Allen Carr was a hundred cigarettes a day smoker and then one day, at the age of 48, his son told him to stop smoking, and that it was not so difficult to stop. After this conversation, he stopped smoking from one moment to the next: no will power, no craving, no side effects to speak of. He was so surprised by his own experience that he campaigned all his life to help others to stop smoking through books and clinics bearing his name. He thought the secret of his cure was the rational advice of his son: it’s not so hard to stop.
His book (The Easy Way to Stop Smoking) is rather repetitive but his advice boils down to making the decision to stop, that it is not so difficult if you have a positive outlook and realize you aren't losing anything other than a bad habit. And for many people his book and his method seem to work.
Our reading of his method and this experience is that it proves the following three important points:
1. When you are psychologically ready to quit, it is easy to stop.
2. There is no craving, no frustration and the physical side effects are mild and short lived.
3. For those who are not ready, self convincing does not work.
Allen Carr does not address how to be psychologically ready to stop. His method boils down to convincing yourself rationally that smoking is an awful thing …something we all know a hundred times. It is surely not a lack of knowledge of the harmfulness of tobacco that prevents most smokers from stopping. There is surely something deeper inside each smoker that is preventing him from stopping. And those who stop are making a psychological change inside themselves.
In particular he seems not to have understood the real reason for his own cure. His son told him to stop smoking and that it was not so hard to stop. This conversation cured him and he thought it was the rationality of the advice that cured him.
My reading of this encounter is that it was not the rational advice from his son that did the trick. It was the emotional content of the remarks, which could be put in this way: “Dad, you don’t need to smoke. Stop begging something of those stupid cigarettes. Come away from there. It’s not so hard. Talk to me. Here I am”.
In our vocabulary, his son’s words and affection, at the exact psychological place, helped him to detach himself from an internal, asking, begging position, from a babyish attachment to “mother”. A switch was thrown, which allowed him to come into the present, to his son who was waiting for him with intelligent words. He did not need to ask anything of those 100 cigarettes per day anymore. He had a son to talk to.
A psychoanalytical psychotherapy works something along these lines.