by C. Roy Hunter
Roger (not his real name) was a chain smoker whose doctor told him to quit smoking. After trying several programs and failing with each one, his doctor recommended that he see a hypnotist.
During the intake, Roger told me that he smoked three packs daily, and was already starting to experience lung problems, including but not limited to frequent “smokers’ cough.” Even though he enjoyed smoking, my client convinced me that it was his decision to quit totally as a result of the advice from his physician. She convinced him that his health would get much worse within a year or two if he continued to smoke.
The First Session
Since stress was a way of life for Roger, the first session was devoted to helping him establish a peaceful place, as well as anchoring a trigger for inner peace. While most smokers quit at the first session, we both felt it was important for him to get a handle on his stress before quitting, because he immediately reached for a cigarette anytime his buttons got pushed.
I taught him self-hypnosis to manage stress, and encouraged him to use his peaceful place trigger whenever someone pushed his stress buttons rather than lighting up; and I gave him a hypnotic CD on stress management to listen to several times.
Back in the 1980’s, I devoted five years surveying my clients at six, twelve, and eighteen months in order to know my success rate, as well as to learn the major causes of backsliding. It took less than two years to discover that when smokers backslide, stress was the Number One reason. In fact, stress caused more backsliding than all the other reasons combined. That is why I include one session on stress management for all smokers.
I also encouraged Roger to make a point to be consciously aware of each and every light-up until coming in for his second session.
The Second Session
My client said he was ready to quit when he arrived a week later for his second session, so I used my usual approach of having him list all his personal benefits. This approach is detailed in my text, The Art of Hypnotherapy (4th Ed., 2010, Crown House Publishing); but you can use whatever approach that works for your clients.
Charles Tebbetts taught that there is no technique that works for all the people all the time; and that if a person has subconscious resistance, the cause of that resistance must be discovered and released before a client can enjoy lasting benefits from hypnotic suggestions. Roger was proof of what Tebbetts taught, as he backslid that same evening after his second session with me.
The Third Session: Parts Work
Roger told me that he felt inner conflicts over quitting the smoking habit. He realized that a part of him wanted to quit because he needed to quit for his health’s sake; but he said that another part of him sabotaged his every attempt to quit smoking.
I gave my parts work pretalk. It is based on the concept that we all wear different hats. He saw my “hypnotist” hat; but when I’m home, my “inner child” hat is on. When I have a financial decision to make, my “inner accountant” often disputes with my inner child over whether to buy a desired item. Then the pretalk was directed to Roger by stating that a part of him motivated him to invest his time and money to seek help overcoming the smoking habit; but another part wanted to continue smoking, or he would not need my services in the first place. The facilitator of parts work acts like a mediator, mediating between the parts in conflict.
He was ready, willing and anxious to proceed. However, after calling out the two parts, the session got quite interesting…
The part wanting to smoke called itself “Cig” and said his job was to give Roger the freedom to make his own decisions. Cig was angry at all the “do-gooders” who were obsessed with telling others what they can or cannot do, and was smoking to make a statement of rebellion against others who want to interfere in our lives.
The part wanting to quit was “BE,” whose job was to help Roger be the best he could be – personally, professionally, financially, and physically. Then BE went on to complain that Cig was stopping Roger from being his best physically and financially because of the high cost of smoking to both health and money.
Cig and BE argued with voiced raised in both volume and pitch. They were unable (or unwilling) to come to terms of agreement, so I asked for a part that had access to his highest and best inner wisdom, knowledge, understanding, training and experience. “Guide” came forward, speaking in a calm and mellow voice.
Guide’s job was to guide Roger to make wise decisions, so I asked Guide what words of wisdom he had for Cig and BE. First, he instructed Cig to change his name to Freedom, and reminded him that making Roger a slave to cigarettes was the opposite of his primary purpose of promoting freedom. Then he told BE to work with Freedom and give Roger the freedom to smoke five or six cigarettes per day, only when he consciously made the choice.
Cig was happy and immediately accepted the name change. However, BE was skeptical until Guide said, “By putting your cigarettes in only one location in your home, forcing Roger to be consciously aware of each and every light-up, Freedom will help remind Roger that he has the freedom to smoke in moderation until he is ready to quit totally. And you can remind Roger to be aware of each and every cigarette; and once the urge is satisfied, he can put out the cigarette instead of smoking the whole thing.”
Roger was happy with this resolution that resulted from parts work; and six months later he informed me that he was still smoking only five or six daily. He felt better, and his doctor told him that his health was improving even though she still wanted him to quit totally at some point in the future.
Roger added, “I have the freedom to make that decision when I’m ready.”