There are no absolute certainties for a hypnotherapist while working with a client. Clients who request hypnosis for common issues like stopping smoking may need the hypnotherapist to use a creative approach because of their unique personality needs. Some years ago, I was gathering information from Eva, (not her real name) about her smoking habits. And, she let me know in no uncertain terms, that smoking was something that "no one could take away from her".
I have run across defiance issues around stopping smoking many times while working with smokers over the years. It's common for someone who has been nagged about smoking to have some resentments, and a knee jerk "don't tell me what to do" response. I tried my usual approaches for dealing with defiance with Eva, but got nowhere. At this point I was at a loss. I didn't know what to do.
This woman was in her early 60's, liked to smoke, did not want to stop smoking, and she let me know that in no uncertain terms. The only reason that she was attempting to stop smoking was that she had the beginnings of emphysema. And her doctors had told her that if she stopped smoking she had a good chance of reversing the progress of the disease. She was scared that the emphysema was going to kill her.
The threat of death is frequently not enough to compel someone to stop smoking. There are plenty of examples of people continuing to smoke even though they have lung cancer, or chronic bronchitis. However, Eva had an important goal that she wanted to accomplish before she died. She wanted to see her great granddaughter be born.
So how was I going to deal with Eva's stubborn notion that smoking could not be "taken away" from her? I knew that if her belief was not dealt with that she would likely continue smoking despite all my other efforts. Between Eva's first and second sessions, I really wondered a lot about how to address her belief, and I came up with an idea.
During Eva's second session I brought up again the idea that "smoking is something that no one could take from her". She proudly let me know again that it was true. Then I asked Eva a question. "Some people have beliefs that they would be willing to die for. Would you be willing to die for that one?"
She looked scared, and said, "No!". And, that was a moment of hypnosis. Eva briefly went into an altered state of consciousness as she developed a new set of feelings about her once proud attachment to smoking. Smoking was no longer a statement of Eva's independence and individuality. It was a threat!
As Eva said "No!" in answer to my question, I touched her on the hand for about half a second. She then associated the touch on that specific spot with her fear of death from smoking. Every time I touched that spot, Eva felt the same fear again. Those kinds of associations are called anchors.
After that, I briefly touched the spot that was anchored to Eva's fear on her hand every time that I mentioned smoking, cigarettes, or nicotine. And, that created in her a new association, a fear of smoking. So, that new association literally scared her out of her smoking habit. Eva's belief that "smoking is something that no one could take away from her" became unimportant, even scary. Although, Eva was right. No one took smoking away from her. She stopped smoking because she wanted to live long enough to see her great granddaughter be born. And, she responded to the real threat of death from smoking quite reasonably. It scared her.
Later, Eva was guided into a comfortable state of official hypnosis. I then requested that her unconscious mind develop new choices and behaviors to replace smoking that were much more satisfying and healthy. All that Eva knew was that she stopped smoking, and that she felt just fine. She never needed to consciously come up with new choices or behaviors, because they were developed, and put into action by her unconscious mind.