Breaking a Habit of a Lifetime

Sometimes, no matter how much we want to stop a negative habit, willpower alone is not enough. We may be fully aware of the undesirable or harmful effects of our repetitive behaviour and tell ourselves that we really should ‘stop’, but before we know it we’ve done it again. The following case study shows how hypnotherapy provides a powerful tool for breaking a habit, even if that habit is one of a lifetime.

Jane sought help through hypnotherapy because she wanted to stop biting and chewing the inside of her cheeks, something she had started doing at the age of seven. She was now in her early 50’s. This habit had resulted in Jane grinding her teeth away to the extent that she now needed restorative work carried out. Consequently, she wanted to break the habit before she caused any more damage to her teeth.

Negative behaviours often start as a response to stress before becoming an habitual action. During her childhood Jane had lived in a stressful household; her father was aggressive, tension was high and her mother had had the exact same habit.  At the time Jane first came to see me she was biting her cheeks daily, whether she was feeling stressed or relaxed.

One might think that trying to ignore a negative behaviour is a good way to overcome it. In fact the opposite is needed. Jane was asked, therefore, to increase her awareness of what she was doing, not to be judgemental or critical of her actions but simply to notice when she was engaging in the habit. Habits exist in the subconscious part of the mind. Bringing a behaviour that has long been ingrained in the subconscious part of the mind into conscious awareness enables a person to take back control of their actions.

Through solution focused techniques Jane was helped to imagine her life without the habit. Following an initial consultation each hypnotherapy session included the use of hypnosis (deep relaxation) where the mind is open to suggestion and change. In this hypnotic state negative habitual behaviours can be changed into more positive thoughts and actions at a subconscious level.

By the time of her second hypnotherapy session Jane was more aware of chewing her cheek and was noticing her behaviour earlier. The next step was to focus on what she could do instead of the habit. A person trying to break a habit will often set a negative goal and focus on something that they’re not going to do anymore, such as “I’m not going to eat cakes” or “I’m going to stop smoking”. However, the brain’s habit-learning system doesn’t learn by “not doing”. It needs to focus on a new alternative behaviour. It was suggested to Jane that as soon as she felt the urge to chew her cheek she replaced this routine with a breathing technique known as 7/11 breathing.

When Jane returned for her fourth appointment she was positively blooming and feeling very pleased with herself. It was the first week in 40 years that she had not bitten her cheek.

For reasons of confidentiality, the name of this client has been changed.

If you would like help to break a habit please call 07514 931 096 or email me using the contact form.