Q&A With Expert Psychologist Lindsay From Great Change Maker

April 29, 2022 4 min read

Lindsay is a fully registered psychologist who has a broad experience of more than 35 years as a business person and 20 years in the health field.

He has recently written a new book called 'Why Clever People Do Dumb Things' which is due to be released this February. This self help book provides formulated insights that offer practical and realistic solutions to life's problems which include:

- How to be happy even when you have no control over the situation

- How changing your approach to situations can be easier than you think

-  A new process for enriching your life by rethinking how you think

- Why this strategy is proven to work based on 300 clinical case studies.

After getting in contact with Lindsay he generously offered to have a Q&A session in which he provided us with some insights into smoking from a psychological standing and also touched on the subject of vaping.

The Q&A session can be found below: 

Why are people addicted to smoking (from a psychological point of view)?

"All human behaviour is driven by habit and our habits are developed by the avoidance of pain and the gaining of pleasure.

The subtle influences of marketing, peer pressure and personality development mean that some people are susceptible to engaging in behaviours which are, in general, dangerous, unpleasant or socially less acceptable or all 3 – such as smoking.

The acquisition of a smoking habit typically begins in adolescence. In this stage of development risk evaluation and consequences of our behaviour are areas of our brain that have not yet developed. The pleasure derived by defiant, peer generated behaviour is greater than the pain that might be experienced by being ostracised or seen as compliant to the mores of adult society."

What difficulties do smokers typically face when trying to quit?

"A smoking habit is somewhat like a tripod. It rests upon the three legs of habitual behaviour, chemical dependence, and social cues.

The combination of these three influences are almost overpoweringly difficult to break. The gradual marginalisation of smoking in first world countries is beginning to erode the social leg of the tripod and smoking rates are declining. In developing countries the three legs of the tripod have two other main stays including very low cost of tobacco and the powerful influence of relatively unrestricted marketing of the product."

How do you help these smokers to overcome these difficulties?

"The old joke about my profession asks ‘how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb’. The answer is ‘one, as long as the light bulb wants to change’.

A smoker who is internally motivated to erode their own habit is relatively easy to work with. The urges that accompany a habit such as smoking are relatively short lived and the cues that trigger those urges are relatively easy to identify.

Strategies which interfere with the automatic nature of the response to an urge or a cue can be highly effective. One common one is to wrap the cigarette packet in half a dozen elastic bands which requires the smoker to engage in a novel behaviour. This takes around 20 seconds to achieve and is often enough time to allow the smoker to recognise the urge and defer the gratification - thereby weakening the habit. In my book ‘Why Clever People Do Dumb Things’   I provide a deeper analysis of why a strategy like this is so effective."

What methods do you use to help people to quit smoking?

"The nine step process described in my book can be very effective. Hypnosis can also be an effective intervention. My observation of nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum and puffers is that they potentially replace the smoking with a new habit which can be less harmful and more socially acceptable."

What are your thoughts on electronic cigarettes?

"As mentioned above regarding nicotine replacement therapies, Electronic Cigarettes are, arguably, a safer and more socially acceptable replacement device for the proven harmful aspect of tobacco smoking. In the absence of evidence to the contrary electronic cigarettes would, in my opinion, be a safer, cheaper and more socially acceptable means of replacing an expensive, dangerous and socially offensive activity."

Do you feel electronic cigarettes work? If so why, or why not?

"Having had a number of clients employ this device with great success the answer to your question would appear to be ‘Yes’. Electronic Cigarettes potentially replace all three elements of the smoking tripod. They provide the satisfaction of supposedly choosing your own behaviours, they permit behaviours which are peer acceptable but are also acceptable on a broader social environment. In addition they appear to have the capacity to deliver nicotine (a very highly addictive substance) in a very effective manner."

We would like to thank Lindsay for taking his time out to speak to us. You can find out more about him and his work on his website Great Change Maker or by visiting his Facebook page which can be found here.