Extinguishing the desire to smoke

Take a deep breath and go for it..

You are not a ‘smoker’, you are someone who smokes.

After four hours of coaching Miss Y was set to go, but something seemed not to be right. It was clear that she still harboured a desire to have a cigarette and that this was troubling her. The smoking habit had become a barrier to her doing anything else. If she couldn’t give up smoking how could she expect to achieve her other goals?

Nothing's too big to kick..

I asked her to light up a cigarette and smoke in front of me. She refused. I persisted. She said that she could not smoke in my house. Despite her desire to smoke she could conquer her habit in order to conform with her interpretation of the ‘rules’ of the house. The competing commitment not to offend me and my house rules was greater than her desire to smoke.

I pointed out that this meant that she and not her habit were in control of her smoking behaviour. That she could NOT smoke if she chose. This meant that she could choose not to smoke if she wished. We then made the cigarettes the villains of the piece and then focused on what she wanted more. The answer to that question was – ‘Life’. What did life consist of? Marriage, children, love, happiness, independence and a good job. These are things she wanted more. In the arena of competing commitments, these would win.

What do you want more?

I asked her again if she would like to smoke. She declined. I asked if she wanted to go outside to smoke. She again declined. I asked her to imagine a situation in the future similar to one in the past where she would be confronted by a situation that in the past would have led to her smoking. She said that she would not smoke – that the desire to smoke had gone. She left her packet of cigarettes and lighter on the table and said that she would not need these anymore.

If you would like to quit smoking try asking yourself these questions:

  1. How do you know that you are addicted to smoking?
  2. What advantages are there in calling it an addiction? If it wasn’t an addiction what would it be instead?
  3. Do you smoke when you are asleep?
  4. Do you smoke in front of children?
  5. Do you smoke indoors?
  6. How clean does the air have to be before you will consider not polluting it?
  7. Were you born with a habit? Did you have a habit before you were born?
  8. When did you first decide that this behaviour would give you what you wanted?
  9. Who are you surrendering to when you give in?
  10. Does anyone else make you behave this way?
  11. Whose rules are you living your life by?
  12. Who benefits from your repeated behaviour?
  13. Who decides when you repeat this behaviour and when you don’t?
  14. Whose hand creates this behaviour?
  15. It’s interesting that as we grow up we leave learned behaviour behind when it stops being useful – like using a potty or crossing a road with an adult – what could you leave behind?
  16. What does this behaviour that you learned much earlier in your life still give you?
  17. Assuming you don’t behave like this all the time, what do you decide when you don’t behave this way?
  18. What are the hidden advantages of continuing to do what you are doing?
  19. If the advantages are cancelling out the disadvantages leaving you in stalemate, what does this mean?
  20. If you were the rulemaker what would you change to break the stalemate?
  21. What rules are there that people can apply when they can’t decide between two equally powerful options?
  22. When might you decide that stalemate is a good place to be?
  23. What do you do when you think you can’t win?
  24. If this is a game, what game would you rather be playing?
  25. If you noticed that you have been hiding something, how is hiding helping you?
  26. What would honesty give you instead?
  27. Could honesty help you create a set of new rules?
  28. How have your goals, longings and aspirations changed since you started this behaviour?
  29. What was the difference between behaviours that lasted and those that didn’t?
  30. Supposing that you could draw upon energy any time that you needed it, what difference would that make?
  31. How do people who DON’T succumb to habitual behaviour not do it?
  32. When did you first notice that you were doing this behaviour?
  33. Who made this decision for you?
  34. What would happen if this behaviour were so unique to you that only you could control it?
  35. When you DON’T do repeated behaviour who makes that decision?
  36. If you control the decision not to do it, who controls your decision to do it?
  37. What would it be like to put out one of your fears instead?
  38. Looking back in six months time what did you decide today that changed everything?
  39. Do you want to do something better instead? What could that be?
  40. Supposing freedom meant fresh air?
  41. What would happen if you had to accept responsibility for what you do and how you do it?
  42. When would a good time be to start?
  43. What would happen if someone like you made a good decision for and about themselves?
  44. What do you want more than to just carry on as you are?
  45. Think of a situation in the future where you would have reacted as you did in the past. How are you reacting now?

Smoking is not an illness in the conventional sense. It’s a learned automatic behaviour – at Powerchange.com we call it Auto-Response Psychology. You decided to start. This may have been prompted by a trauma or even an absence of something in your life. Since then, when that original feeling has repeated itself, you reach automatically for a cigarette. The pre-conditions may be boredom, loneliness, stress, hunger, looking cool. These are the triggers – or they used to be. The questions above will have re-wired these responses. You decide when you smoke. You do not smoke continuously (certainly not when you are asleep) and so you already make choices.

Why not choose life instead?

The cigarette is not a person, not a controlling, sentient being. It does not make decisions. It is a passive object. It only lights when you light it. Other people have given up easily when they realise this. You can too.

You are not a ‘smoker’, you are a human being who used to smoke.

You are in control. How does it feel to be someone who has regained control?

Now go and do that thing you wanted to do instead.

More information on addiction and phobia release at www.powerchange.com 

The Woman who stopped burning inside by Roy Stannard (Secret psychology Pt 2)

The Fire Dragon

Here is a story to help you give up.

One day, a long time ago when this beautiful young girl was a teenager and everyone around her seemed so much more grown up and sophisticated than her, she decided that she needed an adult magic wand – something to help her fit in with the grown up world of smoky bars and mysterious clubs.

Someone offered her a cigarette and this beautiful young woman, not knowing that the real reason for the person offering her the cigarette was jealousy, innocently accepted the cigarette and lit it. The acrid smoke filled her lungs and almost choked her. How could anyone enjoy this experience?

However, because she desperately needed to fit in and win the approval of her peers she persisted with this terrible burning sensation and eventually the horrible side effects started to disappear – not that they left, just that the beautiful young girl didn’t notice them any more.

After a while the lovely young woman subtly changed, she didn’t look so young any more. Whenever, she wanted to look cool and sophisticated she fired up a cigarette and puffed at it reflectively, looking mysterious and artistic. However, her close friends and family didn’t know how to tell her that the smoke from the cigarette was coming from both ends of her body. As she inhaled and exhaled, the smoke poured, a trickle at first and then a torrent, escaping from other parts of her body. She was slowly burning away inside.

By now, there was no pretence that the cigarette was making her look cool and sophisticated. The evil stick of poison that lurked in her handbag sniggered horribly to itself, knowing that its owner would not be able to resist taking it out and applying a light to it, enabling it to further its mission of burning her away inside.

After a few more years had passed, the beautiful young woman was beautiful no more. She was now known as the dragon lady, because fire and smoke blew from her as she walked. Children cowered in front of her, avoiding her flaming breath, which was noxious and foul smelling.

The evil little stick in her bag whispered to her, telling her that she would never be able to give him up, for she depended on him for her very life – and the pain of rejecting him would be too great. This was a lie, as others had told the evil midget stick to begone – and he had to obey because all human beings control their destinies, whatever the doubters think.

One day the beautiful woman’s children approached her with masks over their faces, to protect themselves from her raging, flaming anger and issued an ultimatum. ‘The evil white stick – or us Mummy’, they cried, with tears falling softly to the ground, hissing on the heat and smoke that surrounded the woman.

The woman had heard a wise old man in the cave on the mountain had the answer to stopping the dominion of the evil white stick. She went to see him. He laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. ‘Indeed yes, there is an answer’, he said. ‘You must remember this one thing. The human being is not what it does. You are not a smoker, you are a human being who smokes. The choice is yours. Choose to stop. It is your destiny.’

The beautiful woman realized that she was not a slowly evaporating puff of smoke, but a unique human being who makes a decision every time she puts an evil white stick in her mouth. If she could choose to do this, she could choose not to do it. The sun rose, the clouds parted, the air on the mountain side smelled sweet. She was a free woman. The evil white stick in her hand looked frightened and then turned to dust. She was no longer a smoker, but a woman who chose not to smoke. A woman who chose beauty and family, life and hope. A woman with a future.

Roy Stannard 13.7.09

The Occasional Treat by Roy Stannard (Psychology in writing Pt 1)



Blue was an undergraduate in her second year at University.

She believed that being pale was an interesting image and that people who were rather loud were to be discouraged. In accordance with this belief, Blue wore clothes that blended with her surroundings, whether Seminar walls, bus seats or long grey corridors. She adopted a manner that meant that people often didn’t notice her at all and in consequence, was rarely bothered by people who she didn’t know very well, and only a little more often by people she did know well.

She was studying Applied Invisibility in the School of Self-disparagement at the University of Bland.

Every morning she would get up, apply her very subtle make-up, find her everywoman jumpsuit and brush her hair into a bob – which frankly didn’t bob very much. She would walk down the road and wait for the 8.48am bus that took her to University every morning.  Blue would sit by herself at the very back of the bus. That way, she didn’t need to talk to anyone, she could show her bus pass to the driver and disappear down to the end of the bus. For the whole of her first year she didn’t speak to a soul, or a spirit or even a living person.

Each day she would attend lectures, seminars and tutorials and only speak when spoken to. If the Tutor addressed her personally she would colour a little (subtly, so hardly anyone would notice) and reply in the shortest form possible – and with as little character and personality as she could manage. After all, people who dominated groups, talks, bus rides and bus queues were to be discouraged. They obviously had issues which Blue prided herself on not having.

One day, Blue was waiting for the 8.48am bus and a small elderly gentleman also waiting for the bus turned and smiled at her. “Good morning, young lady” he said with a courtly bow and a twinkle in his eye. Blue half-smiled at him and turned away quickly, concerned not to be caught up in conversation with some old man who obviously didn’t have any friends in his life. He persisted, “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?” She nodded glumly, with barely hidden irritation. He continued, “Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Treat. Are you a student by chance?”

Blue was now standing outside of her comfort zone. The last thing she wanted to do was engage in conversation first thing in the morning when she had so many other things not to think about. “yes”, she said, hoping that this admission would satisfy him. Treat looked anything but satisfied. He looked instead a little like a boisterous whippet being offered a ball to play with. “It must be wonderful to get up every morning and think that I am going to College in order to learn something new. To meet new people and discuss ideas. How wonderful to think that I could come home that evening with a completely different outlook on life. Is that what you think when you catch the bus in the morning m’dear?”

“I suppose so”, Blue murmured, wishing that he would go away. The opposite happened. The bus arrived and Blue crept onto it in her usual demure fashion whilst Mr Treat positively exploded onto the bus. Like a visiting dignitary trying out a third world mode of transport, he made small talk with the driver, complimenting him on his punctuality and processed down the bus talking to every passenger and asking after their well-being. As far as Blue could remember, he had never rode on the bus before. All these people were strangers to him – and yet, he seemed to know them all intimately. Worse, they all seemed to revel in the attention, looking up and smiling, returning his greetings. The whole bus seemed awash with chatter, good will and, well, joy.

Treat sat down next to Blue, who almost squirmed with discomfort. He turned to her, resting a friendly hand on her shoulder. “Well, m’dear, let’s talk about you. We have twenty minutes on this bus to while away and I want to hear about everything that’s going on in your life.”

Blue was panic-stricken. No-one in almost ten years had pinned her down like this. She was used to answering questions in a quiet, detached sort of way, giving the minimum and keeping people at a safe distance. It was easier that way.

Treat was having none of this. “Come, come m’dear, I want to hear all about your successes and hopes and even your fears. What would you like to happen today?” Blue knew that her low-risk strategy for engaging with people was being trampled on. Her layers of defence were being breached. Little rivulets of this man’s energy were penetrating her sandbagged front door. Blue’s innermost private spaces would soon be awash with good natured conversation. She turned away, rudely. She felt her face run red with shame. After all, he was just being friendly. Amazingly, she felt a little tear form in one eye and start to trickle down her right cheek. She brushed it away and stared out of the window.

She glanced to her side and with a start realised that the seat next to her was empty. Treat had gone.

The tears ran freely now. He was the first person to ask how she was in months. He was the first person to really show an interest in her, in what she thought and what she had planned. How could she have been so rude? Her whole being ached – and yet in the pain there was another kind of sensation. Of having connected with someone, however briefly.

She glanced out of the window. There was Mr Treat walking brightly along the pavement. He looked up at the bus and caught her eye. He smiled at her, winked and mouthed the words, “See you tomorrow..”

It was then she realised that her secret wish had been granted. And all that day she practised what she would say to Treat the next day with people she met.  On the bus home that night, she couldn’t stop smiling because of all the comments people had made to her. Blue had become bright Blue. She even said ‘thank you’ to the bus driver.

She was amazed by how much she was looking forward to tomorrow.


Roy Stannard 8.5.09