Did you know that most smokers had their first cigarette at about twelve years old? Who said Joe Camel wasn’t aimed at kids. Why do people use something whose package says, “Dangerous to your health” and is smoking really addictive; is that addiction physiological or psychological?
Initially a young person smokes to join the in-crowd, act grown up, maybe out of defiance; a lot of normal adolescent reasons. Eventually however, smoking becomes a distracter, something that provides relief from an unpleasant feeling. Distracters come in many forms, smoking, drinking, shopping, gambling; they are all the same when done in excess, activities used to take our mind off an unpleasant feeling.
An interesting experiment: the next time you see a smoker light up, notice the deep intake of breath and the slow exhale, it will look very much like a sigh and a deep release of tension. Imagine that subconscious part of the mind noticing an unpleasant feeling beginning to creep up, anxious, sad, lonely, fearful, whatever and whispers to the conscious part, “Hey, here comes that feeling, better get out of here” and the person takes themselves out for a break. A smoke break of course, otherwise you would look pretty strange leaning against the building just watching the clouds roll by but doing it with a cigarette, that’s ok. So we have institutionalized, normalized the Smoke Break.
The primary problem with the addiction issue is that we use the same word to describe everything from the addiction to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine and prescription medication. Smoking addiction is far removed from the physiological addictions to that list of items. Ever know a woman who smoked but as soon as she found out she was pregnant became a non-smoker in an instant? Never went into cardiac shock, didn’t drop to the floor convulsing in spasmodic muscle contractions and wasn’t rushed to the hospital for smoking withdrawal syndrome.
People come to my office weekly who may be smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day, spend two hours with me and leave a non-smoker; poof, puff. Maybe addiction to nicotine is technically correct but the real connection to the cigarette is due to its effect as a distracter.
Recently a man came in for hypnosis to stop smoking. He explained the feelings that were present when he really, really needed a smoke break, unpleasant feelings, uncomfortable, frightened, scared; one feeling beneath the other. As we followed the feelings back to an earlier time that he felt that way, he eventually remembered a time while he was very young watching his parents have a severe argument. The little boy was frightened as he watched them yell, sacred that his father was going to hurt his mother. The child saw his parents argue many times, each time that uncomfortable feeling being reinforced. In this man’s adulthood, when unpleasant feelings began to arise, his subconscious sent a message – “Uh oh, here comes that feeling again. I need to calm down…” . Then his conscious mind would decide to have a cigarette to get that pleasant sigh of relief. Hypnosis enables you to review the thoughts and feelings of an earlier experience while simultaneously seeing and understanding that event from a present, safe more mature perspective.
Seeing the past through adult eyes this gentleman began to realize that the uncomfortable feelings were a message; there were issues which needed to be resolved rather than to be sucked back down with a cigarette. The need for relief from fear began to be met with constructive behavior rather than distraction and the reason for smoking went up in smoke.
Rob Collier is the resident Hypnotist at Health Oriented, Natural and Alternative Medicine – 3020 E. Commercial Boulevard, Ft. Lauderdale, 954-772-1919. Along with Hypnosis the center provides Acupuncture, Therapeutic Massage, Herbal Medicine and a variety of healthcare modalities. Health Oriented (MM11403) is a spectacular environment for Hypnosis since substantially accelerated progress is possible when combined with other types of natural healing. Some issues may require a written medical referral. Robert Collier, CHT