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The Power Of Persuasion

An advertisement in the newspaper the other day for hypnosis classes to helping people with weight control issues got me remembering back to when I needed help to kick a habit.

While I'm not a big believer in mumbo-jumbo or a lot of the touchy-feelly stuff that passes for armchair psychology and quick-fixes to real issues, I do believe the human mind can accomplish a great deal, especially when it's made to believe it's getting a little help.

More than 30 years ago I was a three-pack-a-day, menthol cigarette smoker who my wife could and would predict when I'd light a cigarette. It was automatic when I talked on the telephone, when I wrote a story, when I stopped and talked to someone in a hallway or anywhere else, when I was watching TV, when I was reading the newspaper, after eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, when driving, when walking ... as you can see just about any and all times.

I wanted to quit, but obviously not badly enough after I started up again following nearly six weeks of being off my cheap cigarettes addiction following surgery.

A Columbus police sergeant was the department hypnotist and due to his propensity for being at the wrong place at the wrong time was taken off the street after multiple justified uses of his sidearm. The sergeant was a friend who I had enough dirt on to trust him when he offered to hypnotize me and "help" me quit smoking cigarettes. It should be noted the sergeant was also a friend of my police officer brother-in-law, who also had aforementioned knowledge of the sergeant.

He repeatedly told me he wouldn't do anything "funny" while I was under and wouldn't attempt to learn anything from me that I wouldn't normally share, so I opted to trust him ... after gently reminding him of a few things I knew about some of his colorful antics.

Three times over a six-week period the sergeant relaxed me, while in my mind I sat on a big back porch of a plantation house I had once visited in Virginia overlooking a sparkling lake on a bright, clear day as a cool breeze blew. He "suggested" I was strong enough to quit smoking cigarettes if that was truly what I wanted to do. He told me later he was merely reinforcing what I already wanted to do, but wasn't convinced I could accomplish.

A few weeks after the last session I was driving home from work about 11:30 p.m., smoking cigarettes the last cigarette in the pack. I remember mentally asking myself if I was going to stop and buy another pack or just quit.

That was the last cigarette I ever smoked and have never wanted one since that late-night decision on Sullivant Avenue on the west side of Columbus as I headed home.

The sergeant, now long retired and an accomplished scrimshaw artist of ivory knife handles who travels the nation to juried art shows, to this day takes credit for my stopping. Does he deserve the credit? I don't know, but I do think it helped make quitting easier for me.

The decision, I possibly mistakenly believe, was mine, but maybe the hypnosis pushed me to make that decision.

As leery as I am of ever losing control, I do know if I hadn't trusted the sergeant, there is no way he ever could have hypnotized me.