In part 1 and part 2 of this article series, we have discussed how the reasons a person started smoking at an early age helped to build the Psychological Smoking Mechanism. This mechanism begins to operate beyond conscious control because the smoker has long since forgotten why they started smoking. The first part of the process to remove smoking is to use special techniques to recall these early reasons. After that is done, it is time to look at the reasons a person continues to smoke.
It's Hard to Smoke Each Cigarette
Smokers don't consciously realize how hard it is to smoke. This is because the Psychological Smoking Mechanism has faded into the Subconscious. It runs automatically each time a cigarette is smoked. The mind pushes all complex learned tasks into the subconscious. An example with which most people can relate is driving a car. When you first learn to drive, it is an almost overwhelming task. So many things to do, just to operate the automobile and then, you have to watch where you are going and what other drivers are doing! This is very stressful. However, eventually, all this fades into the Subconscious. It's still just as hard, but it has become automatic so your consciousness isn't overwhelmed. The same thing happens to the complex psychological smoking mechanism.
Still the difficulty of smoking is evident. If you look at the face of a smoker, you can see the strain each time they take a drag. The face tenses and the eyes usually squint. It's the same facial expression a weight lifter has trying to lift a heavy weight. Yet, at the conscious level, the smoker has pushed this aside; it is ignored. However it is there with each cigarette and during the course of the day, the more cigarettes smoked, the more tired the smoker becomes. This is why, when a smoker manages to stop, they feel that they have so much more energy! It's not that they have more, it's that they're not wasting it fueling the Psychological Smoking Mechanism.
The Conscious Reaction to the Difficult Effort to Smoke Each Cigarette
Although the conscious mind ignores the extreme effort to smoke, it still registers at some level. This causes the smoker to feel the need to justify why they smoke. The next part of the process is to identify these reasons. Since these reasons are also faded into the Subconscious and not examined, special techniques have to be used to retrieve them.
Smokers Really Don't Like to Smoke
If you ask a smoker why they smoke, they will likely say, they like it. Yet, if you look at their behavior, it's clear they don't. For example, how many times have you seen a person smoking in their car in rainy weather, with the window rolled down to keep the cigarette away? With either the cigarette outside or the window cracked and the cigarette by the opening? If they liked it, why isn't it in the closed car with them?
The truth is, most smokers don't like smoking but the Psychological Smoking Mechanism they created years ago compels them to smoke. To justify doing what they don't really like, they rationalize benefits of smoking. How can they do this?
It has been known since the early days of Psychology that by pairing things together, they become associated. The more emotion behind it, the stronger the association. For example, suppose your parents drive a particular model of car. Each time you see this car, you think of your parents. Even though it is not your parents and not their car; you have the association in your mind.
A smoker builds their catalog of rationalizations in the same way. Let's examine a few of them.
To Reduce a Feeling of Anxiety or Nervousness
One of the rationalizations a smoker uses as to why they smoke is that it reduces a feeling of anxiety or nervousness. In other words, they claim it calms them down. But how can pulling hot, polluted smoke loaded with a stimulant deep into their sensitive lungs reduce anxiety or nervousness?
The answer is simple: It DOESN'T!
If you are a smoker and use this rationalization, it is an association from your WILL POWER suppressing the normal body defense reaction that allows you to smoke a cigarette. When you pull the smoke into your system, YOU are using your MIND to suppress or stop the normal coughing, choking and burning reaction to the hot polluted smoke from the cigarette entering your delicate lungs. You are WILLING yourself into a state of calm; calming down the body defense system.
So rather than the cigarette calming you down, you are doing it yourself as a side-effect so you can tolerate the cigarette. It's not the cigarette, it is the association. YOUR MIND is doing this because you have commanded it to do so. Do you realize you can be calm and relaxed without the cigarette? YOU CAN!
The other reasons on the list that fall into this category are: to calm down when upset or angry, when feeling restless, as relaxation, to take a break from work, when feeling depressed, to celebrate something, and to think about a difficult problem. All these reasons, all these effects, are the result of you using your MIND to put a major calm on your body to tolerate the cigarette. You have given the cigarette benefits it didn't earn. Benefits caused by your MIND!
While Having Coffee
Another reason people give for smoking has to do with eating or drinking. This again is a typical association that has nothing to do with the effects of smoking a cigarette. Doing a pleasurable thing makes you feel good; adding a cigarette brings in the super MIND over BODY calm that you have developed and enhances the good feeling. Once again, it is not the cigarette, this is the mechanism of body suppression that you have developed. Over time, rather than giving yourself credit for the results, you misdirect the credit to the cigarette.
Other pleasurable associations are: When having a drink with friends, after a meal, after sex and when drinking beer, wine or liquor. All of these actions make the body feel good from the relaxing effect of alcohol, the good feeling of satisfying your hunger, or the release of sexual fulfillment. The cigarette has nothing to do with these things. It is a normal body reaction to fulfillment that is enhanced by the super calm YOUR MIND imposes over your body so you can tolerate the cigarette. It is YOU doing this, NOT the cigarette!
Examining objectively the reasons a person gives to continue to smoke is a necessary part of the process to dismantle the psychological smoking mechanism. Using psychological techniques, a person is able to identify and examine these reasons. When they do so, they find that they are giving the cigarette benefits it didn't earn. With each benefit they remove, the psychological smoking mechanism becomes weaker and the effort to smoke becomes greater.
If you don't remove the Psychological Smoking Mechanism, it will always be there urging you to smoke. This is why it is so hard to stop smoking just by quitting. This is why people quit and start smoking over and over. Get rid of the mechanism and you get rid of smoking. It's a simple psychological fact.
The next article in the series will discuss why smokers ignore the serious health consequences of smoking.
© Copyright 2009, R. Michael Stone