The naive model of how people work seems to be something like "People are just messes of conditioning that respond to outside pressures and innate drives". You see people getting chemically rewarded for smoking cigarettes, and say "no wonder people get addicted - how do people ever stop!?". You find out that hypnosis can covertly condition responses and try to come up with clever schemes to maximize your effect - perhaps by having a meta level suggestion that the object level suggestion is reinforced every time some common thing is encountered. I remember devising a few clever schemes myself. However, this frame is entirely wrong. It completely neglects the internal structure - that thing that washes all your clever schemes out over time. The right way to help a smoker is not to implant a suggestion that makes them vomit every time they smoke - and then a suggestion that that suggestion and this one are permanent. The right way to help a smoker - the right way to help anyone is to... well...
When I look at people and see what is keeping them from getting more out of life (aka "maximizing their utility function"), the big thing isn't simple yet persistent "outside factors" or "innate modules" barraging them with influence. The big thing is that they don't even act like they have a utility function. Part of them "wants" one thing and part "wants" something else. They'll either come out at different times and cause dieters to make new year's resolutions and then snack on cookies - or they'll come up at the same time and choke the poor bastard.
People talk about people as if they're made up of different "parts" that "want" different things, but that's not because of any fundamental divide. It's just that becoming coherent is hard. And most people don't even know to try.
A lot of people look for "tricks" to wage war on their other selves. Like "solving" time inconsistent preferences by putting locks on their refrigerators - instead of just sitting down and facing the hard problem of "what do I really want? Why do I keep choosing to eat?". Emphasis on "I". Saying "that damn subconscious/hyperbolic discounting demon did it/made me do it!" isn't really a good answer - even if you can point to papers saying that hyperbolic discounting "is a thing".
If you're the kind of person that really struggles with this kind of thing, this probably offends you. There's not a lot I can do about that - it's still true. It's also true that a lot of people try to sit down to answer that question - and then fail. It's happened to me. But that's because the question is too big and scary to handle, not because it's conveniently something else at fault. It's a real problem and self work can be freaking tough. But you need to find a way to deal with it, because if you're gonna improve, you have to answer that question.
Bah! But it's so much easier to just lock the fridge! Why can't I just do that? Well, you can... but sometimes the other guy inside is right, for one. Two, if the other guy has half
a your brain, he'll take your stupid lock off - or keep you from locking it next time. Three, he's less likely to trust you if you don't trust him. Lack of trust is terrible enough between people, let alone within yourself. Plus, it's just not a very clean solution - there's dead-weight loss. What if you do need to eat in the middle of the night sometime? Why should you have to buy locks to keep yourself from getting what you desire? What about the misery when you desperately want to eat but can't?
Don't get me wrong, cheap hacks can be worthwhile. Sometimes. It's just that they're overrated and there's a method that is less likely to be misguided, more stable, and just generally more thorough and good all around. And it seems that most people don't know it's possible - because they've never seen someone skilled enough to cooperate with themselves. Or that when they do, dismiss it as "he's made of different magic". I find liver to be delicious and candy disgusts me. People consistently say I'm "lucky" - yet it's no freaking accident - and no, I did not "get hypnotized" for it.
An example of misguided: One of my subjects used self hypnosis to run on a sprained ankle. She regretted that decision. It gave her what she said she wanted. It gave her what her revealed preferences said she wanted. Yet it was allowing a persistent split by shutting up the part that was screaming "STOP!". And she regretted it.
An example of unstable: Willpower for dieting. You can choose not to eat a cookie this time, but if part of you still screams "But I waaaaant it!", you're unlikely to last. You might even go a step further and deceive yourself into thinking that you don't find them delicious - until you taste one again and collapse into your inner cookiemonster.
Okay, so it leaks. What if I patch it? It'll leak somewhere else. What if I patch it real well? What if I make such a well fortified memeplex that it not only protects itself, but it spreads and takes over and secures it's grip on the mind! Umm... That could work. I've seen instances of it - namely scientology. But it's kinda evil. It shouldn't be necessary to block all the defenses if you're actually helping them, and for every defense you put up, something has to defend that. You end up having to wreck peoples epistemologies and stuff. Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule, and I can't rule out cases where someone is so self defeating that it makes sense to get started this way. It's just that you have to be way more careful. And in general it's so much easier to be ecologically friendly.
So it's not the definition of doing good, but making people function more coherently is a pretty damn good heuristic to follow. And I'm not just arguing because it's generally more effective and nicer on easy problems where the right answer is known. It's also pretty damn good at finding right answers.
Compare it to the libertarian "give people their revealed preferences" heuristic. You get good stuff, but also drug addicts, when the socially unacceptable "parts" win the battle. You also get people lamenting the choices available to them and regretting their decisions. You get people saying "Why did you give me what [I said that] I wanted! You asshole!" - and very confused libertarians.
Compare it to the "utopian" societies where everyone gets what they said they wanted when indulging in their far mode reasoning (thinking they're safe from consequences, so they don't have to think hard and they can get away with signaling). You get some cool stuff there too - and especially cool sounding stuff - but things quickly go bad for obvious reasons. You'll also get people upset and regretting their decisions while they sit on a road paved of gold - unable to tell you whats wrong, since they "got everything they asked for".
Or the equally stupid "give people what they feel like they want [without checking for reflective equilibrium]". Again you end up with drug addicts, but this time its even worse. And you'll cringe at the thought of this happening. You might be too busy running from scary thoughts and enjoying heroin to say that you regret it, but if you ever snap out of it, you sure will.
Compared to those, "put people together" is a pretty damn good heuristic. It doesn't turn people into addicts - at least not if there's any part of them that wants not to be an addict. It also doesn't fail the "I get everything I want but I'm still unsatisfied" test. There's just no bitching and moaning (or part that wants to), because if there's a conflicting part, you'll incorporate it until it has nothing to say. And they don't regret it either - through and through they're cool with it - almost by definition. If they're coherently against the change, they can go ahead and fix it without a "part" of them fucking it up.
In the end, everyone is satisfied. The person you helped is more effective and suffers less. You can't get accused of doing evil "mind tricks" because you aren't. You're not turning the person into a mindless zombie that can't control their actions - you're moving in the other direction. You're helping them be more mindful and choose every one of their actions. And the method itself rightly looks pretty damn good.
So... The right way to get a smoker to stop smoking is to put them back together. Solve their conflict diplomatically. Realign their own motives such that they aren't blocking themselves from just not wanting to smoke - in that "hey look, he's actually acting like a coherent person with goals and stuff" sense. Suffering is an attention allocational conflict, remember? Stir up the motives for smoking and keep the motives for not smoking in the room and have them decide what's more important. To do that, you often have to crush ugh fields, and it sometimes gets complicated. If it were always easy people would never get caught in "I want x but I do y" or "I can't!" frames in the first place. But it's doable, and once you're done you're done. Instead of praying that your card tower holds together - or taking your daily prozac - you just watch the conditioning take care of itself as all new experiences are filtered through the new frames with the "good" and "bad" tags recalculated accordingly.