General

Breaking habits

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By Willem Lammers

Hi list,

Here is a format I use with addictive behaviors -especially smokers. It has also proved its value in a few clients with extremely severe asthma attacks and with bulimic clients. I worked it out for smokers but you may just replace "smoking" with "eating", "drinking" or any other (un)pleasant habit.

Step 1.

Check the motivation to stop and treat PR.

Step 2.

Find out why people smoke beyond the usual answers, like "I cannot do without it", or "When others smoke, I can't resist". Usually, the smoking behavior is a reaction to a kinesthetic stimulus, which is located between the throat and the stomach: a tingling feeling, a vibration. You can definitely identify this craving stimulus by asking: "If you would not have this bodily feeling, would you light your cigarette? and the answer is "no".

Comment: Usually people are not aware that their habit is based on one clearly identifiable bodily stimulus. They usually attribute it to factors in the environment and to stress. That the stress activates a very definite internal mechanism, is new to them.

Step 3.

You can use the usual EFT sequence now for the craving stimulus. However, in psychotherapy, the following procedure has turned out to be much more effective:

Ask the client to concentrate on the craving feeling and to go back in time, keeping the feeling in mind, and go back to situations in his/her earlier life, where he/she has experienced this specific bodily sensation. Make notes of all the stations on the way to the first experience of the "craving" feeling. Check the 0 to 10 intensity for each situation. Let the client go back to the first occasion, where this sensation was present and stay with the sensation. The first one is reached when the question: "Did you know that feeling before that age, that occasion?" is answered negatively.

Comment:

Usually the client identifies a number of occasions where he/she was under high pressure and lighted a cigarette. When the client is asked to go back further, similar situations are reported, with a strong emotional component. Sometimes, the first incident is connected to the first cigarette: A man who saw two people on a motorcycle being killed in a road accident, was offered a cigarette by another bystander. He kept smoking to avoid intrusive images and learned to use cigarettes to control other negative emotions.

Going back with the "craving" feeling to ages before the onset of the smoking behavior puts the craving feeling in a new light, because it confronts the client with the fact that this sensation has not always been a sign to light up a cigarette. This creates a solid cognitive base for the following steps.

Step 4.

Continue to work on the first situation in life with which the client came up. Usually this is a traumatic situation in which the client as a child did not understand the world any more, was left alone or was abused. Common in all incidents is that the client did not get support from the people who should have taken care for him.

Identify what is the most traumatic in the situation, check the 0 to 10 intensity, correct PR and apply EFT for this incident.

Comment:

It is important to identify which aspects of the incident are most traumatizing for the client. It might may be different from what would be traumatic for you as a therapist. E.g. in a situation of child sexual abuse, seeing the eyes of a mother looking at the abuse without stopping it might be much more traumatic than the actual physical abuse. Different sensory aspects of the physical abuse may vary in importance. Some people react more to what they see or feel, others to what they hear, taste or smell. Where it's possible to shut off experiences of genital stimulation, this might not be possible to other forms of abuse, especially oral.

Step 5.

After reducing the 0 to 10 intensity for the initial incident, go through the "craving stations" the client identified before, one after the other. Usually, the 0 to 10 intensity of these situations are reduced by the work on the initial one. The connection between the craving symptom and smoking will be considerably weakened by the time more recent incidents are revisited.

Comment:

It is important to leave enough time between stations. A lot of processing happens when the client remembers the different occasions where the craving response showed up. In re-remembering each occasion after the extinction of the negative emotions of the first one, cognitive integration takes place. This may be very surprising for the client. Leave time for this to happen.

Step 6.

Let the client think about the future and occasions in which there is a risk for falling back into the habit. Teach the EFT sequence so the client could use in those situations.

Step 7.

Enjoy.

Willem Lammers

 

 

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