I have spent a lot of time talking to people who want to stop smoking. Nothing unusual about that, but I have a deep curiosity about why people keep doing things that they know are bad for them. I really got into psychology because I could not understand my own behaviour. I then widened my interest into examining why other people behave the way they do.
I have read all about addiction, compulsion, attention deficit, and all the other explanations for why people persist in self-destructive behaviour when they clearly do not have to.
Excuses for starting smoking
So when I meet a smoker, I am always interested in their view of why they smoke. I'm even more interested when I find someone who has succeeded in stopping smoking, and then starts again. I have never come up with a satisfactory answer as to why someone who has stop smoking for a year or two years would then decide to take it up again. They know they don't like it, it was usually really unpleasant to stop, and the reasons they give for starting again are way too trivial to be any kind of rational explanation. I have had people tell me that they started smoking again because "I just wanted to see if I had really stopped". Another person told me, "I just wanted to see what they tasted like", despite having smoked for 20 years and being in absolutely no doubt as to what they tasted like.
Starting smoking after pregnancy
Today I spoke with a young woman who said that she is unable to stop smoking. I asked her if she had ever stop smoking. She replied "yes, when I was pregnant. I stopped smoking for nine months." I said to her "and then you just started smoking again?" "Yes. I wanted to."
I said to her "so why did you start smoking again?". She said, "Because the baby made me stop smoking. I didn't want to stop. I was forced to stop smoking because of the baby. So when I had the baby I went back to smoking again."
I have heard this several times from women who successfully stopped smoking during their pregnancy, but started smoking fairly soon after their baby was born. This behaviour totally disproves theories that smoking is an addiction. These women had given up for eight and nine months so there was nothing there to be addicted to. All the nicotine had left the body long ago. The key to smoking in these cases seems to be all about the individual's view of who they are. It seems that there was a residual resentment towards the baby, that they had been forced to do something they didn't want to do, and were exercising their rights not to have other people tell them what to do.
Identifying the causes of starting smoking after pregnancy
It seems to me that in these cases smoking is tied up with their identity, with ideas of personal choice, refusing to do what other people tell them to do. They are quite happy to give up smoking while they are pregnant. They find it fairly easy to do. It is just something that they have to do at that stage in their life. But as soon as they exit that stage they want to reassert their own personality.
I am guessing that smoking is tied up with their own self-image of independence, possibly rebellion.
The challenge for stop smoking hypnosis is how to change that feeling into something positive.
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