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Writing For Your Life

Writing for Your Life

Many years ago, 24 to be exact, I had an experience that was very influential. I had a 12 step sponsor at the time who, every time I would present some subject I wanted to discuss and get his advice would ask me, “Did you write about that yet?” My answer, because I didn’t write about anything, was always, “No, I just want to talk to you about it.” Well, one day I visited him and that discussion took place but instead of relenting and engaging in a discussion, he said, “You know what? I am not going to discuss this with you until you have written about it!”

No matter how much I pleaded, he was adamant. I got real upset, stormed out of his house, went to the local supermarket and bought a 5″x7″ spiral notebook and a ballpoint pen. I went home and wrote because I really wanted his advice.

After I wrote a page of “screw you’s”, “how dare he not talk!” and the like, I settled down to write out my original problem about which I was concerned. Lo and behold, when I was finished writing about the problem, the solution popped into my head and I didn’t have to talk to him about it after all.

Little did I know when I was storming out of his house that he had just given me his best advice. I have been writing every night before I go to bed ever since.

Many years later, I took a workshop series on “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron, a seminal work for people interested in improving their creativity. Her first suggested practice is called “Morning Pages.” The assignment is quite simple, write three full-size notebook pages every morning with train-of-thought writing. That is allowing the hand to write what the brain is thinking without editing. Because I had already been writing at night for many years, I quickly embraced this practice. My fellow workshop mates really struggled with this assignment. They reported that it took them hours to finish three pages. That seemed very strange to me because I whipped them out in 45 minutes. After questioning them about how they were writing and comparing that to what I was doing, I got a grasp of the difference. That difference is the key to writing Morning Pages.

Because my Evening Writing was all about dumping my feelings, frustrations, and joys of the day onto the pages, there was no reason to be creative and so I got in the habit of continuous writing until there was nothing more to write about. Along the way, I had established rules for myself concerning this writing. I did not erase or correct anything including misspellings. If it was an obviously poor choice of words, I put a line through it and continued on. The mission was to get it all on paper quickly and go to sleep.

When I started doing Morning Pages, I approached that writing the same way. My fellows were trying to craft a literary work of art, even though the author warned them not to, so they labored over every word and phrase. No wonder it took them so long! So the takeaway from this story is that when doing Morning Pages, once the pen starts writing it does not stop moving until all three pages are done! Period! If I run out of thoughts then I will describe the comfort of the pen and how smoothly the ink is flowing (I have now graduated to gel pens!), just write gibberish, or curse me out for ever committing to this exercise, but through all of that, the pen does not stop.

This is an important part of doing the exercise. To understand why, we need to remember how the inner and outer minds function. Sometimes the outer mind is called the left brain or logical mind, and the inner mind the right brain , or creative one. I like the simplicity of using inner and outer minds. All creativity and exquisite action comes from the inner mind. The outer mind, when it is not busy guarding and protecting all the inner mind’s operating programs, acts as the editor of all actions. It is the part that worries about what other people will think, if things make sense and if the spelling is correct. It operates in real time, meaning very slowly.

The inner mind computes at the speed of thought, a gazillion times faster than the outer mind. Any time a person is operating at their exquisite best, like a champion basketball player at the top of his game, you can bet that his outer mind is not engaged and he is operating exclusively from his inner mind.

The same goes for writing and other creative arts. The purpose of keeping the pen moving is that it is moving faster than the outer mind can keep up with, so eventually, it stops trying to and gets out of the way. At that point, pure thought and action start spilling out of the creative inner mind and onto the paper. What you are currently reading was produced exactly in this manner. Because I have been doing this practice for years, all I have to do is start writing and I am immediately in that flow of creativity.

I find that my Evening Writing and my Morning Pages are a great pair of practices. Before I go to sleep, I write my Evening Writing, in bed (use a ball-point pen, so if you fall asleep with the pen in your hand it won’t drain into your sheets). That writing allows me to clear my mind of all the accumulated feelings and noise of the day. Once it is written, that infernal loop of self-talk ceases and I can get to sleep. If I have written about a problem, by morning I usually have a solution. Because my mind is clear, I get a good night’s sleep so I wake refreshed and eager to see just what my inner creative mind will produce in my Morning Pages. Just like washing and showering wakes the body up, Morning Pages wakes the mind up. If you are not looking to be a writer, this exercise is still useful because it gets all the creative juices flowing and sets one up for a marvelous day!

©2012, rev. 2018, Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV

[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, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com 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 is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. 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 jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

Why People Buy Expensive Programs and Don’t Use Them

In the following video, Tony Robbins interviews two very successful internet marketers who are baffled by the number of people who buy their high-end courses and do not use them. Tony is right on with his explanation of their lack of following through. When Tony talks about negative belief systems and lack of certainty those are all products of low self-esteem. If that is you and would like to work on your inner mind so that you can easily follow through, contact me. I have guided hundreds of clients through the journey to great self-esteem. To aid in that process, I have put together a guide to enhancing self-esteem that includes many winning techniques that have worked for me and my clients. You can read that on this website at the Esteem Building Techniques page.

©2018, Jason Wittman, MPS

[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, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com 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 is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. 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 jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

The Stop! Technique to effectively interrupting negative self-talk

The Stop! Technique

There’s a wonderful technique for effectively interrupting negative self-talk and getting you back on a positive track. As with most techniques and methods I write about this is one I use for myself. Before I describe the “Stop Technique,” itself, I need to set the stage, so to speak, by explaining what is going on in the mind when negative self-talk is incessantly occurring.

Although I am sure that brain scientists would not be able to find in their research what I am about to describe, I find this is a useful way to explain what is going on in our minds when negative thoughts abound. The mind operates like a committee of parts (or voices.) Each part has specific tasks that it is responsible for. Some of the prime players are the creative part, that invents new ways of doing things and the protective part, that wants to make sure that the person will remain OK and will do whatever it thinks is necessary to protest the being t keep it safe. It is this latter one that sometimes, in an effort to ensure that we remain OK will go to extremes. I view all the parts as benevolent in that they are doing what they do because they think they are acting in our best self-interests. Sometimes though, the methods they adopt and utilize to achieve their goals are lousy ones.

For instance, the part that keeps folks smoking cigarettes actually has good intentions. It wants the smoker to be at ease while being alert as well as giving him something to do with his hands in uncomfortable social situations. Cigarettes do all of those things but unfortunately, the smoker gets slowly destroyed in the process. Good intention – lousy choice of method.

The same is true for that part that keeps generating negative self-talk and paranoid thoughts. Its good intention is to protect the person against doing or thinking anything that might lead to failure or disappointment. A lousy method though because it causes inaction or over-cautiousness which can produce that ultimate failure that it wanted to prevent.

With this in mind, here is the “Stop Technique.” When I become aware that that part of the mind is engaged in incessant negative self-talk or conjuring up doomsday scenarios about current activities, potential partners or current projects, I engage the three-part “Stop Technique.”

The first thing I do is, either out loud or to myself if there are others present, to say, forcefully, “STOP!” I say it in the same voice as if I wanted to command a child who keeps nagging and nagging me to do something for him to the point that I am ready to do grave bodily damage, to shut up. As I say “STOP!” I take my hand, palm forward and push it out and down (towards the little demon). I say and do this with enough force and positive intention that it will get the child, or in our case, the mind, to stop making noise at least for the moment.

Step two is to use this period of silence to take a deep breath and go inside and talk to that part of the mind that is generating the negativity. Acknowledge and thank it for its good intention and let it know that you received and considered its messages. Then invite the part to quietly observe how your new ways of doing things are working out, letting it know that it could always, in the future point out impending problems, but at this point, just observing without comment would be appreciated.

The final step in this process is to say to yourself, “Now where was I?” which will bring you and your attention back to whatever footwork you were doing before the negative thoughts or voices interrupted that process.

This may work for you that first time through. The chances are, though, it might take repeated efforts before the inner mind understands that you will no longer be sidetracked by negative thoughts.

©2018, 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, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com 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 is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. 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 jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

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 is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com 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 is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. 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 jason@stage2recovery.com 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 when the quest 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, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com 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 is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. 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 jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

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!

©2009,  rev. ©2016, Jason Wittman, MPS)

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*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com 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 is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. 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 jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408