returned to civilian life he began to apply hypnosis in his normal medical practice. He published extensively and his ideas on hypnotherapy were widely taken up in the medical profession. Spiegel  moved hypnosis out of the area of stage hypnosis and into the area of proper academic study. He applied his hypnosis treatments to weight loss, depression, and in particular smoking.
He was able to claim consistent success with a single session hypnosis technique known as Spiegel's method. Spiegel's method encourages smokers to keep reminding themselves of three basic ideas. A) smoking is poisoning your body. B) if you keep poisoning your body you will die. C) if you don't want to die, then you have to respect and protect your body.

The method consists of teaching smokers self-hypnosis. The self-hypnosis installs a post hypnotic suggestion to encourage the smoker to repeat A, B, C every two hours, and any time they feel the craving to smoke.
The theory behind this method is that motivation is the key factor in stopping smoking. Spiegel believed that concentrating on preserving your own body is the key to changing any destructive behavior.

Testing Spiegel's method

Academics tested and repeated his technique several times, under scientific controlled conditions, and got consistently good results. About 25% of random smokers will be smoke free a year later.
However, a great deal of research and development has happened in the 40 years since Spiegel introduced his method, and modern hypnotists claim a much higher rate of success.
It would be interesting to go back to the motivation method, and see how today's  smokers accept the idea, and whether it works any better now than it did then.


Source: Spiegel, H. (1970). A single treatment method to stop smoking using ancillary self-hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 22-29.

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Smoking alters your DNA

Smoking alters your DNA

Smokers have just had a new worry added to their fears. Smoking alters your DNA. A recently published study demonstrates that cigarette smoking not only damages your health while you are smoking, it also causes mutations in the tissues which last forever.

Smoking alters your DNA

Smokers create permanent changes to the DNA of cells in their lungs, throat, mouth and liver. Although the smoker's health improves when they stop smoking, the damage to the cells is permanent. There is a direct link between the number of cigarettes smoked and the number of mutations found.

This means that even long after you stop smoking the potential for cancer is still lurking deep inside the cells of your body. It really is true that every time you light up it's like pushing the button on a slot machine. Every turn of the wheels makes it more likely that you'll hit a jackpot you don't want.

The problem of course is that the more mutations there are, the more likely it is that one of them will turn into cancer. The more you smoke the more mutations you have, so the more chance you have of developing a life-threatening cancer.

Smoking affects distant organs too

Smoking doesn't just affect the tissues that come into contact directly with the smoke inhaled. Traces of smoking linked mutations are found in organs such as the bladder. Exactly how this link is established is not known but there is a clear link.

Smokers are well aware that they are damaging their health. Perhaps now that they know they're not merely damaging their health right now, they are actually altering the DNA inside the cells of their body, they will be more motivated to stop smoking.

It is quite horrifying that scientists are now able to examine your DNA, and like an archaeologist, trace your bad behavior from long ago.



Source: Science 04 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6312, pp. 618-622
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag0299

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secret hypnosis resource

Finding your secret hypnosis resource

Sometimes when you are doing hypnosis for smoking you need to utilize a secret hypnosis resource. You need to be always on the look out for things the client says that you can use. It comes down to really listening to your client. If you listen to your client the client will tell you exactly what they need.

I had a client come back to me several months after I had hypnotized her to stop smoking. She had started again and wanted me to fix it again. She told me that there had been a big family bust up. Her father had died and all sorts of unpleasantness between family members had come out. My client just couldn't take the arguing and spite and got stressed and started smoking again. 

It is a mistake to just take things the client tells you at face value. When I started probing about why the arguing had upset her so much I found the real reason. She loved her father and missed him desperately. With the family clashes and the loss of her dad she just couldn't cope. So she went back to the thing she had always relied on in times of stress: smoking. 

She was sitting in the chair weeping and it was clear that was not even near being over his death. As long as she felt that way she was not going to be able to stop smoking. So that became my secret hypnosis resource. 

I put her into trance and changed my standard stop smoking routine to include the secret resource. In trance I had her imagine a journey where she is going up a mountain path. The path gets steeper and harder and she can't go back and she can't go forward. Then along the path comes a person. This person is not described but it become obvious who it is. The person then tells her that he knows she is carrying some awful burden. He helps her let it go and it tumbles down the mountainside. Then he asks her to do something for him. He asks her if she will give up smoking for his sake. 

By this time my client was in floods of tears and promising to do anything for him. I then let the two of them reconcile and he told her it was time for him to go. He told her that he was happy where he was and it was time to let go. They embraced and then he continued down the path and she continued upwards. 

She me afterward that she felt such a feeling of relief. The path was exactly how she felt. And nothing would ever make her betray her father. She would never smoke again. 

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Smoking for dstraction

Smoking for distraction

Smoking for distraction is a way for people to avoid worries and bad feelings. Smoking is often a substitute for something else. My client today was unusual. He smoked fifteen cigarettes a day every day, except weekends. He doesn't smoke at all on the weekends, but he cannot give up the weekday smokes.

It is quite common to find people who only smoke at night, or only at weekends, or never when there are other people around. Many smokers can go without for long periods of time depending on the situation they are in.

This client smokes in the van on the way to work. He is a business owner in charge of several jobs where tradesmen are working independently at different work sites. All day he worries about the job, progress and what has to be done next. And that is the key to his smoking.

He is in fact catastrophizing about what could go wrong with each job. On the way there he winds himself up by imagining what he will find when he gets there, and uses smoking as a way to relieve the pressure. He is smoking for distraction. That is why he doesn't need to smoke on weekends: he doesn't have to go talk to workmen about progress on weekends.

Previous Therapy Fails

He had been to a hypnotist before many years ago. And he lit up on the way home from that session. I believe that people find it easier to modify their behavior when they understand what is driving it. In this case I found that he also had aspects of depression. His mind is always busy and he is a bit of perfectionist.

This combination means that he worries that things are going wrong when he is not there, this causes anxiety and the smoking given hem something to do to break the cycle. Now that he knows why he smokes and what he gets from it, it will be easier for him to come up with different strategies to get the same result.

In this case he decided that he would chew a pencil instead, and take a ten minute brisk walk after each site visit. That, combined with the stop-smoking trance I did with him should allow him to stop immediately.

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cream of tartar smoking

Stop Smoking with cream of tartar?

Yesterday I was dealing with a stop smoking client. I saw her last week. I explained  to her the psychology of why she smokes in order to motivate her to stop. This seems to have worked.   Last week she thought she wanted  to stop smoking: this week she is determined to stop smoking.  And apparently,  is willing to try anything and is in fact is trying everything all at once. She is using nicotine patches, affirmations, hypnotherapy and cream of tartar.

Cream of Tartar? She told me she had read on the Internet that taking a teaspoon of cream of tartar mixed with orange juice would remove all the nicotine from her body. 

I had never heard of this so I decided to find out about it. After all, if it worked then I need to start telling clients about it. I quickly found a source on-line, in fact several sites described it. On examining the sites it became clear that there was just one site that all the others were using as their source. On checking that site, it became clear that there is no scientific study cited as evidence for doing this. In fact none of the websites offered any sort of proof at all. Most sites said something like 'it is said that' with no attribution and my conclusion is that they are all relying on each other. 

How likely is it that Cream of Tartar might work?

It is actually Tartaric Acid, potassium bitartrate,  a mild acid commonly used in baking. In very large quantities it is poisonous, but a teaspoon a day will do no more damage than altering the acid balance of your stomach perhaps and giving an incredibly sour taste to the orange juice. The sour taste is probably what influences the people who say it works. The strange taste will act as a placebo and will remind the smoker about how much they want to stop and could well have an effect. The orange juice contains citric acid, and ascorbic acid as vitamin C. And lots of sugar, so it is probably not a good mixture for most people. 

I won't be advising my stop smoking clients to start drinking it. 

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