Related Articles & Notes
And how to use hypnotherapy to stop it.
by Dylan Morgan
the PROBLEM IS SMOKING
article is a response to a letter in the NCHP&HR
Journal from Edward John McClurg. The parenthetic
remarks in the article have specific relevance
to Mr. McClurg, a tutor in Quality Management
Systems, though others may find them illuminating.
dealing with a smoker my first assumption
is that I am dealing with at least two systems.
One, which is usually the greater, is the
part which has determined to stop smoking.
The other is the system which is controlling
business parallel is to take the former
as an enlightened Management who has determined
to implement a new BSI standard, and the
latter as a department which is stubbornly
sticking to the old "tried and trusted"
first job is to ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS - a task
I emphasised in my article on Diagnosis. I cannot
make intelligent changes until I know the answers
to the following questions. (The equivalent managerial
questions are in brackets.) The order is not significant.
How does it feel when you want to smoke, and how
does it take place? (Could you introduce me to
the department that is giving the trouble?) These
stand for a whole string of questions directed
at getting a firm idea of the smoking subsystem
(the problem department) that has somehow to be
A further question on these lines is: Is the subsystem
based on ideas, feeling or habits? I.e. Is it
more like a voice saying, "You need a cigarette",
or a feeling of needing one, or simply an habitual
action. (Is the subdepartment acting according
to rules, or on gut feeling or on sheer force
How have you tried to stop? (How have you tried
to implement the change?) It is obviously helpful
to try to discover what has been tried and WHY
What are the advantages of stopping? (What are
the advantages of implementing the standards?)
This question must be asked of the non-smoking
will and also the smoking subsystem (Management
and the recalcitrant workforce.)
What are the advantages of continuing? (What are
the advantages of not implementing the change?)
Again ask both parties.
is possible that you will only get honest answers
from the smoking subsystem in a trance. (You may
only get an honest answer from the workforce when
you have their trust and the Manager is not breathing
down your neck.)
How and why did you start smoking? (How and why
did the current work practice originate?)
What do your family/friends feel about the smoking?
(How is the key department affected by outside
pressures from other businesses etc?)
above are simply a selection of the more central
questions. I also devote time to getting to know
other things about the person. Of particular importance
are their interests, professions etc, because
you can put things over much better if they are
related to things they know about. (Just as I
am trying to put the ideas in this article over
in a way which I hope will mean a lot to Mr. McClurg,
as a tutor in Quality Management Systems.)
speaking, you know the most important things about
a person if you know the things to which they
will respond, and how they respond. It does not
matter if the response is favourable or unfavourable.
Things they do not respond to are irrelevant in
any brief therapy. (The important thing about
a company or department is the things they respond
to and how.)
is a world of difference between a pregnant woman
stopping smoking for her baby and an aggressive
businessman stopping for his own health. Their
minds are very differently organised; their motivations
are very different; the similarity of goal conceals
an enormous difference in the tasks.
is a world of difference between changing things
in a company like The Body Shop and changing things
in Saachi and Saachi. Their managerial structures
and styles are very different; their motivations
are very different: the similar goal of applying
a certain standard conceals an enormous difference
in the tasks.)
when I have spent at least half an hour on this
preliminary task do I begin work. As I have been
going along I have, of course, been noting down
promising lines of approach. And many of my questions
will have been devoted to checking out whether
these will work or not.
after a detailed study of the organisation and
the problems involved in the company will a consultant
begin to make recommendations. But he has been
noting promising lines as he goes on, and many
of his questions have been devoted to clarifying
or eliminating these options.)
I will then discuss what steps the client is able
to take without needing much help. (Find out what
the Management might be able to implement easily
without much help.) Often there are obvious things
which have been overlooked: for example suppose
that a person smokes by habit in the toilet only
since an ashtray has been installed. The removal
of the tray will stop that part of the habit easily.
many cases the bulk of the task lies in this area
of things that can rather easily be changed by
conscious effort, if you know how. (In many cases
most of your changes are to management style rather
than to the actual functioning of a particular
that there is no ONE piece of advice. Each person
may have failed to notice a different specific
point that could easily be changed. Erickson once
noticed that a retired policeman always bought
his cigarettes from a store next door. By getting
him to agree that it would be better to walk across
town to buy them he reduced the habit enormously.
But it is unlikely that this specific technique
would work for many clients.
I seldom waste time on inductions which focus
on some irrelevant subsystem such as hand levitation,
eye closure, formal relaxation etc etc.
a consultant I seldom bother to make changes to
any systems other than those centrally involved.)
will begin with a theme of great interest. This
may well be smoking itself.
lie back comfortably, close your eyes, and start
to think as vividly as possible about wanting
will then ask detailed questions as the client
goes through the whole process of smoking a cigarette,
to hold his or her attention on the process.
the one hand this gives great insight into the
attractions of smoking - the only pleasure for
one woman was the sight of the smoke in front
of her eyes. On the other hand you will find it
acts like any other attention focussing induction.
All other subsystem close down; relaxation ensues;
there is total absorption in the functioning of
the internal system of smoking and the hypnotists
voice; that subsystem opens up in the face of
my non-judgemental questions.
let the rest of the company have some time off,
and let me just watch the way in which this particular
department functions at present. The consultant
then watches and asks questions. On the one hand
he finds out in great detail what is happening
at present. On the other hand he is at the same
time getting the company functioning in a way
which makes it easy to change. The subdepartment
is listening to him; it is not distracted by messages
from all other departments; it begins to open
up and trust him.)
stage may go on for five or ten minutes (five
or ten hours) or longer.
next start to make suggestions. (The consultant
then starts to make recommendations.) My preferred
style is not to use the bludgeon, but to put things
in a way which seem perfectly natural to the particular
systems I am working with. It is for this reason
that there is no one way. For example, with a
pregnant woman it is often very easy to get her
to visualise the face of the unborn baby: this
activates a very powerful system of protection
for her child. When she thinks of smoking, the
baby's face cries. When she stops, it laughs.
You may repeat this several times. This "technique"
obviously is quite unusable in a businessman.
is generally better, wherever possible, to get
a consensus rather than to use brute force. There
is no one recommendation that applies in all cases.
In one subdepartment money is a powerful motive,
in another it is job security, in another is may
just be that intangible, morale.)
practice, then, I never make the same suggestions
twice in the same language: everything is subordinated
to the overwhelming importance of the unique personality
structure of the present client. (If I were a
consultant I would never trot out standard recommendations:
everything has to be tailored to the overwhelmingly
important fact that each company is distinct.)
I may use metaphors and images, evoke physical
sensations such as nausea; represent true facts
graphically: watching two drops of pure nicotine
killing a labrador in five minutes makes a vivid
picture, as does the fact that tobacco leaves
make a good substitute for toilet paper in countries
where it is grown; regress the client back to
the time of starting to smoke; evoke feelings
of love - for members of the family harmed by
the smoke; arouse feelings of pride or ambition;
use a desire for a clean house which may be linked
to the idea that the body is a house for the soul;
intensify a desire for a holiday or other good
that can be saved for with the £700 or more
that is going up in smoke each year and so on.
To list all these "techniques" in detail
would take up many volumes, even if I were simply
to present a single script for the main line,
let alone go through all the variations which
are involved in modifying such a script to fit
a wide range of subjects.
Tying it up
Towards the end I will normally incorporate a
suggestion on the following lines.
will be healthier, wealthier and wiser as a non-smoker.
But it will not necessarily make you perfect.
No-one is perfect. Anyone can make a slip. Neither
of us can be certain that at some time in the
future, near or far, perhaps at a party or time
of uncommon stress or illness you will not find
yourself tempted to smoke another. And it might
well be that it would be the best thing to do
at the time. All I want you to remember at that
time is the thought: "YES, I CAN HAVE THIS
IF I CHOOSE, BUT IT WILL COST ME AT LEAST £30!"
(My standard fee in 1994)
will generally talk a bit more about the above,
pointing out that most people, if they start again,
rapidly return to previous levels of smoking which
will cost far more than the £30 another
session will cost (£20 if on reduced income).
purpose of this section is two-fold. The first
is that the thought itself is a great deterrent.
Few people would ever pay £30 for a cigarette.
The second is to motivate a quick return to me,
which will make stopping again much easier. There
is commonly a feeling of guilt at failing, or
a feeling of letting the therapist down, or a
feeling that he could have been expected to give
life-time cover: these are counteracted by the
I very much want to know about anything that does
go wrong, so that I can perhaps get it better
next time. Failures are far more important than
successes. Anyone, with any technique, can get
some successes but you only improve by minimising
the failures, which means making it as easy as
possible for them to come back to you if they
Find out as much as possible about the two primary
systems of interest, and all other systems, internal
and external which are involved. (Study the business
and its economic environment in detail.)
Decide on a strategy of changing these systems,
based on their real nature in the individual,
not on some abstract idea. (Plan realistic changes.)
Discuss and arrange changes which can be made
at the level of conscious will. (See what can
be done with the Management.)
Induce a trance which is tightly related to the
smoking subsystem. (Get to talk to the problematic
Implement the planned changes at that level also.
(Change working practices there.)
Tie it up with suggestions of return if there
are problems. (Arrange for further contacts if
there are problems.)
Throughout look for as much feedback as possible.
Finally I would like to highlight my overall philosophy
in hypnotherapy, which may throw light on the
overall approach I have used above.
all know of ecological disasters resulting from
introducing, perhaps for good reasons, a new species
into an ecosystem.
may all know of instances where a new work practice
or rule or law, introduced for a good reason,
has had dismal consequences.
all know how a person's personality may suffer
from the undue influence of parental or other
ideas which do not suit the person concerned.
PROVIDES POWERFUL TOOLS FOR INTRODUCING NEW SYSTEMS
OF THOUGHT, FEELING OR BEHAVIOUR INTO THE COMPLEX
SYSTEM OF THE HUMAN MIND. IT MUST BE USED WITH
THE UTMOST RESPECT FOR THE EXISTING SYSTEM.
am dismayed by hearing of hypnotists who forcibly
slam into a mind powerful suggestions with no
regard for their compatibility or otherwise with
existing thoughts or patterns. I am as dismayed
by the thought of removing a smoking habit by
means of a forceful repression as I would be by
the thought of dealing with a difficult workforce
by simply locking them up in a room. Each may
seem to work brilliantly in the short-term, but
could have dire long term consequences.
I am striving to attain a sufficiently complete
knowledge of all relevant workings of that system
which is the client in front of me AND the even
more complex social system of which she or he
is a part, so that any changes that I make are
in harmony with those systems while also being
viable and able to flourish there. (I am striving
to attain a sufficiently complete knowledge of
all relevant departments of the business I am
helping AND the even more complex network of business
connections and the economy as a whole, so that
any changes I make will harmonise with what is
there while also being viable long term.)
is what I mean by holistic, or ecologically sound,
or simply doing a good job.
from The Journal of the National Council for Psychotherapists
and Hypnotherapy Register, Spring 94. (with the