In the 1970's, two Californians by the name of Richard Bandler and John Grinder were credited as creating a new approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy. They called this new approach Neuro-linguistic Programming, or NLP. They claimed that for all people, there's a connection between neurological processes, language and behavior patterns which we learn through experience – and that these can all be changed in order to help us achieve certain goals. Since one goal many people set at the new year involves quitting smoking, it would seem that NLP is perfect for anyone looking to kick the habit – and that it especially could be easier and healthier than using a patch or some other external approach.
First, let's understand how NLP works by breaking it down into its components and the concepts pertaining to each:
- Subjectivity. Everything we experience, we interpret subjectively. Our experiences are always colored by our beliefs, memories and prejudices. We create our own representations based on this.
- Consciousness. Consciousness is based on both conscious and unconscious components.
- Learning. NLP uses modeling, which is a method which imitates the success and expertise of other people in any activity. After all, if a strategy worked for another person, why not repeat it for yourself?
So let's apply this to quitting smoking. How would NLP best be used in this endeavor?
NLP Can Help You Change Your Beliefs
After all, many non-smokers believe that smoking is disgusting, right? Whereas smokers don't think of it that way at all – and even if they do, the belief that they need to smoke outweighs it. This is an example of subjectivity – how one action can be interpreted in two completely different ways based on beliefs and experiences. So changing a smoker's belief and helping them attach new or negative associations to their habit is one of the pillars of quitting smoking with the help of NLP.
Changing habits is easier with NLP
The Swish Pattern is a tried-and-true NLP method which is used for breaking habits. It involves:
- Identifying your problem behavior – obviously in this case, smoking.
- Pinpointing the cue which always sets off this behavior. So whether it's a certain feeling, a certain time on the clock, having eaten a meal, a commercial break…whatever it is, keep track of your cues.
- Writing down the cues – then “break state”, meaning as soon as you jot it down, you should jump up and down, run in place, hum a song or recite the alphabet backwards. Anything that will take your mind off the cue and reset your brain.
- Choosing your ideal response – picture the best possible version of yourself. The version who considered quitting smoking no problem and who succeeded, who is now living their best and healthiest life. Whatever will most motivate you. Picture it as large as possible and in bright, living color. Wallow in these positive feelings and double their intensity as many times as you can. Then, break state again.
- Swishing – take your first version of yourself, the version that smokes, and replace it with the better version. Imagine the better version of you stretching all the way back to the moon, or to another planet – wherever, just very far away. Then imagine that image shooting toward the negative image, pushing it out of the way and completely away from you. You can even vocalize the “swishing” noise of the positive image rushing toward you and getting bigger and bigger every second. Indulge in this version of yourself. Then, break state once again.
- Embedding – repeat the swishing step at least 10 times and break state each time. Revel in this, enjoy it, have fun. And by the time you're finished, you should have a difficult time even imagining performing your old behavior!
A negative habit becomes a compulsion when we feel like we can't control ourselves – and if any habit qualifies as a compulsion, smoking probably sits at the top of the list. The Compulsion Blowout involves breaking this drive to perform an act thoughtlessly or compulsively.
Anyone trained in NLP should know these techniques well and should be able to help you; of course, you can always try them yourself to see how they work.
Quitting smoking using NLP cuts to the heart of the matter by getting to the real reasons why a person smokes in the first place. Rather than using a patch or some other chemical or substance to replace the act of smoking, it removes the unconscious triggers and replaces them with positive images.
NLP also helps a smoker replace feelings of anxiety, which can crop up when they can't smoke, with feelings of calm and confidence. These valuable tools can be used every time a craving crops up, but if applied correctly the tools should make cravings a thing of the past in short order.
And before long, smoking will have become an unthinkable action, you simply will not want to smoke and many of our patients never feel the urge to smoke right from the end of the session.