Hypnosis and Smoking Cessation: Claiming Your Right to Good Health

Hypnosis and Smoking Cessation: Claiming Your Right to Good Health

Daphne Stevens, Ph.D., LCSW


You feel terrible about it. You’ve tried to quit 300 times, and you feel like a total failure.

You know all the reasons you need to stop smoking. You’ve been lectured by your doctor. You can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting breathless. Your spouse complains about your bad breath, and your car and your clothes smell bad–okay, they stink–although you’re fastidious about cleanliness.

And if that’s not enough, you’ve read about smoking and aging. Leathery skin, yellow teeth, thin bones, are bad enough. Lung cancer and strokes are unthinkable.

When I was much younger, I worked in a hospital. It’s hard to imagine a time when smoking was allowed in health care facilities, but there I was, sitting back comfortably in the break room, enjoying a mid-afternoon cigarette with a friend.

A young intern approached me. He was an affable fellow, and we worked well together, but today his brow was furrowed. His message was terse. He bent down and whispered: “Cigarettes kill.”

What a card. What a kidder. I loved bantering with the guy. But the urgency in his voice stayed with me. His comment was no laughing matter.

I’m a healthy woman today. At 71, I exercise hard five times per week. Mid-afternoon breaks are still a deep pleasure, but cigarettes are happily absent.

How did it happen? I could tell you my story, but your story is the only one that matters.

It’s commonly known that nicotine is one of the most addictive of substances. But here’s the good news: Your body, your psyche, your whole being, craves health more than you crave cigarettes. Breaking through the craving crisis into a healthy, relaxed way of life, is no picnic, but it’s possible. For anyone. For you.

What’s Hypnosis?

Myths abound. Smoking, overeating, yelling at your kids, and heavy drinking supposedly go away like magic. Well, I’m here to tell you that hypnosis does work–and that no magic is needed.

You’ve probably experienced hypnosis already. If you’ve ever gotten absorbed in a good novel, missed your exit on the interstate, or lost track of time in a daydream, you’re “suggestible.” Hypnosis simply means settling down and entering into a state of deep relaxation in which you’re profoundly open to new information and insight. It means being curious, and accessing a part of yourself that knows your innate right to be healthy.

So, if it’s that simple, why go to a therapist? Good question. A quick answer is this: Cigarettes have likely been a source of great comfort, or you wouldn’t be fighting the urge. A skilled hypnotherapist can companion and train you in learning better, more healthy, real sources of comfort. The journey into wellness is a journey into your deeper self–the self beneath the habits of thought and behavior that sabotage your best intentions.

Research shows that the human voice is more soothing than music. When you’re flailing about trying to change your habits, a human voice can ease you through anxiety and pain. At one level, hypnosis provides the simple presence of a trustworthy voice, to help you through the rough times and replace the negative self-talk in your head.

But hypnosis is about other things. In each conversation, each statement that we make, there’s usually a subtle embedded message. Behavioral therapists, for example, advise parents to focus on positive statements. “Be sure and remember your lunch box,” is more powerful than “Don’t forget your lunch box.” Why? Because the unconscious loves encouragement. The unconscious loves positive messages so much that our children skip over the “Don’t” part–and go straight to the “Forget your lunch box!” part.

So here’s a start. Starting now, begin to say to yourself, “I’m a person who smokes.” Not, “I’m a smoker.” Try saying, “I’ve practiced quitting all kinds of times, on the road to learning to succeed.” All kinds of self-judgment begin to torment us when we over- identify ourselves with our problems. And the unconscious hates judgment. Like your kid with the lunch-box, your psyche

Hypnosis and Smoking Cessation: Claiming Your Right to Good Health

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