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To Smoke or Not to Smoke


To Smoke or Not to Smoke...
by C. Roy Hunter, Hypnosis Trainer

One of my most interesting cases started out like a typical series of sessions for a smoker wishing to quit, but time revealed an unexpected ending.

During the 1980's a middle-aged man came to my office asking me to help him quit smoking. Let's call him Bob, although that was not his real name. This was not his first attempt to quit smoking, nor would it be his last attempt…but I did not know that at the time! One of Bob's friends referred him to me. As usual, I explained hypnosis to him, and answered questions to his satisfaction.

My new client chose to wait until the second session to quit, so I devoted the first session to teaching him self-hypnosis for managing stress. Normally the stress management session is either the second or third session, depending on the client. (Note: I always encourage a smoker to invest in one session for managing stress because of the fact that most smokers will reach for a cigarette whenever someone pushes their buttons.)

When Bob came for his second session, he raved about the value of the first session, and was enthusiastic. Then I briefly discussed the concept of anchors and triggers, explaining that one deep breath of air would become the new response to the older "light-up" triggers. Many smokers try to quit simply by erasing their response to the old light-up triggers; but it is easier toreplace the former response with a new response than it is to try to erase a trigger that is deeply anchored into the subconscious.

My client understood this, and said he was ready to accept the hypnotic suggestions. However, the "deep breath of air" is the price paid in order to quit -- and who wants to pay the price for a product or service without knowing what benefits it brings?

When I told Bob that we are all tuned into "WII-FM" (What's In It For Me), I asked him to tell me what his personal benefits would be one year after quitting. Bob listed typical benefits common to many smokers, which I recorded on paper, such as: more energy, more money, breathe easier, sense of accomplishment, etc.

With my Benefits Approach, the hypnotized client uses the imagination to go forward in time and fantasize each personal benefit in ways that are emotionally satisfying. The client may then get involved with personal benefits at a subconscious level, causing the subconscious to be more receptive of the post-hypnotic suggestions that represent the price of quitting: one deep breath of air rather than a breath of smoke. Bob seemed to be in a medium depth of hypnosis. At the conclusion of the session, he seemed optimistic. He promptly requested the same day and time the following week, and left.

One week later, Bob returned as scheduled, but told me he was still smoking as much as before. When I offered to use hypnotherapy to solicit his subconscious to reveal the cause of the resistance, he declined, and told me to simply use the same suggestions as the previous week. I complied, although I added more emphasis this time.

When he returned for the fourth session, he was still smoking two packs daily, with no reduction of urges. Over my professional objections, he insisted that I repeat the same suggestions as the previous two weeks, so I complied. Although another follow-up session was offered, he declined, and said he would call me when he was ready.

Over a year passed before his phone call came. It should be no surprise to anyone reading this article that Bob was still smoking two packs daily. He told me that he wanted to go through my entire program just like the first time, except for the stress management session. I agreed to see him. When Bob arrived in my office, I told him that I did not want to see him spend his time or money unless he was willing to let me find out why his subconscious wouldn't let him quit the first time around. He assured me that he was ready this time. His explanation was profound….

Bob said, "Do you remember telling me that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis? For some reason, when you started talking about my benefits for quitting smoking, I started fantasizing my benefits for quitting drinking instead. Then, every time you suggested that I become a 'non-smoker' my mind modified the suggestion to 'non-drinker.' Well, I have been sober since my sessions with you, and now I'm ready to quit smoking!"

His success proved that he was ready to quit smoking the second time around.

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Last updated: December 30, 2012   
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Originally posted: May 11, 2007

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