Monday, December 1, 2008

Is Cigarette Smoking an Addiction?

If you think smoking cigarettes is an addiction, you’re right. If you think smoking cigarettes is not an addiction… well, you’re right, too. Whatever your subconscious mind believes to be true becomes, by definition, your belief system... your reality... your personal truth.

For years the tobacco companies and drug companies, both of which have a financial stake in perpetuating the idea that smoking is an addiction tougher to beat than heroin, have repeatedly sent the message that smokers are addicted to cigarettes. Obviously, if you think smoking cigarettes is an addiction it will be far more difficult for you to quit than if you think it is just a habit that can be changed as easily as switching from scrambled eggs for breakfast to oatmeal.

While it may feel uncomfortable to change one’s behaviors, especially at first, most new behaviors will start to feel familiar and comfortable and attain the status of habit within 21 days. The discomfort in changing a habit derives from the fact that your brain and nervous system sense that something is amiss when you try out a new behavior.

Even a simple behavior change, such as shaking hands with your left hand instead of your right, will feel odd the first few times you do it. The feeling of strangeness from doing something different may feel like withdrawal when it is really the nervous system’s alarm bell signaling a deviation from “normal” behavior.

People who smoke cigarettes may think they have a physical addiction because they feel irritable when they stop smoking. The nicotine in the cigarette causes smokers to feel edgy and stressed, a sensation that is relieved momentarily when the smoker has another cigarette. The smoker mistakenly believes the cigarette has relaxed him, when in reality it has just returned him to a physiological state that non-smokers enjoy all the time.

Breathing deeply, taking a brisk walk and eating carrot or licorice sticks are effective ways to distract one’s self from feelings of edginess whenever the urge to smoke occurs. Such urges seldom last for more than a few minutes, another sign that cigarettes are a psychological habit versus a physical addiction.

What is interesting is that most smokers can go for hours without smoking a cigarette if they are absorbed in a task, a phenomenon that would not be true if they were physically addicted. They can even sleep through the night without waking up to have a “fix.”

Believing that smoking is a habit that can be changed makes becoming a permanent non-smoker far easier than believing it is an addiction from which one will have to suffer withdrawal symptoms. Whether one uses hypnotherapy or another means to become a permanent non-smoker, this single change in one’s belief system is a critical factor to enjoying a successful outcome.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lose Your Food Cravings with EFT and Hypnosis

An amazing mind- and behavior-changing process called Emotional Freedom Techniques has helped countless people lose their cravings for chocolate, french fries and many other foods for which they once had too fond an attachment. This groundbreaking method, which some have likened to acupuncture without the needles (or psychological acupuncture), uses a tapping process to apply light pressure to the end points of strategic acupuncture meridians. While tapping on these points, the client states specific words related to the habit or behavior that he or she is trying to change. For instance, if I love the idea of eating Twix bars, I might start out by saying, “Even though I love the idea of eating Twix bars, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

While the above summary is just a Reader’s Digest version of the process, the proof of EFT’s effectiveness is in the pudding… or maybe that should be something healthier, like that trendy Greek yoghurt you can buy at Trader Joe’s. Since Halloween, friends at work have been inundating me with fun-sized candy bars, once coveted treats which I now either give away or stick in my desk drawer to see if they tempt me (they don’t).

The exciting thing about EFT is that clients can learn this process on their own or be tapped on by their EFT-trained hypnotherapist while they are in hypnosis. You can do EFT in the shower, while watching TV or any time you have a few spare moments to work on eliminating a craving, habit or behavior that no longer serves you well.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How I Quit Smoking Using Hypnotherapy: Becoming a Permanent Non-Smoker Without Willpower

Like many smokers, I started smoking when I was 14-years-old. It made me cool, or so I thought. Fast forward 35 years and smoking for me had become anything but cool. In California, especially, smoking is considered an unhealthy, environmentally unsound, and decidedly uncool habit--the fashion equivalent of wearing a polyester striped shirt with checkered pants hemmed one inch above the ankle.

Actually, I had quit smoking for about twenty years during the period of time I raised my two daughters. My conscience would not allow me to smoke when I was pregnant, so I was temporarily able to kick the habit for as long as my moral compass dictated. In effect, I was a smoker who had taken a leave of absence from smoking to raise my children. It is possible that my non-smoking status could have remained permanent if my marriage to my children’s father had not become troubled and my then-husband decided to take up smoking in his 40’s. Despite our differences, I foolishly joined him in this self-destructive pursuit and resumed smoking, my subconscious mind assuring me I deserved this “pleasurable” reward because of all the unpleasant relationship stress in our marriage.

Within a few years of my divorce, I was still smoking and had married a man who also smoked. My odds of becoming a permanent non-smoker seemed bleak since my new husband thoroughly enjoyed smoking and was terrible at quitting the few times we made a joint agreement to stop together. Of course, we were relying on such tools as willpower and, in my husband’s case, nicotine patches to become non-smokers, tools that have relatively poor success rates. In fact, my husband continued to smoke close to his normal quantity of cigarettes while wearing the patch, a practice that can lead to nicotine poisoning.

Soon after my marriage, I started training to become a hypnotherapist and hoped this increasingly popular therapeutic process would help me to permanently end my relationship with cigarettes. In several practice sessions with fellow students, I worked on various aspects of my subconscious attachment to cigarettes, but it wasn’t until I had a session with our teacher, Dr. Katherine Zimmerman, that I was finally able to say goodbye forever to my smoking habit.

In this fateful session, Dr. Zimmerman was demonstrating for the class a hypnotherapy process called Parts Therapy, in which the part of me that commanded me to go out and have a cigarette throughout the day--even when I was not in the mood for one---had a Gestalt dialogue with my conscious self, the adult part of me that desperate wanted to quit smoking. Each time Katherine tapped me on the forehead, I would alternate speaking for the part of me who wanted to smoke (who I nicknamed Power) and my adult conscious self who wanted to quit smoking. Power, my 14-year old rogue part, agreed to stop sabotaging me and offered to help me quit smoking by no longer urging me to go out and have a cigarette. Instead, she would remind me to take calming deep breaths and remind me how much better my life was as a permanent non-smoker. Power even agreed to be renamed Freedom, a fitting name for a part who had previously kept me chained to a toxic habit. We decided that Freedom needed to grow up to the age of 30, an age at which she would be mature enough to make healthier choices.

From the moment I came out of trance, I have never again smoked even one cigarette, nor have I had the urge to do so. I have not had to chew on straws, rely on willpower or even steer clear of people who are smoking to resist the urge to smoke, for I have lost that desire completely. Once I removed the part of me that compelled me to smoke, the urge to smoke disappeared, and my desire to help others permanently change their own self-destructive behaviors and belief systems became even more acute.