Eric Van Fossen


So did you ever wonder why you do it? Have you ever asked yourself, “How did I get here?”

It is not a good a feeling, that sense of being trapped by a habit. But you are not trapped. You simply have yet to explore the reasons behind the habit. This blog is directed towards your ability to stop smoking, but can be used for any other habit or emotions you wish to no longer carry.

As you will see, many habits or undesirable emotions are no more than luggage you picked up many years ago. There was a reason you picked up those heavy bags. At the time, you might have been doing yourself or someone else a favor by picking them up. The beauty of it is that the luggage which served a purpose then likely has no purpose today. Set down those bags. You have all that you need for the rest of your journey. Those old bags are weighing you down.

Most habits, whether a good habit or bad one has some kind of a positive intention behind it. I routinely check my alarm clock settings at least twice every night before falling asleep. Apparently there was an episode where I thought I set my alarm clock properly but did not and I was late for work. From that moment on, I have had the positive habit of double checking my alarm clock. It has paid off more than once. So you can see that this habit has a positive intention behind it. I did not like the feelings of anxiety and irresponsibility that accompanied my being late for work. It was not a conscious decision to start double checking my clock. I just became aware of it one day. My brain was watching out for me. My brain had a positive intention behind the new habit it gave me.

Many people berate themselves for ever becoming a smoker in the first place and then have more frustration at their inability to stop.  Forgive yourself. It is not your fault. Deep under the layers of everything else in your life, there was some kind of positive intention behind your first tobacco experience. The positive intention was most likely met and therefore a reward was received. With a reward comes satisfaction and in our brains, satisfaction begets repetition. See “The Intelligent Smoker- part two”

Usually when doing “change” work we do not concern ourselves with the “why” of a problem as we are more interested in the ‘how”.  We cannot change the “why you have a problem” but we can change the “how you see it today”.  In this case however, we actually are interested in the “why”. It is the reason you have this habit. Once you realize that the “why” was probably a long time ago and has no bearing on your life today, you are able to let it go. Many people find that the “why” made perfect sense when they were young, but is a perfectly silly notion now.

It may be challenging to think that there was some positive intention behind starting a bad habit. Your mind had your best interest at heart back then. Now admittedly, your mind did not make a wise choice in choosing tobacco as a way to accomplish that positive intention. But that was long ago and far away. Standing here today you can consciously make this wiser decision that was not considered by your mind in the past. Conversely, you may realize that the original positive intention is no longer needed or even valid.

I did this exercise on myself and what I found was surprising to me. We might expect the classic reasons for someone to have started smoking. You have heard these:

“I look cool when I smoke.”

“I smoke to fit in.”

“Smoking makes me look more mature.”

“I don’t know. Everyone was doing it so I tried it to. I got sick the first time or two but I kept trying.”

But I did not have any of those classic excuses. I actually didn’t become a habituated smoker until I went off to college. In my high school only the bad kids smoked. I wasn’t a bad kid. But I did know that when high school was over I would start smoking as soon as I went off to college. Here thirty-five years later, I still cringe at the thought that as a college freshman I actually sat in the student union cafeteria and smoked a pipe! Can you imagine what the upper classmen must have been thinking? I was “Revenge of the Nerds” before “Revenge of the Nerds” was cool.

But the positive intention behind that pipe was to make me feel independent and that I was really out on my own. Umm, as independent as any college freshman can be-when they still go home most weekends and mom and dad are paying a lot of the bills.  But that was not my first tobacco experience. I had to dig a little deeper to really get to the core and find the true positive intention behind my first tobacco experience. I had dabbled in tobacco since about the 8th grade.

My first true tobacco experience was a summer morning and I was standing at the side of our 2 story house that my father had constructed scaffolding beside. We were preparing to paint the house. I was angry that beautiful morning. I wanted to be off with my friends playing but had been instructed to stay home and scrape paint. I hate scraping paint. To this day I don’t mind the actual painting and find it to be actually a rather mindful activity. But I hate scraping paint. For whatever reason, my brother and sister were not on the chain gang this particular day. It was just me, the scaffolding and a paint scraper. Over to the side was one of my father’s half smoked cigars and a pack of matches. It occurred to me that, “Boy, I can really show them!”  I was angry at my parents for making me stay at home on a summer morning and scrape paint when I should have been out with my friends riding bikes and playing.  I rebelled. I puffed out my chest and lit up my independence. I made a point. I taught them a lesson. I smoked that half of a stale cigar. I surely did not enjoy it. I probably got sick. I did however thoroughly enjoy my proclamation of all things “Eric” and if you restrict my freedom and independence then you will be taught a lesson!

So that is how it played out in my mind. I am pretty sure my parents never had a clue that I smoked a nasty cigar that day. I received the positive intention though didn’t I?  How silly it seems now.

Now, I had to go through a couple of layers of hindsight to get to this moment in time and realize the true reason I had that first tobacco experience. I had a problem and my mind found a way to make me feel better about it.  Today as an adult I have more resources available to me. I would just go talk to someone and explain how they made me feel. I would not punish them and exert my will by smoking a nasty stale cigar.

Now you can see the type of answers you should be looking for. Do not accept the “classic” lines I listed above. They are not the true reason you had that first tobacco experience. Realize that in the here and now you have many resources which you might not have possessed back in the days of the first tobacco experience. With the experience you now have you are carrying a toolbox full of tools which would stop you from making the same decision in this time. Those tools may be many different things like knowledge of the health concerns that comes with using tobacco. You are surely more your own person now than you were then. Do you not have much more confidence now than you did years ago? Certainly now you have the ability to talk things out and resolve conflict. Perhaps now you have more pride or maybe a desire to be more fit and healthy. These are tools you will take with you as you go back in time to that first tobacco use. 

You may want to read the following exercise a few times in order to have the general idea of its path. Then go ahead and stop reading, close your eyes and get to the core of the positive intention that led you to tobacco. Better yet, have a friend talk you though it.

So take a couple deep breaths and relax back. Relax back in your chair… in your mind… and in time. Go back to that first tobacco experience you had. Thank your subconscious mind for doing what it thought was best for you at the time. Thank your mind for its positive intention behind that first tobacco experience.

Now draw the image of those moments and of that day. Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? Remember that you are in anchored in the here and now and therefore safe from old memories.  See yourself using tobacco for that first time. What can you hear or smell?  How are you feeling in that setting? What were the emotions and the energy around those circumstances? Allow all of these things to build up to be a rich experience and engage as many of your senses as possible.

So why did you do it? What was the true positive intention of that action? Why did you agree or decide to use tobacco that first time? What was your mind REALLY trying to accomplish. It wasn’t the use of tobacco, it was something else. It was some positive intention. When you have your answer admit that it may not truly be the reason. There is most likely a layer or two or three below this first instinct. Go ahead now and drop down below this level to whatever is below it. Again thank your mind for its positive intention and for having your best intention at heart. Repeat this “drop through” technique for as many layers as needed.

Many people will have an obvious sense of when they have reached the true core of the positive intention. It might present as an “Aha!” moment for some while others may have an actual physiological sense of something being different.

When you have arrived at this layer you can realize that you have many resources at your disposal now that were not available to you back then. You have carried these tools back in time to fix this problem at its core. Ask yourself which one of these resources will enable you to still achieve the same positive intention but using a different action (other than tobacco) to accomplish it. The tools you have carried back allow you receive the positive intention you have just discovered but in a much more palatable way.

Survey this situation you are now fully engaged in. Which of these resources could you use that would have made a difference? Pick one or two of these tools and play with them in the scene before you. Now replay the images and the scene utilizing these wonderful tools. Watch how those around you react differently and how different the scene feels to you. See how different it is now and watch the improved outcome.

If this doesn’t seem to work the first time simply repeat it. Sometimes it helps to pull yourself back from being an actor to becoming the director. Go sit in the director’s chair and re-work the scene and instruct the actors on what needs to change. When this is accomplished go back to being one of the actors and play out the scene again. This process can be repeated as needed. Remember to use the resources you have now.

When you are happy with the scene repeat it at least one more time. Move forward in time now and find at least one more episode where a similar scene played out. This scene may have nothing to do with tobacco. But find a scene where the same resources are successfully used. Again use the same resources to re-write this episode and run it on the screen in your mind. Get that positive intention again and again without tobacco being a player.

Wonderful! Come back to the future with your past now changed. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The reason you first used tobacco seems rather silly now, right? You are now unable to see yourself acting in that old way if the situation were to occur today.

Drop the baggage you have carried for too long. Please go back re–read the INTELLIGENT SMOKER articles. Look over the map you have been carrying for so long. It is not truly representative of the terrain you travel these days. Finish off the process by downloading our “RESOLUTE NON-SMOKER” complete package or come on in to the office for a visit or two.

From one ex-smoker to another…see you soon!!