by Paul Howard
A Office for National Statistics report, based on research on 13,000 people, has discovered that 63% of smokers in Britain wanted to quit. Not much of a surprise I hear you saying. Well it certainly wasn’t to us, but it went on to say that they find it hard to go even a day without smoking. Again no big surprise. However what is interesting is that 20% of adults in the UK still smoke. How can that be, when all the evidence shows that it reduces your survival chances drastically?
Interestingly, since the smoking ban in 2007, the peer pressure on smokers has increased significantly. The smokers that we help to stop report that the displeasure felt by others around them who don’t smoke is making itself felt. They report that they are feeling increasingly uncomfortable. This seems to be driving many more smokers to us for help than the actual ban itself. This is because smoking is more about image than addiction. When people they don’t know look at them with pity in their eyes it hits at the core reason why most smokers light up.
Most smokers smoke because they believe they are addicted. We don’t need an expensive survey to work that out. At The Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy we have worked with nearly 10,000 smokers in the last 10 years and we have just asked them why they can’t stop. Pretty much all of them mention addiction, alot also say it’s a habit. Well is it? Just suppose for a minute that the addiction belief was fictitious. How would that change things? All of a sudden the belief that they can’t stop (because they’re addicted) has to collapse. Being addicted is like an external force that they, the “poor” smoker, has to fight against, making them almost a hero in their epic battle against the dreaded tobacco. Without this belief a smoker is just pitiful using smoking to support their self image by looking cool, rebellious, fitting in etc, etc.
We believe that smoking is all about image, which to most smokers sounds ridiculous as most smokers think it looks awful, especially, but not restricted to, women. However, we have to distinguish between conscious and subconscious beliefs. From a conscious level we all think that smoking looks bad, even pitiful. However, the subconscious learned something different. The subconscious remembers the feelings that the smoker got when they first started smoking; i.e. feeling big, hard, cool, one of the gang, more adult and many other feelings that smokers remember from their first cigarettes. These are the feelings that the subconscious attaches to smoking. These feelings are key to generating good feelings that directly effect our self-image. So for a smoker at a subconscious level stopping smoking means giving up, means the loss of the ability to generate these feelings. Of course this is not the case but that is simply what the subconscious believes.
This is where hypnotherapy comes in. Hypnotherapy can help smokers to change these subconscious beliefs like no other therapy can. If we get the subconscious to understand that this belief is fictitious and that in fact smoking is damaging, the subconscious turns off the desire for smoking which makes it much easier to stop.
Paul Howard is a director of The Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy based in Wallington, Surrey. He has been working with smokers using hypnotherapy for over 10 years. Although he specialises in anxiety, he has worked with thousands of smokers. He was a heavy smoker for 27 years and as such he understands the problems that smokers face when stopping.
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