Hypnotherapy is the therapy of choice for helping smokers to be free of this dangerous and destructive habit. But not all hypnotherapists are trained in the latest and most effective technology for easy recovery from this stubborn addiction. So in this article I list seven of the most advanced methods currently in use by hypnotherapists.
The first of these is addictive personality technique. This technique, which I developed in 1983, is based on the assumption that all addictive behavior is the result of attempts by the subconscious mind to treat some kind of deep physical or emotional pain. While the conscious mind may be unaware of the nature of this pain, or its source, the subconscious mind is quite aware of the source of the pain, and can easily access this information in a trance state. Using hypnosis we can then develop a specific inner meditation that treats the source of this internal pain. Then hypnotic suggestion is used to train the client to access this healing meditation every time the client craves this addictive behavior.
Much smoking behavior is learned in the preteen and teenage years. In this time of identity crisis many teenagers find in cigarettes a chance to feel grown up, in control, and “cool” in front of their peers. Many teens also use smoking as a way of challenging parental authority, of being “independent”. Long after the smoker reaches adulthood the inner teenager can still be driving us to smoke if these feelings remain unresolved. Many of my clients are astonished to discover the power that these adolescent urges still have within the subconscious mind. I find that the feelings and needs of the inner teenager are easy to access in hypnosis, and can be easily dealt with as well. I use induction to return to the teenager who is first learning to smoke. I then ask that teenager “what is smoking going to do for you?” Maybe he’ll say “I want to be a real man!” We then use rescue mission methods to have the client’s adult self assure the teen that they are a real man, and a good and worthwhile person, no matter what mom said or what dad does.
Then I use direct hypnotic suggestion to change the teenager’s perspective on smoking. Here’s how I enroll the teenager in saying NO to cigarettes. I encourage the teen to understand that they have been duped by the rich tobacco companies and the lies of rich Madison Avenue ad executives. They promised romance and excitement. They deliver disease and death. They promised manhood. They delivered impotence and addiction. They convinced millions of Americans to slowly kill themselves with these lies, while knowing full well the evil consequences of their poisonous product. I suggest that every time the teenager craves a cigarette, they will make a fist with one hand and swear to never give another dime to those evil tycoons. ” Because I’m a real man!” This style of suggestion is especially potent for the teenager, whose anti-establishment attitudes are well documented.
Another powerful method is a journey to the future smoker. The subject in trance journeys forward 10 to 30 years to their future self who is still smoking. The client and therapist both notice the pale skin, stooped posture, ragged breathing, coughing, etc. of this future self. Then we listen for this person’s message. “Stop smoking now!” Then the subject promises their future self, out loud if possible, that they are quitting now, and they explain why. Then we watch with delight as the future self is transformed. Their cheeks become rosy, their skin clear, their breathing suddenly easier. Then your future self thanks you for your help. In trance, this technique is quite powerful.
A similar technique I use from my NLP training is called “Say goodbye to your old friend cigarettes.” This process may seem absurd to many. After all, how is a toxic habit like this a “friend”? But every true addict knows that sometimes you hold on to that cigarette during a crisis like a child holds on to its mother’s hand. As a former smoker myself, I remember sometimes having the strange feeling that cigarettes were my best friend. At least they were always there. Saying goodbye to an old friend like this can be painful. So we lead the client through a gentle communication out loud with this old friend. We remember and acknowledge the good times. We review all the painful times when cigarettes were there…and maybe no one else was. Then we explain to our old friend why we can’t be friends anymore. “Frankly, you are killing me,” we say with true sadness.
Then I have the client listen to the cigarette’s response. Most of the time, the cigarette has nothing to say. The client is sometimes surprised or hurt by this silence. But I remind them of that old Bob Dylan lyric: “you never did much talking anyway.” The familiar silence of their old friend often provides the client with a stronger incentive to quit. “Yeah, damn it, you never did talk to me!” I complete this ritual by helping the client to connect with a new friend. This new friend could be a spirit guide, an inner mother, a guardian angel, or even a beloved external friend who can be called upon when the client needs some unconditional love. While it may take time for the client to learn to call upon such friendship, such a friend, I point out, is certainly a better friend to you than cigarettes, health producing rather than health destroying. And this new friend will talk to you, and you can learn to listen to their wisdom and guidance. This, of course, is the essence of Alchemical Hypnotherapy.
Quitting cigarettes is complicated by the fact that most smokers crave cigarettes when their body needs oxygen. That’s because most smokers only breathe deeply when they are inhaling a cigarette. And the rapid inhalation through the mouth is especially effective at delivering that oxygen to the body. Many smokers experience a rush of energy and relaxation and mental clarity when they first inhale that smoke, not realizing that the effects they notice are a result of oxygen entering their body. Test this now. Take several very deep breaths while inhaling through the mouth. Release each breath slowly and deliberately, as if you were smoking a cigarette. Now notice how you feel. Most subjects report feelings of energy, calm, and relaxation, and increased mental acuity. Well, cigarettes didn’t do it, oxygen did.
Thus, I encourage all my smoking cessation clients to breathe just like this several times every time they crave a cigarette. Sometimes this triggers a bout of coughing. I tell them that this is good, since it shows your lungs are starting to clear themselves. Cough but keep breathing. This extra breathing not only helps control cravings, but helps the lungs open wide and recover more quickly. An important extra here is to require my clients to drink a glass of water every time they complete this breathing. This gives the client something else to do with their hands and mouth. And water helps the blood clean itself of the nicotine and other toxins that are causing these cravings. Also it helps the lungs cleanse themselves. Since most smokers suffer chronic dehydration as a result of their habit, water is a critical medicine for their body’s recovery. I won’t work with any smoker unless they agree to these simple behaviors. And I reinforce these activities with hypnotic suggestion to make them even more compelling.
Relapse is a scary concept for anyone recovering from addiction. And it is a serious problem, affecting nearly every addict at one time or another. The smoker often feels that simply smoking one cigarette in a weak moment is the proof of total failure. So in despair they buy another pack. There is a different way to experience relapse. Here it is: “And if by some accident, you find yourself smoking a cigarette,…you notice that it tastes ugly and foul, because you are a non-smoker. It tastes foul so you put it out right away and wash your mouth out with fresh clean water because you are a non-smoker now.” With a collection of this and similar phrases you learn that another cigarette smoked simply proves by its bitter taste that you are a non-smoker after all. And it works because…well let’s face it, the taste of a cigarette IS foul in the mouth of an ex-smoker. Do you remember how long it took you as a teenager to LIKE those things?
One of the most addicting things about cigarettes is the habit of getting out a cigarette or rolling one, lighting it, and holding it. Remember the luxurious pleasure of watching the smoke flow out, perhaps learning to blow smoke rings? All these pleasurable sensations are what I call the “orodigital experience.” It was one of my greatest pleasures when I was a smoker, and I know I’m not alone. I discuss with my clients in the frankest terms how we can help them find a new orodigital ritual that can give them a similar experience of soothing comfort. Options include: gum chewing, carrots in a bag brought to work, or my personal favorite, chewing on a pen.
While some of these habits border on the bizarre, I point out cheerfully that none of them are as bizarre as poisoning yourself and everyone around you with deadly chemicals! If you’re ready to quit smoking, think about what you can do with hands and mouth that feels good and isn’t too weird to do in public. Finding a new orodigital ritual is FAR easier than going off your current ritual cold turkey, which could lead to anxiety, twitching, overeating (there’s a comfort ritual most of us DON’T need) or a relapse into smoking. Hypnotic suggestion can be used to heighten the pleasure of this new ritual, helping us find even greater comfort than smoking once provided. This isn’t particularly difficult, since nicotine is actually an anxiety producing drug when consumed without the comforting rituals with which we are so familiar.
I’ve provided you with some of the methods used by skilled hypnotherapists in helping their clients be smoke free. Are you a smoker who is ready to be forever free of cigarettes? If so, I encourage you to try these techniques on your own. More importantly, I recommend you find a hypnotherapist in your area who is trained in these modalities. Good luck!
David Quigley is the creator of Alchemical Hypnotherapy, a popular form of therapy based upon empowering clients to access inner guides (archetypes) within the subconscious mind as the primary sources of healing. This technology, which incorporates elements of clinical hypnosis, NLP, Gestalt, Jungian, and Reichian therapies, and Psychosynthesis, has wide-ranging application in the areas of addiction treatment, abuse recovery, alternative medicine, and peak performance training. David Quigley is the director of the Alchemy Institute of Healing Arts in Santa Rosa, CA where he also maintains a busy private practice in addition to teaching workshops, intensives, retreats and seminars.