By Dr. W. Lammers
Here is my 7 Step Format for addictive behaviors. These steps have also proved to be valuable with clients who suffered from severe asthma attacks and others who were combating eating disorders.
The following 7 steps use words for smokers who are looking to break their smoking habit, but you may just replace [smoking] with [eating], [drinking] or any other [unpleasant habit] that you wish to stop.
The 7 Steps:
Check the motivation to stop and treat any Psychological Reversals.
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.”
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.
You can use the usual EFT tapping 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 SUD Level of Intensity number from 0 to 10 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.
Usually the client identifies a number of occasions where he/she was under high pressure and [lit 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 4-6.
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 their SUD level of intensity number from 0 to 10, correct any Psychological Reversals and apply EFT for this incident.
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.
After reducing the SUD Level of Intensity 0 to 10 number for the initial incident, go through the “craving stations” the client identified before, one after the other. Usually, the 0 to 10 intensity number 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.
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.
Let the client think about the future and occasions in which there is a risk for falling back into the habit. Teach an EFT tapping sequence so the client could use it in those situations.
Even though I feel like [smoking] right now, I deeply and complely accept myself.
Enjoy your tapping to break a habit success.