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A case where cigarette cravings turned out to be a form of self-punishment

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

In this wide ranging case by Leonard Thornton from Canada, it was discovered that an ex-smoker's intense daily cravings for cigarettes were a disguise for a deeper need to self-punish. EFT was applied to the punishment need and the cravings disappeared. Excellent detective work involved here.

Hugs, Gary

By Leonard Thornton, Ph.D

Hi Gary,

I would like to briefly present a very interesting experience with a client recently who came to me for a series of 5 sessions.  Lara (not her real name) wanted to learn about EFT for herself and to help the students at her school where she was a first aid worker.  She also had to deal with many of her own teenage traumas.

We started our first session, after talking about EFT and Energy Medicine, with the constricted breathing procedure.  I have found this is generally a great lead-in to many problems and stresses which might have contributed to constrictions in the breathing process.  We start out by identifying the level of constriction on a scale of 0 to 10 and then do the simple set-up; Even though I have this constricted breathing...

We began tapping on the top of the head.  I always ask the individual to pay particular attention to any memories, feelings, body sensations, and to describe these if they wish.  Then, after a round or two, when the constriction has been brought down, I have the client focus on the particular memory or sensation, and do the setup around that and then tap through each one.

In Lara's case it came out that the constriction was strongly related to asthma and trouble breathing.  As we worked though this, Lara became very emotional as she started remembering childhood traumas.  We spent the remainder of the first session dealing with particularly painful memories of growing up in a very abusive family.  To make matters more difficult for Lara, she was the oldest of five children and had developed a very strong sense of responsibility for the protection of her younger siblings.

She had strong feelings of guilt, shame, and even blamed herself for not being able to protect the other children.  This was greatly, but not entirely eliminated in the first session.  Yet at the end Lara was noticeably happier and told me she had always wanted to write a book about abuse to help others, but that the subject had always been too painful for her to go into.  She told me, "Maybe now I will be able to write that book.”

The next two sessions we continued to work with clearing and releasing the many traumas from childhood that kept coming up.  In one of these sessions we uncovered a possible initiating factor in what Lara felt was her weight problem.  At one point I asked her if it was possible that she had made a decision somewhere along the line to make herself unattractive to the attentions of an abusive father. 

Lara recognized right away that in fact she had done this.  As we tapped on this she had precise memory of a time when she was around twelve years old, she had felt her father looking at her body.  Right then and there she said she didn't want him looking at her like that again.  However, there was even guilt around this as Lara now came to believe that her younger sisters would get more attention because of her decision to be less attractive. 

One by one we cleared and released the disturbances in the energy field.  It was very difficult for Lara at times, because these memories were deeply painful and I made sure to keep a box of tissues on hand.  Each session seemed to complete a certain phase of the process and Lara was beginning to feel lighter and happier each time we worked together.

Lara showed up for the fourth session breathing very heavily and informing me that she was all right until she came to my door, when the difficulty suddenly manifested.  I suggested that might mean we had some more work to do around the breathing.  Lara agreed but also said she had other things she wanted to work on and didn't want to take more time with this.  I assured her that we could take care of this and still have enough time for other areas.

As we started working with the heaviness in the breathing, a number of issues came up for Lara around smoking.  I asked her if she ever smoked and Lara said she had but was no longer a smoker and hadn't been for many years.  However, she did own that not a day passed without intense cravings for a cigarette.

Apparently her mother smoked when Lara was a child and Lara herself started around the age of 11.  The real issue for her was her mother's death from lung cancer at the age of 58.  Given her strong sense of super-responsibility (her guilt around not being able to protect her younger siblings)Lara was also carrying a strong sense of responsibility for her mother's death.  She apparently reasoned that her mother died of lung cancer because she, Lara, had also smoked. 

Further adding to her burden of guilt was her strong belief that her sister, now approaching 58, was also going to die of lung cancer and it would be her (Lara's) fault, because she had smoked around her sister even when the sister had begged her not to!

We did several rounds, using setups like, 

Even though I believe I was responsible for my mother's dying of lung cancer and I have this terrible sense of guilt around it... 

Even though I feel guilty because I smoked around my sister even when she begged me not to and I am now worried she will get lung cancer and die like my mother...

As we were doing the rounds with her mother's death, it felt to me that the intense craving Lara still had for cigarettes was a form of self-punishment.  She literally felt and believed she was responsible for her mother's death, and might even be for her sister's, therefore she, Lara, needed to punish herself with continued cravings. 

I, however, said nothing at the time sensing that Lara herself would come up with the same understanding.  Within about 30 seconds Lara suddenly exclaimed, "You know, I think I have been punishing myself with these cravings for cigarettes all this time!"  We both felt elated as this recognition and finished the session in a buoyant mood.  Lara's breathing was back to normal and she was free of a tremendous load of guilt.

When Lara came for the 5th session a week later, she looked very well and happy and when I asked her if she had had any cravings for cigarettes, she replied that she hadn't had one the whole week!  This is especially impressive since we had not tapped at all on smoking and cravings for cigarettes, only on the issues with her mother and her sister. 

We used this final session to clear up any remaining issues Lara had going back to childhood.  We also focused on the EFT process and using it to help others as Lara wanted to do.  I had loaned her my copy of the EFT Manual at the beginning of our sessions and Lara had made herself a copy of it and had been studying it away from our meetings.  In parting, Lara confided that she now felt she would be able to write that book on abuse in families!

As a follow-up, I had occasion to talk to Lara around three months after our last session and also around 5 moths later, and on both meetings I inquired about the cravings and Lara said she had not a one!  When I inquired about the writing of the book she had always wanted to write, Lara said it was coming along fine and that she would never have been able to write it without our sessions.

Although one might argue that Lara's initial addiction to smoking did not spring from self-punishment (although it might have) certainly her later cravings could be seen as stemming more from emotional issues than from any biochemical causes.

A most rewarding and fulfilling experience!


Leonard Thornton, Ph.D


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