Gayle* told me “I want hypnotherapy for stopping smoking as I want to quit smoking once and for all, and be an ex-smoker at last”. She was a bit taken aback when I said that ‘quit’ and ‘ex-smoker’ were two words I never used. “After all,” I asked her, “who really wants to think of themselves as a quitter? And why describe yourself by something you no longer do? Would you call yourself an ex-stabilisers user?”
Instead I talked to Gayle about being a non-smoker, and resuming being the non-smoker she had been from birth. Just changing the description like this made it easier for Gayle to imagine her success.
She’d started smoking at school to look older and fit in with her friends, but now most of her friends didn’t smoke. She’d have to get up when they were out and stand outside to smoke, and would be self-conscious when she came back in. Like a lot of people Gayle’s reasons for starting didn’t apply any more, and she joked “Nowadays the last thing I want to do is to look older than I am”.
Success in hypnotherapy for stopping smoking for Gayle meant finding out what things she did get from smoking and making sure that she had other ways to get them. It also meant finding out what she was worried might happen when she did become a non-smoker, and she told me that she was worried that she would put weight on, and start to suffer from coughs and colds.
The first of these was easily dealt with, as I don’t replace one habit with another. In fact the method I use makes it easier to break other habits as well, precisely to make sure that people don’t replace smoking with sweets or chocolate.
The second one had me puzzled, until Gayle said “Two of my friends have both told me they know someone that started to get ill when they stopped smoking.” Both of these friends smoked and, unconsciously perhaps, didn’t want Gayle to stop. Asking her to think about whether she could name anyone this had happened to helped her to realise that this wasn’t at all likely to happen to her.
In fact now she knew she wouldn’t miss smoking she realised it was the last excuse she’d been giving herself to carry on.
*Gayle’s real identity has been protected, and she is happy to share her story of successfully using hypnotherapy for stopping smoking.