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DOES HYPNOSIS WORK FOR STOPPING SMOKING?
By Hendrik Baird, Consulting Hypnotist, Pretoria
It’s that time of the year. The Festive Season has come and gone and we are back to reality. We have made New Year’s Resolutions (and have probably already broken them), the kids are back at school and we are back at work.
And yet, and yet.
Having smoked cigarettes for ten, twenty, thirty years, you know it is time to stop. Your lungs are telling you it is time. Your health is telling you it is time to stop. You know it is time to stop, and even though you have tried, it has been too difficult, and so you keep on smoking, knowing you have to, no want to stop smoking. In fact you have already decided to stop. And you need help.
What are your options? How could you do it? Perhaps you have heard about a friend who has stopped using hypnosis, or you have read something somewhere about stopping smoking with hypnosis. But you are scared of hypnosis. How is it going to work? Will it work? What are the side effects? What does it cost?
Today is your lucky day. I am going to demystify both hypnosis and the processes used to help you to rid yourself of cigarettes once and for all.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is Hypnosis?
Your mind consists of two parts: The part that you know about (conscious mind) and the part that you don’t know about (subconscious mind). Your conscious mind is very focused and has a few tools to help you get through your day, namely willpower, short term memory, analytical thinking, rational thinking and the critical factor.
To understand how hypnosis works, you need to understand the critical factor, that part of you always judging the information that comes to you through your senses. As a child you learned about different colours, and should I say something is pink and it is in fact brown, you will automatically reject that information, because you know what the truth is deep inside your inner mind. Basically this is your critical factor at work. It rejects information that you do not agree with on a subconscious level.
The critical factor is part of your conscious mind, but is controlled by your subconscious mind. In our example of colours, you learned all about colours as a small child and you have internalised that information. When you look at a colour, you know automatically what it is, as that information has been stored in your subconscious mind. And when the wrong information is given to you, the subconscious mind will check in the permanent memory and if it does not agree (‘’It’s definitely brown, not pink!’’), that information will be rejected at the critical factor.
The subconscious mind is the protective mind, consisting of permanent memory, emotions, imagination (the language of the subconscious mind), habits and your value system. This deeper part of the mind is awesomely powerful and rules the majority of our lives, even though we are not aware of it.
During the first six years of our life, children are in the hypnoidal state, a state similar to hypnosis. Children are like sponges, they soak up information, they are impressionable, they believe everything they are told. It is during this period of our lives that our personalities are formed. Both the good and bad get “programmed” into our subconscious, and this makes us the people we are at seven and for the rest of our lives.
Once the subconscious has been “programmed”, it is very difficult to change at a subconscious level. According to American hypnotherapist Roy Hunter, there are five ways to reprogram the subconscious, and these are repetition, authority, desire for identity (ego), hypnosis and emotion. (Smoking is ingrained through repetition and has become a subconscious behaviour.)
Of the above five ways to change the subconscious, hypnosis is the easiest and quickest way. In order for hypnosis to take place, the critical factor of the conscious mind must be bypassed, and acceptable information must be established. The critical factor is bypassed through a series of relaxation exercises, while the suggestions given are about a specific aspect, like stopping smoking.
Hypnosis can therefore be described as a trance state characterised by relaxation, extreme suggestibility and heightened imagination. It is not really like sleep, because the subject is alert the whole time. It is most often compared to daydreaming, or the feeling of “losing yourself” in a book or a movie. You are fully conscious, but you tune out of most of the stimuli around you. You focus intently on the subject at hand, to the near exclusion of every other thought. This process is called selective thinking.
During hypnosis, you approach the suggestions of the hypnotist as if they were reality. In this special mental state, people feel uninhibited and relaxed. You are also highly suggestible. In other words, when the hypnotist suggests that you do something, you will probably embrace the idea completely. This is what makes stage hypnosis shows so entertaining, as normally reserved, sensible adults are suddenly walking around the stage clucking like chickens or generally being ridiculous.
However, this is not what a trained Consulting Hypnotist will do with you. His or her aim is simply to help, assist and guide you, so don’t be afraid that you will do these ridiculous things! Your sense of safety and morality will remain entrenched throughout the session. A hypnotist cannot get you to do anything that you do not want to do.
A hypnotist cannot control your mind. There is a myth doing the rounds that once a hypnotist has hypnotised you, they always have control over you, no matter where you are or what you are doing. This is pure fiction and has nothing to do with real hypnosis.
In its most basic form, hypnosis can be described as a process of relaxation and concentration. It is a very natural process that we do without realising, like when we daydream, and once you have been taught how to harness the power of your dreams, it can help you to radically change and improve your life for the better.
How does hypnosis work in the case of stopping smoking?
Smoking is a habit, and like all habits it is formed through repetition. Something has to be repeated between 7 and 66 times (or for two weeks) for it to become a permanent habit in your life. As seen before, all habits are part of the subconscious mind.
The bad news is that a habit cannot be deleted, just like once having learned how to ride a bicycle, it can never be unlearned. The good news is that habits can be replaced. A good hypnotist will include extensive training on a conscious level as to what to do to replace the smoking habit with new, healthy habits.
Everybody starts smoking for a positive reason, whether it is to be part of a group, to impress somebody, or simply because of the example set by parents who smoke, and the majority of people start smoking as teenagers (according to the Great South African Smoking Survey, 79% of people in South Africa start as teenagers!) At first the subconscious mind tries to protect the person against smoking by giving nasty physical effects, like coughing, spluttering, eyes watering and nausea. At this point they either stop smoking or force themselves to get used to it, sometimes hiding the taste by for instance drinking a cup of coffee. And so the vicious cycle begins, with the drug nicotine also playing its part in getting the smoker hooked.
Due to repetition the nasty habit is ingrained in the subconscious mind. It becomes an automatic subconscious habit, and the smoker smokes automatically, subconsciously, without even consciously being aware of the smoking.
When people try to stop smoking, they would generally use the willpower of their conscious mind. In 6% of cases, this would work. Other methods like taking medication or chewing nicotine replacement gum are only support systems for willpower, working on a conscious level, which might increase the success rate from 6% to 8% or 10%. But because smoking is a subconscious habit, these methods are most likely going to fail in the long run because the subconscious reasons and benefits of smoking are not addressed.
Hypnosis works differently from conscious methods because it works directly in the subconscious mind where the habit is situated. In fact, any hypnotist worth his salt will tell you that you have to work on both a conscious and subconscious level in order for success to be achieved.
How long does it take?
There is no one set way in which every hypnotist approaches smoking cessation. Some will offer you three sessions, while exploring the original reasons for the smoking through regression therapy or addressing inner conflicts. Most will not discuss the smoking habit in detail and so the client might not understand the habit and how to change it.
At the Hypnosis Works! practice in Pretoria, I use a one session approach. The session is two and a half hours in duration and covers everything the client needs to know in order to change his or her habit.
The session usually starts with a discussion of hypnosis and how to get the best results from the session. Most people have some strange ideas about hypnosis, usually what they have seen in movies or on television, and considerable time is spent taking away these fears and misconceptions. The client needs to understand that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Nobody can hypnotise you except yourself, the hypnotist is simply your guide. Once this concept has been grasped and the client understands how to achieve the desired results, the session moves on to the habit itself.
The next part of the session is a discussion about the smoking habit. How did you start smoking, how old were you, what was the reason? The habit is meticulously analysed and suggestions given as to what new, healthy habits could be used to replace the smoking.
I then teach the client a powerful self-hypnosis technique. This is done for three reasons. The first reason is to give the client an idea of what hypnosis “feels” like. It demystifies the process even further and ensures that the client relaxes completely during the main hypnosis part of the session. Secondly the self-hypnosis is a way to manage stress, one of the main reasons people go back to smoking. By having a powerful relaxation tool that can be used daily, the client is set up for success. The third reason for doing the self-hypnosis is to help the client visualise him- or herself as a non-smoker in all situations.
The session then progresses to a discussion about how to remain a non-smoker in all situations. This includes advice about alcohol, food, cravings and managing energy levels, and several suggestions are made to help the client find other options with which to replace the cigarettes.
During the last part of the session, the client is taken into a deep state of hypnosis and the subconscious mind is then retrained to understand that there are other things that can be done instead of smoking, that are much healthier.
Each client receives a printed summary of the discussion, as well as a self-hypnosis CD to be used to strengthen the suggestions, should it be needed.
I also offer unlimited free follow-up sessions for three months to ensure that the client is successful and indeed remains a non-smoker for life. There are also regular support groups for people who have gone through the program in order to ensure that they have lasting success.
Pros and cons of hypnosis as a smoking cessation tool
“How many hypnotists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the light bulb must really want to change!”
This joke accurately sums up how hypnosis works. When a client has already made a decision to stop smoking (or whatever other change they desire to make), hypnosis becomes a very effective tool to facilitate that change. Nobody, not even the best hypnotist in the world, can force anybody to do something against their will.
One of the most often asked questions I encounter is: ”Can everybody be hypnotised?” And indeed it’s true, almost everybody can enter the hypnotic state. As long as you can understand what is said and you can follow instructions, you are good to go.
Hypnosis will not work with somebody who is intellectually challenged, some level of intelligence is required. The client must be able to understand what is being said in order to follow the suggestions.
Highly analytical people may find it more challenging to enter the trance state, but a well-trained and experienced hypnotist has many different techniques to help even the most analytical person enter hypnosis. If you are an analytical type of person, be sure to mention this to your hypnotist, so that he or she can adapt the session to suit you.
There are no known negative side effects to hypnosis. In fact, just the relaxation part of hypnosis can in itself have dramatic positive results. Add to that the imagination and carefully formulated suggestions, and hypnosis can be a powerful agent for change.
Nobody can get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis, and as you are not asleep you do not need to wake up. The absolute worst thing that could happen is that nothing would happen, but here at Hypnosis Works! the chances of that happening are very slim. Most clients achieve a deep state of relaxation and respond well to the suggestions, enabling them to make those positive changes they desire.
What does it cost (and does medical aid cover it?)
In South Africa, a distinction is made between Clinical Hypnotherapy as practiced by qualified Psychologists, and so called non-medical hypnosis practiced by Consulting or Professional Hypnotists (sometimes called non-medical Hypnotherapy.)
Medical aids only pay for medical services, so if you consult a Clinical Psychologist who also practices Hypnotherapy, the medical aid may pay for some of the sessions. Non-medical hypnotherapists are not covered by medical aids. (You can find a list of non-medical hypnotherapists at www.hypnotherapy.co.za and Clinical Hypnotherapists can be found at www.sasch.co.za.)
Hypnosis Works! is a non-medical practice and so is not covered by medical aids. The session is currently R 950 for an individual, R 850 per person for two people, and R 750 per person for groups of three or more.
All follow-up sessions are free for three months, while support groups have a small admin fee attached to it.
Success rate (how many lapse, how long and why?)
There are various research papers about the efficacy of hypnosis for smoking cessation. According to a study at the University of Washington School of Medicine, hypnosis may have as much as a 90.6% success rate.
The most common reason why people lapse, is stress. This is one of the reasons why a self-hypnosis technique is such an important part of the process.
Here at Hypnosis Works! we jokingly say that the success rate at our practice is 100%, because if the first session did not work completely, there are unlimited free sessions for three months, so if you really want to stop smoking we will help you find a way!
Will I gain weight when stopping smoking?
Most people gain a few kilo’s when stopping smoking, and this has to do with the fact that the smoking is often replaced with an eating habit. Once it has been properly explained that you do not need food to replace the smoking, by showing you the alternatives and by giving hypnotic suggestions that you will eat wisely, a large number of clients have reported that they indeed reduced a kilo or two during the process, making hypnosis a wonderful tool for ridding yourself of the nasty smoking habit once and for all!
Who is the ideal candidate?
If you are ready to stop smoking and you have already decided that this is what you want to do, then you may be ready for hypnosis. As long as you have reasonable intelligence, can activate your imagination (to whatever extent) and can relax, you should give hypnosis the benefit of the doubt.
Who shouldn’t do it?
People with epilepsy should approach hypnosis with caution, and it is advisable to bring somebody with them to a session who would be able to assist them should they have an epileptic fit. People with severe heart problems should also be cautious and inform their hypnotist about their condition. And if you are on mood altering medication you should consult your doctor before attempting hypnosis. It is advisable to have an open discussion with your hypnotist and inform him or her about your general health and any medication you may be on.
So: If you are ready to stop smoking, if you have made that decision and you are really ready, then you should take action at the earliest possible time. Find the best hypnotherapist in your area, ask questions about how their approach work, make sure that you are comfortable with the person who will be helping you, and then get ready to change your life for the better. Become a natural non-smoker today!
And remember that you hypnotist could possibly help you with many other issues you might be having trouble with, so make sure you go back regularly and address those issues. You will be surprised at how quickly your life will change for the better.
Hendrik Baird, Consulting Hypnotist
255 27th Avenue, Villieria, Pretoria
Sessions are presented at the practice or could be done in groups at your own venue.
Hendrik can travel to your town or city if there is a large enough group to attend.
Terms and conditions apply.
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