The Smoking Gene?!

Well, well, sorry I haven’t written for awhile. I aim to write a blog entry a week (usually around a Thursday, just in time for the weekend), however the last couple of weeks I have been so busy, I have not had the chance to get anything out there.

As regular readers know, I relocated to South Wales at the start of March and am now setting myself up down in Cardiff (so if you know anyone who wants NLP training or coaching, let me know!), a task that is taking much longer than expected and taking up much more of my time! About 80% of my work is still up in the Birmingham and the Midlands, so I am to-ing and fro-ing a lot.

I have just finished up 2 Coaching trainings, one was a Licensed NLP Coach programme that I run myself through the Society of NLP and one was helping out on Coaching programme run by my friend and colleague, Nick Cooke of the Central England College (this one was certified by the ICF). Why 2 coaching trainings? I don’t run coaching trainings “from scratch” they are “top up” courses for people already trained in NLP, personally I think this is the better way of doing it as it means more knowledge, practice and skill, Nick runs them from scratch with follow up support for people who don’t want to do the NLP Practitioner route. But more on my experience of running Nicks trainings in a few days time.

Anyway, onto the “content” of this blog:

2 articles appeared in this weeks Economist that piqued my interest this week, I will discuss one today and on later in the week.

The first one you may have seen, it was widely reported on most news stations:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3030202.stm for example.

It was about how scientists have found the “smoking gene”. The gene that dictates how likely we are to smoke and ability to give it up as well as our chances of catching lung cancer. Although some are claiming this as a breakthrough as it may (scientists love the word may don’t they?) lead to better drugs to help people quit the habit, I can’t help but think this type of claims or “discoveries” just hinder peoples ability to change.

(The reason I am not a big “nature” fan, when it comes to the “nature/nurture debate – nature suggests fixed you can’t change it “Oh, I am just fat as I have the fat gene….”, no, you are probably fat because you think you have the fat gene and therefore use it as an excuse – maybe not consciously – not to lose weight)

Sometimes scientists and the way the media latch on and portray these stories really annoy me. Science isn’t an exact art, no matter what they say (in fact, any good scientist will freely admit to this…). What science does is a series of studies that discover the probability of something being more likely than something else (hence the reason they use the word “may” a lot), if you go back through history, just look (even in recent times) how often scientific opinion (again, hardly a “fixed” word) has changed, often wildly. So, scientists turn round and without even thinking about how this will effect peoples psychology or belief systems and make these claims. OK, they often say “Well, logically people should know that this is just a study etc, etc”, the problem is our minds don’t work logically or reasonably! It works emotionally.

Lets think about this for a moment, lets look at an example:

We have a smoker, he has tried (notice the use of language) to stop smoking several times, he always seems to go back, he is really struggling. Then he hears this news (and, in our current social paradigm – we hold scientific study in high regard, therefore have a high emotional attachment to it). And he thinks “Oh, maybe I have that smoking gene, that’s why I am finding it so hard. Thinking about it, my dad smoked, in fact he died of lung cancer, so did my granddad. That’s it! I have the smoking gene, I stand no chance, oh well…” and (since, as you can see from this example, in pour minds “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves” i.e., we will search for all the evidence that reinforces our belief and ignore anything that contradicts it) this person has developed, now, a very powerful limiting belief that they cannot stop smoking. It really can be that quick, they are now stuck with it, maybe for the rest of their lives.

Is that helpful? Not really.

Categories: NLP

About Matt Caulfield