The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Smoking and the "Ancient Child"

One of my FaceBook friends recently celebrated his fifth anniversary as a non-smoker.    I asked what his method was, and what he said tied in so closely to the Ancient Child technique that I wanted to share it.   The following back-and-forth took place:

FB: “I’m glad you asked. It's kinda personal but I'm not shy. I knew from personal experience about a psycho-personality model commonly referred to as the "inner child," which works for me though others may identify with other terms like "higher" and "lower" selves.

STEVE:  Different imagery produces different associations, and relates to different aspects of our internal territory.   Male/female, animal/spiritual, child/elder are just some of the possible splits.  The smart thing is to work with different symbols and see which ones, in which syntax, have power.

FB:  Anyway, that's a deep discussion/digression. Bottom line is that after trying many times to quit, I reached a point where I could almost see that "inner child" part of me that needed to rebel, to be pacified, to do what he wanted.

STEVE: Note the similarity between this and people who have difficulty finishing, say, a short story.  Or can’t decide which of several different projects to pursue.   Or have a difficult time disciplining themselves to endure an unpleasant “now” in exchange for a blissful tomorrow.  This could easily be seen as a “war” between the child who wants to watch cartoons, and the adult who pushes the completion of homework.

FB:    And so I had an inner dialog. Literally. I (the adult "I" who is more or less in charge) made him a deal. I said, "We both know this smoking is killing us, right? It's time to put it behind us. It's Sept. 5th. Let's agree to smoke like a chimney if you want until the end of the month. No restrictions, no judgment. And come Oct. 1st we put it down and don't look back. Deal?"

STEVE:   I’ve noticed that if I say: “Jason, it’s time for bed” he might flip out.  But if I say: “in two minutes it will be bedtime” he has time to make whatever internal shifts he needs, and can adjust far more easily.   “Stop now” produces no results.  “I will count to three…” is about ten times as effective.  Why?  Not sure.  But it works, and that’s all that really matters.

FB:  And I actually felt "him" acquiesce. It felt like I was at peace with this decision, instead of fearful like before. I didn't think much about it during September 2007, except to occasionally remind my inner kid when I lit up that we had a deal. And then the 1st came. And that was that. Never looked back. Very little withdrawal issues. Very little urge for a few weeks I guess and then none.That's it in a nutshell.”

Again, this is a lovely adaptation of the “Parts Party” theory of internal communication.  Version of this can be found in every meditative discipline I’ve experienced, many psychotherapeutic models, and in the spontaneously devised methods of successful people—when they can describe their internal process.  I strongly suspect that even people who CANNOT describe those internal processes are doing something similar.

Much, much to study and extract here!


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