How hypnotherapy treats habits like smoking?
Firstly to understand how hypnotherapy can help you to stop a habit like smoking, it is necessary to explain how the mind works. There are two parts of the mind to consider, both the subconscious and the conscious parts. The conscious mind is thought to be responsible for less than 15% of our thought processes whereas the powerful subconscious mind is responsible for over 85% of our thoughts and brain processes. The subconscious can be likened to a computer or a filing cabinet that stores files and documents. The subconscious stores all of the memories, beliefs, thought patterns and habits from our entire lives up to the present moment. If you imagine also that there are different parts to the mind that are stored in here, instead of being documents and files, they are more like emotional parts. One of these emotional parts is connected and gets satisfaction from the unwanted habit and, in the case of smoking, from the cigarette.
We also need to understand how a habit like smoking forms. Think about when learning to ride a bike. When you start to try to ride a bike you put your feet on the pedals, hands on the handlebars and you wobble around a bit, but you practise and practise and eventually, you can do it. The conscious mind is working at the beginning; whilst you’re practising you’re consciously thinking about each aspect of developing this skill. You are consciously aware of sitting on the saddle, placing your hands on the bars and feet on the pedals. You’re consciously aware that you need to start pedalling and try to stay balanced whilst increasing your speed gradually. But once you have practised enough the subconscious mind will take on the habit or skill and it becomes automatic. This frees up the conscious mind to look around, take in the scenery and anything else you need to pay attention to whilst cycling. It is the same process with smoking. No one really likes smoking when they first start as it’s alien to the body. It can make you cough, feel dizzy and even nauseous when you begin smoking, as the body is not used to it. But you ‘practise’ it and it eventually (sometimes quite quickly) it becomes easier, the body accepts it and the subconscious takes it on as an automatic habit.
To transform the habit of smoking the subconscious mind needs to be persuaded that you no longer need or want the habit. You can do this by just stopping with willpower, or in hypnosis what we do is communicate directly with the subconscious mind. We find out which emotional part of the mind gets satisfaction from the cigarette and we transfer this satisfaction to something that is more advantageous to you. Similarly to the clever parent that sees their child playing with a dangerous or forbidden toy. Instead of just taking the toy away causing the child to make a fuss, the parent replaces it with something equally interesting but more suitable for the child. This way the child just looks at the new toy, picks it up and starts playing with it, quickly forgetting the one that has been taken away.
In hypnosis for stopping smoking, we will locate the emotional part linked to the habit and transfer this link to something more healthy, such as a new hobby, time for yourself, exercising, socializing or just general well-being. The part of the mind that used to want the cigarette is now attached to something else and this empowers you to easily become a non-smoker.
The other thing we do in a hypnosis session for smoking is expose the cigarette for what it really is. Often, as a smoker, we ‘see’ a cigarette as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as the saying goes. In hypnosis we mentally remove the sheep’s clothing, exposing the cigarette as the harmful poisonous threat to the body that it is! This means that there is a total attitude change and normally the person just doesn’t want to smoke afterwards.
It is of course, possible to give up smoking by using will-power (the conscious mind) going ‘cold turkey’ or using patches or other nicotine products and gradually reducing them. However, by giving up in this way the part attached to smoking which is stored in the subconscious, is not being dealt with. Because it works at this deeper level, hypnosis can make the transition to becoming a non-smoker easier and more permanent.
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About Becca Teers
Becca Teers DIP CBH MNCH (reg) CNHC (reg) GHR
Author, therapist, trainer and speaker.
Hello and thanks for reading. I am an author, cognitive behavioural clinical hypnotherapist, certified NLP practitioner and holistic therapist. I am passionate about helping my clients to overcome limiting beliefs and to empower them to make positive change.