Monday, 6 December 2010


I've not had a cigarette for about 2 days. And it's been fairly easy as usual.

Last year, I went to see a hypnotherapist. She charged me £150 for her services, and the session consisted of a long session beforehand where we had a discussion, and she gave me a big spiel, followed by about half an hour sitting on an enormous and comfortable leather chair with headphones on while she talked over a tape that played music and subliminal messages.

And it didn't work. I was conscious of what was going on throughout. I stayed off the cigarettes anyway, because I'd spent £150. I stayed off them until the money I'd saved on not smoking covered the outlay on the session. Then I slipped gratefully back into my role as a smoker.

I don't switch off easily. I'd never been hypnotised before, and I went into it with an open mind, rather than with any conscious scepticism. Indeed, I wanted it to work. But really it didn't. What was more use was the discussion beforehand. At the time it came across as a little bit tinfoil-hattish, but looking back, at least some of it makes sense.

The anti-smoking product market is huge. Just briefly looking at how huge it is, I came across the following:
(the link takes you to a https site with a questionable certificate, by the way. Do not spend £4,000 on the report!)

Cigarette smoking is the most important source of preventable and premature morbidity worldwide. Currently, the number of smokers across the globe is estimated at 1.3 billion. Political moves are leading to national bans of smoking in public places, with the long-term aim to reduce the cost to the health sector. But what will be the short-term spending on smoking cessation therapies?

The authors of this report believe the anti-smoking market to be worth $1.7 billion in 2007. This is a growth of 37% from the year before. Global Smoking Cessation Market Analysis & Forecasts - preparing for the first blockbuster, explains just how this market will experience growth over the medium term future. Also do you know what the drivers and restraints of the market are? This report not only reveals these, but also details what strategies can be used to maximize profits from the drivers and restraints.
The hypnotherapy lady's idea was that it's actually very easy to stop smoking, but we believe it to be difficult, and this idea is reinforced by advertisers who want people to buy their products. She reckoned that the NHS' anti smoking campaighns did exactly the same thing, because they are connected to the industry. See what I mean about  conspiracy stuff? Yet it rings quite true. Over the last 2 day I have had 3 pieces of NRT chewing gum. More for forms sake than anything. The only time I've had any kind of craving is when I finished a lesson today.

Habit... When I'm a smoker, I always try to squeeze one in between lessons, because otherwise I'd have to wait an hour before I got another chance. The fact that I am busy during that hour, and am unlikely to think about cigarettes carries no weight at all.

And here's something else she said.

"Before you can want something, you have to think about it."

At the time I was uncertain of this. I thought that biochemistry also comes into it. But again, this now makes a lot of sense. Just going off at a tangent for a moment, I was listening recently to a radio 4 program about mental glitches, and one of them dealt with the phenomenon of deja vu. An expert reckoned that when information moves from one part of the brain to another, it's not necessarily along any given route. It could go in a number of different ways. He reckoned the brain is used to things taking a particular route, but that sometimes, for whatever reason, the thing that comes via the usual route gets held up (we're talking miliseconds here) and the same information comes in from a different route first, so that when the brain gets the info from the expected route, it thinks, "This is old news. I've already experienced this"

All five episodes of this series, entitled, "Please do not adjust your set: human behavioural glitches" are available here:  I found them fascinating.

I know many people who believe they have a need for something. Whether alcohol, or nicotine, or whatever. At the same time, they don't like the fact that they have this need, and so they try to give up.

I will not drink today. Today, I am not going to have a drink. I haven't had a drink for 2 days and 6 hours.

Effectively, in trying hard to stop, they create their own triggers. The trick is not to think about it in the first place.

The same thing happens to people on their driving tests, by the way. They convince themselves that it will be scary, and go into it nervous. Generally the relaxed ones pass easily.


Jim Bliss said...

I stopped smoking tobacco about 5 years ago. Having tried and failed to quit several times, I decided to use chaos magic and it worked like a charm (pun very much intended).

It's all about altering your belief system, which is pretty difficult to achieve via conscious effort, so some form of unconscious manipulation is required (a combination of chaos magic and psychedelics works for me whenever I want to shift my perspective; though clearly there are other methods, e.g. hypnotherapy, aversion therapy, etc.)

Anyhoo, I heartily recommend it (quitting that is... the method is irrelevant). Cigarette smoking is a form of slavery -- it enslaves both the mind and the body -- and the people making money off the back of that slavery are not the kind of people you want to be enriching.

Plus, after a while, you'll feel so much better for it.

Paul said...

"It's all about altering your belief system"

I agree. Millions of people continue to smoke, and wish they could stop, because they believe it's difficult. I don't think alterning your belief system is about becoming a buddhist or a communist or anything. It's how you percieve a particular thing or set of things. Hypnolady planted some seeds that have sprouted and branched out. It's a way of looking at things with which I can see applications in teaching nervous pupils, in my political viewpoint, (and in understanding the viewpoints of others). Not really encountered Chaos Magic before, although I remember you talking about it (last time I posted about giving up smoking?)

One thing that's changed as I've grown older, and hopefully more mature, is that I've become much less antagonistic towards the spiritual. I find myself less willing than I used to be to dismiss things out of hand.

"Belief is a tool". I can accept that. In a way that's the whole point of this post.

Jim Bliss said...

I encountered Chaos Magic when I was in my late teens and became obsessed with it for a while. The way I see it (one of the things about CM is how open to interpretation it is); it's not a "spiritual" thing at all. Rather, it's a way of wrapping powerful psychological techniques in the robes of "The Occult".

Why do that? Well, the theory is that the kinds of ritual practiced by religions and occultists for millennia are uniquely effective at putting people into suggestive frames of mind. Couple them with techniques from hypnosis, NLP and behavioural conditioning and you have a potentially perfect way to shape your own belief system.

With smoking, I basically performed a ritual, the aim of which was to convince me that the next time I voluntarily smoked tobacco, I'd contract terminal lung cancer.

Pretty extreme, I agree, but it worked. I am convinced of the power of the mind to significantly affect the body. And somewhere deep in my unconscious is an instruction to make me seriously ill should I smoke tobacco again.

Would it actually do so? Maybe not. But I'm unwilling to take that chance. Hence, no more tobacco.

Anonymous said...

If you find it so easy to give up and can remain off the fags for so long each time, why do you start again?

Paul said...

That's a good question, anonymous, and not one I find easy to answer.

The best answer I can give is that I know if I have a cigarette, it will make me feel good, however briefly. Is the reward worth the risk? Well obviously it isn't, but the pressure to get that "hit" is there all the time, at a very low level. So staying off the cigarettes goes way beyond the initial nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Generally, a few months down the line, I will convince myself, probably after a few drinks, that it's OK to just have one, and from there it's only a matter of time before I'm smoking regularly again.