Uncommon Hypnosis Master Series
How hypnosis helps people stop smoking
Hypnosis, when used well, is a
highly effective tool for helping and curin
conditions from clinical depression to post traumatic stress disorder and even physical
conditions like warts and burns.
But the public have a strong association with the use of hypnosis for curing something
else. Something that kills around 5,000,000 people a year, that incapacitates and ages
the body and brain, that destroys sex drive and yet whose victims pay for the privilege,
spending tens of thousands of pounds over the course of an ever shortening life span.
So why it is that millions of people are prepared to throw away their lives for cigarettes?
What is it about the human brain, otherwise set up for survival, that makes seemingly
sensible people puff away their heart function, healthy cells, energy, virility and fertility as
well as their time and money? Why would anyone do this?
Well firstly, people smoke because they are human. We all do things to excess
sometimes whether it's eat-ing, sex, work, exercise, surfing the net, gambling or
drinking alcohol. For some people the pleasure they get from their addiction is
so g eat
that it's impossible to imagine life without it. Although on another level they can see what
it is taking from them things such as dignity, health and even friends and family.
And the pattern of smoking addiction isn't any different from these other addictions.
Addictions hijack and misappropriate the brain's chemical reward mechanisms, which
exist to make learning pleasurable, so enabling human beings to develop and thrive.
Having a so-called 'addictive personality' really means having great potential to learn
To be addicted to something you need to have an expectation that it is going to be good
in some way. The excitement we get when we are keen to do something locks our
attention into an addictive trance state. This excitement is produced by a natural
cocaine-like chemical in the brain called dopam
ine. And the warm feelings of satisfa tion
we get after we've done something such as mastering a new skill or puffing on a longed
for cigarette is caused by chemicals called endorphins.
Dopamine and endorphins exist to encourage us to learn and master new skills and to
do things essential for survival like having sex, eating, drinking and resting when we are
tired. If we didn't feel internally rewarded for doing these things then we wouldn't do
them and therefore wouldn't survive. It's ironic that the reward system designed for
survival can be hijacked by behaviours that threaten survival, such as smoking.
There is another aspect to addiction and this is habituation. This means the more you
have of something, the more you need to get the same level of satisfaction. This also
makes sense from a human development perspective. When people master new skills
they get a dopamine and endorphin rush which is pleasurable. But when those new skills
become second nature then the person builds up a tolerance and needs to develop
further skills to get the same buzz as before. Hence you are driven to continue
hink of the
buzz you might get when you learn your first piece on, say, the guitar. Your
dopamine and endorphins reward you for mastering a new skill but after a while you
build up a tolerance to that experience, just like an addict, an
d have to learn more to g
the same buzz.
to develop a tolerance to the pleasure of just collecting fire from
lightning strikes, so they discovered how to light
fires and eventually invented the ele tric
light bulb. This progression happened because just using fire, after a while, just wasn't
that exciting any more. People needed more to 'light their fires', so to speak.
his addictive pattern
building a tolerance to one level of experience so more is
needed to give the same buzz is what develops human beings, and so enabled
civilizations and new inventions to come into being. If it wasn't for addiction, we'd all still
be swinging from trees.
pleasure/satisfaction drive explains how people become addicted and why
they end up needing more and more of the addictive experience.
moking is a type of self harm. I used to work with self harmers who'd cut
arms. The more they did it, the more they wanted to do it. Because the chemical rush
from cutting themselves a little quickly became standard for them, they h
ad to cut more
and more to get the same rush or sense of release. On one level this is no different fr
o become addicted to
anything you need to repeat it and practise it, just like learning a
new skill, so that eventually it feels natural. And if you repeatedly do one thing in
conjunction with another, eventually the two feel as if they naturally
gether. E n
hardened smokers report they can go on long haul flights without feeling the need to
smoke, or go swimming without wanting to light up, simply because these things have
never become associated as triggers to smoke. This associa
tive factor is more importa
in addiction than so called physical addiction.
o we become addicted to something in the same way we le
arn new things. If you were
crazy enough to click your fingers every time you got up in the morning, every time you
had a cup of coffee, every time after sex, after a meal, whenever you had an alcoholic
drink, when you felt relaxed, bored, stressed and so forth then, eventually, clicking your
fingers during these times would start to feel instinctively
right. As if the two things
naturally went together.
Imagine if you clicked your fingers for twenty years fifty times a day. How weird would it
feel to suddenly stop? What would you do with your hands? Having a drink without
clicking would feel, well, unnatural! You might even believe the withdrawal you'd feel is
because of physical addiction rather than association. When a person first starts
smoking it doesn't feel natural then but, through repetition, it becomes natural, just like
mastering any skill.
Reading words didn't feel natural at first but through repetition and practice it became
instinctive, and now feels right and natural. Anything we do over and over becomes part
of our instinctive repertoire and therefore eventually gets to feel natural. Many smokers
feel there is a natural association between drinking coffee or alcohol and smoking. But
non-smokers drink without
When we seek to cure someone of smoking we need to look at these factors and use
our knowledge of how the brain keeps the addiction in place to help free them. When a
person is addicted, and they suffer because of that addiction, they become split down
the middle, they want to stop and they don't want to stop. Hypnosis can build up the part
that wants to stop so that it starts to dominate the part that wanted to side with the
destructive smoking habit.
When I work with smokers, I don't try to scare them out of smoking. The smoking habit is
more cunning than that. It gets them running for a cigarette when they are scared. It's
got that covered. I tell them they don't need to hear it from me
that smoking rots the
arteries into the penis, causing impotence, or the arteries into the eyes, causing dimming
eyesight, how it softens the gums or causes 90% of lung cancers, how the serotonin
destroying properties of the 2,000 destructive chemicals in tobacco cause depression
and anxiety in smokers and how had scientists been commissioned with the task of
creating a drug to age hu
man beings rapidly they couldn't have done much better tha
I do tell them this though: I tell them that in order for the rich tobacco industry to exist,
people need to serve it by being willing to sacrifice themselves for the 'cause'. The
cause, of course, is profit for the tobacco giants.
herever there is a cau
se, there are people willing to lay down their lives for it.
ou see, pe
ople aren't prepared to die or be maimed for something unless they have
been conditioned by certain beliefs. A perfect example of this, of course, is religion.
Throughout history people have died for beliefs that seem totally insane t
o others. Th
wouldn't do it without these beliefs. And so, too, is it with smokers. So many smokers
have been conditioned with beliefs about smoking in order to enable them to be willing to
lay down their life and health for it.
eliefs are interesting th
ings. The conscious mind is often employed by the unconscious
mind to justify and defend destructive behaviours. An example would be when someone
defends the abusive person who is beating them with the words 'Yes, but he's so nice
really!' or 'He's great with the dog.' The common smoking defensive beliefs
originate from within the smoker, but in fact they are conditioned into them from the
outside. People need these beliefs to consciously or unconsciously defend the very thing
that is seeking to destroy them.
If they weren't part of the belief system, then people actually wouldn't smoke. In the
same way that no one would be prepared to die for a cause unless they had specific
Hypnosis can help unhook past conditioning very quickly; we regularly see life-long
chronic smokers cured of smoking in one hour. What's more, they can heal quickly as
non-smokers and they don't even have to turn into rabid anti-smokers. If you hate
something you used to love, then you are still too emotionally wrapped up in it.
is what we are after in the ex-smoker. I like to think of people 'growing out of
smoking' rather than 'forcing themselves to quit'. When you were very young and your
feet grew, then your shoes began to squeeze and the squeezing let you know it was
time to give up the old shoes, becau
se they didn't fit you any more. Smoking squeeze
peoples' lungs, hearts, skins and money. When it's time to be free, it's a relief, not a