Have you learned anything since you first started practising hypnosis for smoking?
It’s very easy to look back at ourselves when we were younger and cringe. How could we not have known that? It’s so obvious! I’ve cringed for the younger me across most areas of my life, professional and personal. So here I collect and distil into four points the lessons I’ve learned from years of trial and error, experience and gratefully received supervision while practising hypnosis for smoking. We, all of us, learn all the time, so in another few years I hope it will be an even longer list.
Four things I’d say to my younger self, or someone starting out practising hypnosis for smoking
- Every human is unique, multi-faceted and infinitely complex. Theories must be adapted or abandoned on a case-by-case basis.
In my early days, I leaned quite heavily on theory. But cling to a theory and, of course, you exclude other possibilities. ‘But this is what should be happening according to the model!’, I would think, frustrated and baffled when a particular direction I had steered my clients in simply didn’t help them. As I progressed, I found it was better to just…listen. Listening was even liberating. It absolved me of any expectation that I should produce a box of tricks to help a client stop smoking. Instead, really listening allowed me to be led by the client. I’ve rarely heard this sentiment expressed outside of therapy circles, but we are all the best (and only) expert in our own psychological landscape. When I am genuinely curious and empathetic, I find clients usually tell me everything I need to know to help them stop smoking. Realizing this changed my practice: I began adapting my knowledge and skills to support and not to prescribe. The results were better and the processes became lighter and more pleasant for everyone. These days, even my most extreme interventions are offered as suggestions and tried on for size and when they don’t fit, I try to admit it.
- Being firm is hard but it can be important, even if it provokes reactions which require skilful navigation.
Despite point 1, the fact remains that smoking cessation hypnosis is unlike person-centred psychotherapies. There is a pre-determined objective: to stop clients smoking. In order to do this, I must tell them the truth about cigarettes and the many ways it has tricked their minds and bodies into keeping them addicted. Person-centred therapies allow clients to discover and integrate truths by themselves in their own time. This can take many sessions over many years. But with each cigarette increasing the risk of terrible health problems, there just isn’t time to wait for this: they must urgently be told the truth. The message must be delivered respectfully and in the spirit of brutal honesty. Does it provoke deep, challenging psychological defences in a client? Sometimes it does. I gently reflect this back to the client to help them understand what just they’re doing. Often, they do understand, and I am then able to let them lead again.
- You can’t help everyone with hypnosis for smoking, but this doesn’t mean everyone can’t be helped.
There will be many influencing factors involved in whether a client’s hypnosis for smoking is helpful or not. If the process hasn’t worked, I might have strong suspicions about why. But my suspicions aren’t necessarily right. There could be some other reason that I’m not even aware of and couldn’t possibly understand. So I would be wrong to assume they will not be successful with some other method, at some other time, with some other practitioner or technology. I consider it my duty, if the client wishes to hear my perspective, to offer everything I know about all the other methods, processes and technologies that might help them if I can’t.
- Technique and experience alone aren’t enough: emotional intelligence, kindness and a genuine desire to help are crucial.
My clients are human. I can relate to this because so am I. And one day I realized that all my theory and experience simply supports and hones my natural, innate, human therapeutic instinct. This is primarily what leads me in sessions: the fact that I am just a person with a complex, multifaceted inner world observing and relating to the complex, multifaceted inner world of another person. And that I really want to help them stop smoking so they can live a healthy, longer and happier lives. I think I have always known this. But perhaps I didn’t always appreciate how important it is. Now, I recognize that empathy and kindness are my most powerful tools.
Both Feet on the Ground