In the first three parts 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. The second part of the process is to examine and remove the reasons a person continues to smoke.
In this article, we will discuss why smokers ignore the serious health consequences of smoking.
What Would You Do?
You’ve been smoking for over 25 years. Your mother has been a smoker for over 40 years. She calls you on the phone one day and says she’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. You watch your mother deteriorate and a few months later, she passes away. As a smoker, what would you do?
If you are like a client of mine, you’d keep right on smoking!
How Could This Be?
If you are part of the 76% of the population who are nonsmokers, you probably think this is outrageous. How could a person see what cigarettes did to their mother and continue to use them?
It’s the same reason that people have a hard time simply quitting cigarettes:
The Psychological Smoking Mechanism
This mechanism is created in most people before the age of 18. The average age is around 15 although some people start smoking even earlier. It is no accident that smoking starts during the time of puberty and the identity crisis. The identity crisis is an unpleasant period of childhood where there is confusion of self. The person is not a child, but not an adult either. They struggle to define themselves.
Due to body and hormonal changes, puberty is an incredibly intense period of a person’s life. Everything is amplified. Emotions are strong and the world view is still that of a child being exaggerated all out of proportion. The child wants to speed up the process to be declared an adult.
Smoking is an attempt to resolve the identity crisis. It is a way to declare, “Hey, I am an adult!” Adults smoke, therefore, I am an adult!
Overcoming this confusion and ambiguity is of critical importance; it is a strong motivator for the young person. It is what gets them to apply the incredible WILL POWER necessary to turn off the normal body, protective reactions to harsh, hot smoke entering their delicate lungs.
The fact that learning to smoke is a hard, unpleasant task makes the young person more strongly defend it. They have numerous reasons why they HAVE to smoke. Any positive feedback they get from their friends adds to the power of the psychological smoking mechanism.
By the time adolescence is over and adulthood is reached, the mechanism is on autopilot. It continues to collect reasons for itself to exist. It operates independently of the conscious self.
The Nature of the Psychological Smoking Mechanism
The psychological smoking mechanism is frozen back in childhood with all the inexperience and shortsightedness of the child. The emotions and world view of the child define the mechanism.
Children have a limited view of mortality. They have trouble conceiving of themselves being harmed or dying. This is why there are many teenage driving accidents.
The whole topic of smoking is controlled by the psychological smoking mechanism. When you try to discuss the topic of smoking with a smoker, you are dealing with the 15 year old child, not the adult. This is why trying to have a rational discussion about the dangers of smoking doesn’t get very far.
The 15 year old child doesn’t believe the health issues. The 15 year old child believes that smoking is an important part of their life. They NEED smoking. It is something to be protected. When the dangers of smoking are discussed, you have them symbolically with fingers in the ears and a chorus of La, La, La, La, I can’t hear you.
A Real Life Example
My client, Bonnie Ryan, has graciously consented to have her story presented as an example of how the psychological smoking mechanism overrides the adult thinking mind. It was Bonnie’s mother who died of lung cancer and yet, she refused to quit. It was too important to her.
About nine years after her mother’s death, Bonnie started having some problems with her lungs. It was only at this point she decided that she needed to stop smoking. However, she really didn’t want to quit. Bonnie writes:
“After smoking for 35 years, my health was deteriorating and I knew it was time to give up smoking. Emotionally, I grieved at the idea of losing what I gained from smoking, and I was convinced that I gained a lot. Since my mother smoked through my childhood, I could not even imagine being smoke-free for the first time in my life.”
You’ll notice that she grieved at the idea of giving up smoking. It was like something very basic and sacred was being taken from her. Something that she NEEDED!
She of course, had heard all the health dangers of smoking over the years but like most smokers, tuned them out. She had convinced herself how important smoking was to her well being. Watching her mother waste away and die of lung cancer was never associated with her own smoking. It wasn’t until she herself started having health problems, that she consciously made the decision to quit.
It was not her grieving at the decision to give up cigarettes, it was her psychological smoking mechanism she began to construct at the age of 15. A mechanism made by and of the emotions of a child, viewing the world of smoking as a 15 year old and never changing its perspective. A childish mechanism always ignoring the damaging effects of smoking and constantly looking for rationalizations to continue smoking.
The Mechanism Has to Go
The only way a person can remove cigarettes from their life is to disassemble the psychological smoking mechanism. This is accomplished by identifying and removing the reasons a person started smoking and the reasons they continue to smoke. When this is done, the person becomes, not an ex-smoker, but a nonsmoker.
Removing the psychological smoking mechanism puts the individual back in conscious control with all the perceptions and attributes they as adults, possess. They no longer have to fight against the illogic of the child mechanism they created. They no longer have conflict when their logical adult perceptions are overruled by the shortsighted, illogic of the child created psychological smoking mechanism.
When the mechanism is gone, so is smoking, permanently. There are special techniques that need to be used and the smoker has to invest some time and effort. With the right psychological tools, the incredible power of the mind can be redirected back to conscious control and the childish psychological smoking mechanism removed. When you Unlearn Smoking(tm) your system goes back to the time before you started smoking and the body’s normal defense mechanisms against harsh, hot smoke in your delicate lungs begins to work again. Smoking becomes aversive just like it was with the first cigarette. At this point, you won’t be motivated to put out the tremendous effort required to turn them back off! You have become a NONsmoker.
(c) Copyright 2009, R. Michael Stone