As a certified hypnotherapist, I was taken by surprise the first time one of my stop smoking clients said, “Cigarettes are my friend!”. She let me know that for decades years cigarettes had “always been there for her.” This was a powerful and compelling image for her. It would be an obstacle to her quitting unless I did something about it. I had some thinking to do!
I recognized her attachment to her friend the cigarettes would make it more difficult her to quit. She wasn’t just dropping a bad habit, she was giving up a friend.
I decided to try a lighthearted and humorous approach. I looked at her quizzically, and then asked, “Do you grab your pack of cigarettes and have meaningful conversations with them? Do you put me pack on the pillow next to you and wish them “Good night” before closing your eyes and drifting off? Her response was a surprised laugh, and a smiling “Well, no”.
Her laugh and smile indicated we were making progress.
Feeling clever, I said, “I would like to introduce you to Fred. He’ll be a good friend. He’ll always be there for you… Except that, some day, I don’t know when, he’s going to hurt you very badly or kill you.” Of course, my client declined my offer of an introduction to Fred. And happily, she no longer thought that “cigarettes were her friend”.
None of my smoking cessation clients who have expressed to me that cigarettes are their friends accepted my offer to meet Fred. Everyone knows that cigarettes injure health. Believing that cigarettes are a friend is a clever little trick of the mind. One that prevents smokers from taking to heart the threat that smoking poses to their health.
As an experienced hypnotherapist, no longer surprises me when someone says,”Cigarettes are my friend”. I simply respond to them as if their metaphor were literally true. And, every time that I do, the notion that cigarettes are their friend goes up in smoke.