A Common Sense Proposal for Preventing “Revenge” & “Pay-Back Time” School Shootings 

A Common Sense Proposal for Preventing “Revenge” & “Pay-Back Time” School Shootings 

~Comments on the causes of school shootings and a call for zero tolerance for Teasing, Taunting, Ridicule and Bullying (TTRB) and the teaching of self-esteem.~

By Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV

I originally wrote this article, just after the Santana High School shooting in Santee, CA in March 2001. I thought then and still do that the press concentrating on “guns in schools” and “bullying” stories are talking about symptoms (guns) and only part of the problem (bullying). There has been many years and numerous school shootings since the shootings at Columbine High School and now there is yet another and far worse shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. While I am absolutely for getting AR-15s and their like off the market and in no way do I want to detract attention from the student’s wonderful campaign, without also making the significant changes I outline here, it doesn’t seem like much has changed to change the chances of future catastrophes. It is the same old speculative explanations and remedies that have not worked to date. Once again, I offer my suggestions that are based on a lifetime of successfully working with marginalized kids. Please take note:

When 15-year-old Andy Williams opened fire on the students of Santana High School in Santee, CA, on Monday, March 6, 2007, he fulfilled the hidden desires of, and became an instant hero to, millions of school kids across the country, as did Eric and Dylan, the Columbine High shooters, before him.  If this statement horrifies you, please read on.

By all the newspaper and TV accounts, Andy was a marginal, ridiculed, picked on, quite passive, “disaffected and unhappy boy, frequently taunted by his peers.” He was called “country boy” and the king of all taunts, “gay.” His classmates described him as “a twerp, skinny, and very quiet.” He laughed off verbal and even physical abuse and never fought back. He was beginning to drink and use drugs to fit in with the crowd. This is much the same profile as the other kids who shot up their schools. It is also the profile of millions of other school kids. Sure, most of them would never do what he did. Fear of the consequences and moral, religious and ethical convictions would have mitigated such a solution. They would just continue to suffer in silence. But to most of them, even to their own horror, the thought, accompanied by a slight smile, of “Pay-back Time!” might have crossed their minds.

In the Columbine High shootings, the press reported at the time that student said the shooters, Eric and Dylan, were continually harassed because of the perception that they were gay. They were regularly called “faggots.” I was able to confirm that they were, in fact, under continual pressure for being gay in a conversation with a gay youth in Denver who knew them.

Today, as for the last 45+ years, I work with teens and young adults, many of whom fit this profile. Probably why I relate so well with them is that at their age I, too, fit that profile. I was a scrawny, twerp, teased about big ears, large feet and being too smart. I would have probably been labeled “gay” if the word had been in use then. I laughed off their taunts and never fought back, per my Mother’s instructions. Fortunately, I found the protective shelter of the high school drama club and its caring teacher/advisor and by spending lots of time with adults.

The part of my high school experience and how I coped with it, that is most germane to this discussion is that, on many a night, I can remember going to sleep while fantasizing the torture and destruction of my tormentors. Fortunate for me and them, the social controls on kids growing up in the late 1950’s, the total lack of support and role models for such action, no guns in our household and my own lack of confidence to even pull off a decent suicide made turning that fantasy into a reality an impossibility. Today, though, kids with these feelings and fantasies have the means, the role models, the support from some of the darker parts of pop culture, and either active or tacit support of their peers. This is why an immediate preventative action plan is needed.

Addressing bullying is not enough. Bullying’s three cousins in harassment; Teasing, Taunting, and Ridicule, are different enough and just as much of a problem to the victims to be worthy of addressing on their own right. Ridicule, incidentally, is what teachers do. When I was in high school, it was usually the gym teachers. When teachers ridicule students it presents a negative role model and gives tacit permission for students to continue to engage in teasing, ridicule, taunting and bullying (TTRB).

After these school shootings, the question is always why did the shooters randomly kill innocent bystanders, people that were not their tormentors? The reason is that because many or most of the bystanders by laughing at them being harassed, were no longer viewed as “innocent” but rather as accessories. The victim no longer is focusing on just the perpetrators of the teasing, taunting and bullying,  but also those who supported the harassment by laughing or not intervening. At that point, the victim’s internal dialog goes from “Billy (or Johnny or the ridiculing teacher) won’t leave me alone!” to “They won’t leave me alone!” and everyone becomes a target for retribution.

Since the shootings in Santee, the usual suggestions for preventing another such tragedy have been offered in the media. As usual, they miss the mark now as they have in the past. The Santee school system had in place all of the most up to date solutions, they had an anti-violence program, adult monitors, all sorts of contingency plans, the works. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. So what will work? I have two suggestions based on over 35 years of working with teenagers. The first one is easy to implement. The second is a long-term solution that will not only deal with this issue but will most probably greatly reduce teen use of alcohol and drugs.

Suggestion #1 is to institute in every school, starting with pre-school, a policy of zero tolerance for teasing, taunting, ridicule and bullying (TTRB). In the adult workplace, today, a slightly off-color or sexual remark can legally be the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit. However, on school campuses teasing is dealt with, if it is dealt with at all, by attempts at fortifying the coping skills of the victim. I have no quarrel with those efforts and my second suggestion is probably the most effective way to do that, but they are secondary to stopping the aggression, period! “Boys will be boys” will no longer do. Kids can get kicked out of school under the zero gun policy just for pointing their finger like it is a gun at another student. Schools need to be at least as strict in dealing with those who verbally assault their fellow students. Principals, school officials, teachers, other responsible adults and fellow students that tolerate any degree of teasing, taunting and harassment or who join in or initiate the ridicule of a student must be held accountable. Zero tolerance for teasing, ridicule, taunting and bullying (TTRB) AND the failure to report or stop such activities, must become the enforced norm in all schools.

When the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County, Calif. became the first school system to modify its zero-tolerance policy, they defined such harassment as “any gestures, comments, threats or actions…which cause or threaten to cause…bodily harm or personal degradation.” Strict adoption of this kind of policy, nationwide, will go a long way to eliminating most campus violence including playground fistfights.

Suggestion #2 is to teach self-esteem and self-love to all students starting in pre-school. My experience working with teenagers over the years has lead me to believe that lack of self-esteem and love is the root cause of most, if not all, of student problems including, under-achieving, substance abuse and addictions, acting out behaviors and especially campus violence. The bully, taunter and teaser does so in an effort to compensate for and to fix an emptiness inside by putting someone else down. People who love themselves have no need to oppress others. Kids, who do love themselves, have more resilience to the negativity of their peers. They also are less likely to get caught up in abusive relationships and will be more likely to seek out as partners, those who also have an excess of self-love to share.

How to teach self-esteem and love is the subject of many books and articles, including this one from me. There is, though, a very effective, ultra-simple and best of all, no-cost solution for teaching self-esteem and self-love. Everyone that I have ever taught this to, from pre-schoolers to adults, has experienced huge improvements. This is one thing that assisted me the most build my self-esteem and love. Here is the description of how to teach it, followed by why I believe it is so effective:

“From now on, every time you see your reflection in a mirror, you MUST smile AND say one nice thing about yourself. This nice thing is something you already know that is good about you. It can be a physical thing, but even better if it is an internal goodness, like being considerate or sharp-witted. It is not an affirmation, which is something you would like to believe about yourself and say repetitiously until, hopefully, it sinks in. The other part of this exercise is that if you use the mirror to beat yourself up, you must say two nice things for every nasty one!

This exercise works because it develops a new habit of saying nice things to oneself, which automatically leads to self-love. Most people with low self-love and esteem have a well-developed habit of beating themselves up verbally (and sometimes physically). Perfectionists are the masters of this because they will always perform below their expectations. When this new habit of smiling and saying nice things to oneself replaces the old self-deprecating one, a new person emerges. A side benefit is that one can’t smile and feel down at the same time, so these periodic, face-induced smiles can help break a downward emotional slide.

An important side benefit of the zero-tolerance policy for teasing, taunting, ridicule and bullying is a climate that is conducive to building self-esteem and self-love. This will be especially true if the policy includes the school staff. Public ridicule from teachers both sets a bad example and destroys the recipient’s self-esteem.

Now is one of those windows of opportunities when school districts can really do something that will positively affect the quality of life on their school campuses. Immediately adopting my zero tolerance suggestion will so drastically change the campus atmosphere that the need for the picked-upons to engage in any form of retribution or “Pay-Back Time” will be virtually eliminated. Quick implementation of these suggestions will ensure that no more lives are needlessly lost.

©2001/ rev. 2018, Jason Wittman, MP:S

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman, MPS has worked extensively with at-risk teens and young adults for over 40 years. He has founded and run youth counseling programs and residential addiction treatment programs. Currently, he has a Counseling and Coaching private practice. His practice, focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best.

He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He is the published author of “The Street Shrink Chronicles” and the forthcoming, “Winning at Life.

He can be contacted at or 213-804-4408


Tagged: #adolescence  •  #adolescents  •  #Boy Code  •  #bullying  •  #Dr. William Pollack  •  #family  •  #Parenting  •  #parenting skills  •  #parenting teens  •  #parents  •  #parents of teens  •  #Ridicule & Bullying  •  #school shootings  •  #Taunting  •  #Teasing  •  #teenage boys  •  #Education  •  #Shared responsibility  •  #Better future

The Benefits of Personal Writing

The Benefits of Personal Writing

I was dragged into doing personal writing kicking and screaming
all the way. Many years ago, I had a mentor with whom I would
meet to talk about what was going on in my life. He was someone
that I called upon to assist me to sort out my current concerns.
When I would pose a problem I was having to him, he would
usually reply by asking me if I had written about the problem.
My reply would be no and I just wanted to talk to him about it.
This became the regular verbal dance we did every time we spoke,
until one day when he answered my question with, “I’ll tell you
what, I am not going to discuss this with you until you go home
and write about it!” No amount of protestations would get him to
budge. I was more than quite peeved, to say the least,
(actually, since this is the PG version, I can only say the least).

On the way home, I stopped at my neighborhood stationery store
and bought one of those 6×9 spiral notebooks and a ballpoint
pen and, still fuming, wrote out my problem. For
some reason, once I wrote out the problem the solution became
quite obvious. He was right; the first step to problem-solving
is writing it out. I have been writing ever since. Twenty years
and many filled notebooks later, I still have a spiral notebook
with a pen sitting in the spiral, tucked into my mattress so I
can write in it, in bed, before I retire every night.

I journal the events of the day, my feelings about those events
and my feelings at that moment about me and the other cast
members in that play called “my life.” It is a real taking stock
type of exercise. It is an automatic writing exercise. What my
mind is thinking my hand is writing. My conscious mind is an
idle observer of this process. Spelling and grammar are of
little importance. I do not erase or blot out anything. If
something needs correcting because it was the wrong word it gets
a single line through it and the pen moves on. Since I started
doing this type of writing, I have found that I get to sleep
faster because my mind no longer replays the day and my
feelings, over and over again. For some reason, once it goes
down on the paper, my mind can let go of the thought. Also, I
notice that if I wrote down some problem that was of concern to
me, I usually wake up with the answer. Doing this writing on a
daily basis keeps me constantly in touch with my progress on the
projects I am doing, allows me to fine tune the game plans to
make winning more of a possibility and keeps me in touch with
feelings so that there is less chance that my judgment will be
clouded by them. My strong suggestion would be to put doing
nightly writing high on your “to do” list.

Years ago, I participated in a workshop that
followed the suggestions of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
The book’s first suggestion is to write three, full-sized
notebook pages first thing every morning. She calls this “the
Morning Pages.” It is also a train-of-thought, automatic writing
exercise. The difference between this one and my night time
writing is that this is not intended to be a journal. It has no
parameters and no boundaries. It is a vehicle for creativity to
abound. It can be anything the mind wants to produce; writing,
poetry, drawing, whatever. Only three caveats are that it must be
three pages, it ought to be the first activity of the day and written
automatic writing style (which is my addition to Julia’s Morning
Papers prescription).

Automatic writing style means that once the writing starts the pen
must keep writing until the three pages are completed. The
difference between this writing and the evening writing is that with
the evening writing the pen is automatically recording the current,
conscious thoughts that are endlessly looping around the brain.
With this writing, the object is to get beyond the conscious thoughts
and allow pure thought and knowledge to pour out of the inner mind.

The outer (conscious) mind wants to edit, make perfect and is not
very creative. It also is fairly slow, so by writing continuously until the
three pages are finished, even if what is being written is nonsense
such as talking about the weather, describing how wonderfully the
ink is flowing out of the pen or cursing me for introducing you to this
exercise, you will eventually exceed the ability of the outer mind to
keep up. At that point, it will get out of the way and let pure creative
thought pour out of the inner mind and onto the paper. Having done
this exercise for a long time, this is how all my writing, including this
writing, is done. My outer, editing, mind is trained to get out of the
way from the moment I start writing. It knows that it will have an
opportunity to review the writing later on, so it is content to a
assume the silent observer

I am finding that when I am finished writing my mind is fully engaged
and I am totally ready to take on the rest of the day. Prior to
doing these Morning Papers, it was maybe noon before my mind was
up to speed. Quite a difference! This writing requires more
preplanning of schedules than the night writing because it takes
me about an hour in the morning. I am now going to bed an hour
earlier so that I can do the writing without pushing my day an
hour back. That is a total revolution for this former night
person which in itself is a testament to the benefits of writing
the Morning Papers. By the way, both this article and the
Communications Skill article flowed out of my pen and onto the
“Morning Pages,” an effortless and highly creative way of
writing. Write On!

©2007, rev. 2018, Jason Wittman

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long
 as this notice and the "About the Author and the copyright 
information are included.]

*About The Author*
 Jason Wittman, M.P.S. (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) 
has been in private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 
40 years. His practice, 
focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, 
who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live 
at their exquisite best. He has his master’s degree from Cornell 
University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & 
alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of 
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). 

He can be contacted at or 213-804-4408


The Quest for Greater Spirituality

The Quest for Greater Spirituality

One of the primary reasons why people have trouble finding God is that they are looking in the wrong places. They are looking for an external God. One who resides in the heavens, the Universe, the waves, in the group and in other people or spiritual leaders. They would way more easily find God by looking inside themselves.

Early in my spiritual journey, I grasped the concept that if I would just get out of the way, I would be able to tap into that repository of Universal truth and knowledge, The God Source, and pure thought and action could then flow through me and out into the world through everything I do. Only when I am not connected to that God Source am I floundering and in discontent.

The Old Testament talks about following “that still, small voice inside.” The pure thought that flows from The God Source and into me is that “still, small voice.”  Our conscience, that intuitively lets us know what is right and wrong is a conscious manifestation of that Source.

Spirituality is misdirected when the quest for it is to some external connection or cure. If God resides in us, in that still, small voice, then the quest for greater spirituality involves clearing out all of our emotional baggage which has accumulated from a lifetime of being cut off from that direct pipeline to that Source of Universal Truth and Knowledge. Without clearing out that baggage, not only will the quest fail, but also there is a great chance that those failures will trigger a succession of maladaptive behaviors in the form of all the addictions and probably many of the mental health issues to cover up the accumulated hurt.

The most effective way to clear out the accumulated emotional baggage and garbage is by rigorously doing the fourth through tenth steps of the 12 Steps. They are better tools for doing this than any therapeutic processes I know. They are the perfect set of tools to allow the inner mind to permanently deal with and release all the past hurts, traumas, guilts and resentments that here-to-for acted like negative filters on the glasses through which life was viewed. Decisions based on that crappy view of life resulted in crappy decisions on how to act and what behaviors to choose. It is not a coincidence that the eleventh step, the spirituality step, comes after the gut clearing steps are accomplished.

One of the rules of the mind is that the Inner Mind (formerly called the subconscious mind) does not know pasts from futures, so even if something in one’s life happened years ago, the Inner Mind thinks of it as happening today, now. It does, however, know the difference between incomplete and completed actions or events. Once the Inner Mind accepts that an occurrence is over and is completed, it can let go of it, no longer viewing it as current information. Steps 4-10 are highly effective as tools to assist the Inner Mind to be able to put past events, traumas feelings, and guilts in the “completed” file so it can then be 100% focused on the present.

The search for greater spirituality is the search for spirit. Spirit is manifested internally through self-love/self-esteem, so the search for greater spirituality is fulfilled we will be in a state of high self-love, self-esteem and self-acceptance. Attainment of that state is what I believe AA Founder, Bill Wilson had in mind when he wrote about emotional sobriety.

©2016, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at or

Planning on Stopping Smoking or Other Not So Good Habits? Here are Some Useful Suggestions

Planning on Stopping Smoking or Other Not So Good
Habits? Here are Some Useful Suggestions

It’s almost the first of the year when, for some strange reason human beings go through a curious ritual of making resolutions to change those things that didn’t work out during the just concluded year. The problem is that they might have all sorts of good intentions when they make those resolutions, but they lack most of the internal tools to keep the resolve up long enough to have any success. It’s one thing to acknowledge that a behavior has not been working in our best behalf and it’s another thing to let go of that behavior and all the short term goodies, sometimes referred to as secondary gains, that were derived from that behavior. It’s the biggest thing of all to actually make the changes.

For most folks, this won’t be the first time that they made these same resolutions. After many attempts that ended in failure there is a part of their inner mind that is as negatively powerful as the undesirable behavior. That part has a voice that says, “So what is going to be different this time? It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s just going to end in disaster as usual.”  Variations of this mantra will show up in one’s internal conversations. Sometimes it will manifest itself nonverbally as defeatist behaviors such as procrastination or flat out giving up. One way or another, unless this part becomes convinced that the desired change is winnable, it will sabotage all efforts.

What follows are some concrete suggestions for how to use your mind to successfully assist you to once and for all win the resolution game. Although I am talking about stopping the use of tobacco products, the suggestions are equally applicable to any habit you might want to change.

One of the most resolutioned behaviors is the use of tobacco products. These days with fewer people smoking, a more health conscious population whose tolerance for second hand smoke is at an all time low, and smoking banned from all public places and public transportation, the external pressure is on to stop. External pressures, on their own, are not usually enough to get one to resolve to stop. But all that pressure on top of becoming aware of the deteriorating condition of their lungs, as evidenced by smoker’s coughs and frequent colds, makes it hard to ignore that nagging feeling that maybe the jig is up and that they had better quit now before it is too late. 

Tobacco is the perfect drug. Its ingredients are both a stimulant, nicotine, and a calmative agent, acetaldehyde (the first metabolite of alcohol and the probable cause of hangovers). It is a literal smoke screen and it gives one something to do with hands. What more could you want? Well, maybe, the ability to breathe fully and live long. The problem is that those are long term goals and they are usually trumped by short term gains because the emotional costs of giving up those short term gains are too painful to withstand. Until the cost of the short term gains become too high or are satisfied by other means, smoking will remain as an entrenched habit.

If you are one of those who is resolved to be successful this time, here are a couple of my most useful tips:

A lot of folks use nicotine replacement aids, like the patch, to make the process easier. They work. The main reason they work has less to do with withdrawing from the nicotine — the body will be detoxed after a couple of weeks of abstinence — than giving the inner mind three months to get used to functioning without the physical act of smoking. 

If you are going to be using patches or some other type of nicotine replacement source like nicotine gum, you should know the physical addiction to nicotine would be over in a matter of weeks if one was to just quit cold-turkey. The main reason why the course of treatment with patches lasts for three months is two-fold. The first is that reducing the amount of nicotine in the system in increments gradually makes it less of a jolt to the system than cold-turkey. A sudden jolt could produce sufficient anxiety to trigger the urge to resume smoking. Furthermore, an even more important reason why the patches are used for three months has to do with the other part of smoking, the secondary gains or payoffs. There will be three month of break from the physical habit of smoking during which time the person will have the opportunity to develop new behaviors that will more responsibly satisfy those needs. A third and most important reason has to do with how the inner, or sub-conscious, mind works. 

The inner mind will automatically carry out whatever programs it thinks are normal and natural. After smoking for an extended period of time, the inner mind thinks that smoking is the normal program and will do everything it can to carry that program out. The longer one stays away from the physical act of smoking the better the chance of the inner mind understanding that just breathing air is the new normal program. Once it gets that that is the new program, the urge to smoke will be gone. 

It is very important to understand the concept that the longer the time away from the physical act of smoking, the more solid will be the inner minds adaption of the new behavior. Many people will have a cigarette every once in a while during the three months of the nicotine patch program. Every time they do that, they are effectively starting from scratch in the campaign to get the inner mind to adopt the new behavior. In coaching folks who are using nicotine substitutes to stop smoking, I have found that the success rate is way lower for those who occasionally smoked during the three months than for those who stayed cigarette free.

Regardless of what method one uses to stop smoking, those who daily visualize about their new tobacco-free lives have the most success.  The easiest way to do this type of visualization is to make yourself comfortable in an environment where you will not be disturbed. Take some nice, deep breaths letting them out slowly. As you take the breaths in, notice the parts of your body that are a bit tense and tighten the muscles in those areas even more. Then, as you let the breaths out let those muscles relax. Doing that regularly will teach the inner mind to associate slow, deep breaths with body relaxation. If you have problems with this exercise, email me and I will send you a free MP3 download called “Conditioning for Self-Hypnosis” that is a real good progressive relaxation training.

Once you are in a relaxed state, you can then run a little mental movie in which you visualize how you are now living a smoke free life. For each scenario where you used to use tobacco products, picture and imagine yourself easily, confidently, and happily doing that activity tobacco-free and notice how great it feels to be able to breathe freely again. Notice how much money you are now able to save or whatever are the reasons why you decided to become tobacco-free. The important ingredient of this visualization is that it needs to be done in the present tense, i.e.: “I am having……” rather than, “I will have…..” The inner mind does not distinguish past from future and only operates in the now so, even though it seems like a strange construction, say, “The next time I am in a social situation, I am totally at ease…” It works the best. 

The other oddity of the how the inner mind operates is that it drops out of the sentence any negative modifiers, such as “not.” If you were to visualize “I am in this social situation where in the past I would have always smoked and now I am not smoking…” the inner mind will drop the word “not” out of that sentence and will hear it as “and now I am smoking.” Since English is usually spoken in negatives and double negatives, i.e.: “He is not unkind,” it really takes practice to be able to do a visualization totally using positive descriptors. 

As a hypnotherapist, I have always known that what you imagine gets realized. As far back as the Old Testament, Job says, “What I imagined is upon me!” There is a famous study of basketball players practicing free throws where one group physically practiced doing free throws for a period of time while another group did not do anything physically — instead, only repeatedly visualized making perfect free throws. The group what did the visualization had the most improvement! This works, and if you regularly regarding visualize a life beyond tobacco, you will greatly up the chances of success. 

Until the inner mind understands that smoking and the use of tobacco products is a thing of the past, thoughts will regularly occur that call for and urge you to indulge. Since it is impossible to block anything from one’s mind, the easiest way to deal with these thoughts is to acknowledge that they are there and thank that part of you that keeps bringing it up for sharing. Then remember what you were doing before the thought and go back to doing it. For persistent urges, when that voice won’t shut up, I suggest using the following NLP technique:  

Since most people compartmentalize their mind when they describe what’s going on inside by giving each part a voice as in, “There’s a part of me that won’t…..” I find it useful to use that self-description as a way of explaining how the process of changing out of the smoking habit works.

As strange as this seems, there is no part of you that is trying to do you in. All parts of you have good intention, even that part that keeps you using tobacco products.  They are simply attempting to satisfy your needs. The problem comes with the behaviors that some of those parts adapt to satisfy those needs. This is a very important distinction because it takes the fight, that internal, infernal battle, out of the recovery equation. Once we have acknowledged that the part keeps us using has only the best intention for us, we can start an internal conversation where we can thank that part for its concern and intention, and then suggest that it might help us explore other ways of satisfying those intentions — the ones that also allow the other parts whose intentions are to keep the body healthy, wealthy and well — to be able to support the new behavior.

The way the internal dialog or conversation would go is something like this: “Thank you very much for your wanting the best for me. Right now I am working on other ways of satisfying those needs you are so concerned about. So, for the time being I would love your support in my explorations for more effective and healthier ways of caring out your good intentions. I welcome your feedback as we try out these new ways. I only ask you to give these new ways a good trial run before judging their effectiveness. I am told that six months would be a fair trial period. I know that since you have my best interests in mind that you will be totally on board to explore even better ways of getting your intentions met then that of smoking. Thank you…Now where was I?” That last question will bring you back to what you were doing before the thought of having a smoke or chew entered your mind. This conversation is an important one to have both before starting a tobacco-free life style and regularly during the initial stages of the withdrawal process. Another way of saying that is “what you resist persists.” The best way to stop negative thoughts is to acknowledge them and then get back to the new thinking. That is what that internal conversation accomplishes.

This all might sound silly at first until we realize that we regularly talk to ourselves. Unfortunately most of that talk is negative, especially when it comes to ceasing bad habits. There are a lot of positive payoffs or benefits that are derived from bad habits so the part that controls that habit will fiercely fight for the habit to continue until it understands that the habit is no longer needed to provide the benefits. 

In the case of smoking, there are a lot of payoffs or benefits – nicotine is a stimulant; the second most active ingredient, acetaldehyde, is a calming agent; the smoke, itself provides a literal “smoke screen to ease social discomfort; and the physical act of smoking, the moving of the cigarette to the mouth and back down again and again, gives the hands something to do when doing nothing with the hands is socially uncomfortably.

This process of acknowledging the intention of the controlling part of the mind, and enlisting its cooperation in exploring new methods and behaviors to still achieve the payoffs that the old habit provided, is a great technique because it utilizes the internal conversation that most people already use to explain why they are defeated from achieving their goals by their own mind and turns it into a positive force for change.

Some people find it quite helpful to have a counselor/coach to talk to as they go through this process. The inner mind work is much easier to do with a coach as a guide. Having gone through this process myself, I understand the feelings, the emotions, and what it takes to win. So call me!

Original copyright ©2009, Jason Wittman (rev. ©2016, Jason Wittman, MPS)

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*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at or