Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mourning the Cigarette

Recently, I have been working with a client on smoking cessation, which has focused me on the process. We have had a few sessions and it seems to be going well, slowly cutting back on the cigarette consumption. I find for many smokers it seems like this is a really good solution, going slowly and gently into cessation. The process reminds me a bit of facing a terminal illness (negative I know, but stay with me). Giving up cigarettes can be a similar mourning process, so it seems. It has all the traits. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Grief. And finally acceptance.

It also seems to be a love/hate relationship for many. It has becomes a comfort blanket, a friend. However, I think many who are on the page of giving it up, either find the comfort blanket becoming embarrassing (try standing out in the rain in midwinter just to get a few puffs) or the friend a bit backstabbing. But like an unhealthy co-dependency, the attachment is perverse. So, I am wondering if approaching smoking cessation as a mourning process would be an interesting way of looking at the change work that is necessary for success?

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

It's an interesting approach, I suppose, but by treating smoking cessation as a mourning process aren't you reinforcing the idea that the client is losing, or giving up, something? And on some level isn't that implying that this "loss" is an emotional issue that needs to be resolved?

The program I use, which was developed by UK hypnotherapist Terence Watts, takes the approach that by becoming a nonsmoker the client isn't giving up anything, he isn't losing anything, he's choosing to stop poisoning himself. We (the client and I) focus on how rapidly his body will begin to recover from the damages of smoking and how much better he will feel, physically and emotionally, as that healing takes place.

This approach doesn't lend itself to the gradual cutting back you talked about, of course; the client walks into the session a smoker and leaves a nonsmoker, period. There's a lot more to the process than I can really summarize here but it is extremely effective.

-Michael Raugh, C.H.

The Transparent Hypnotist said...

I think your approach works well for a majority of people. However there are some people, though they know intellectually that they will be gaining something better, rather than losing something, have their emotions tell them otherwise.

I would say that starting out with the idea of doing a session with the Watts ideal is the way to go, but for those who are resistant (I have had several clients who seem to care little for feeling better oddly), perhaps dealing with the mourning or emotions is the second half of the journey.