Smokers often feel deeply entwined with their smoking – “It’s who I am”. This makes any threat to their smoking (“You should stop smoking!”) feel like a very personal threat.
After all if someone subconsciously feels ‘smoking is who I am’ and you ‘threaten’ to stop them smoking that’s akin to threatening a core part of them as a person!
To motivate smokers to quit, they need to be helped to extract the smoking from their core identity.
3 ways to detach the smoking from the smoker
- “How does that smoking convince you to smoke, even when you’d said you wouldn’t?”
- “What messages does the smoking feed you about why you should keep on letting it push you around?”
- “How did smoking get you to believe you need it?”
Note that none of these examples uses the words ‘your smoking’. The use of ‘your’ tends to strengthen the link with core identity. It’s all about ‘the smoking’ or, even better, ‘that smoking’. Just this simple language change starts to separate the person from the smoking and lets them turn their resources against it.
3 smoke-busting metaphors to help things along
- A parasite appears to be part of the host organism but in reality undermines its very existence. Just like smoking steals away wealth, youth, looks, the very cells of the body. Even years of life.
- In abusive relationships, the abusive partner destroys confidence and self-respect, all the while convincing their victim that they couldn’t live without them.
- Smoking can disguise itself as a friend, someone you can relax with, console yourself with when times are rough, have a drink with, but… how many real friends eventually turn around and stab you in the back?
In fact, I might spend more time talking about the patterns of abusive relationships, only subtly or occasionally linking it to smoking. Ultimately, we don’t force people to quit smoking – we just provide the ‘climate’ within which it feels right and natural to jettison the old habit and live freely.
The person is not the problem, the problem is not the person
So, to help someone take smoking out of their image of who they are:
- Keep smoking and the person separate in your own mind
- Use careful language to detach the smoking from who the person is at every opportunity.
Smoking masquerades as the person whilst ruining them from the inside. It’s a myth that someone ‘has to want to stop’ because everybody….everybody…already does. All you need to do is help a person feel more associated to the parts that want to be free…the lungs, heart, cells and feel disassociated from the conniving parasite that convinces smokers it is part of who they are.
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