Fear of Discomfort
(Posted to the Usenet
group alt.support.stop-smoking as a response to the topic 'Fear
of Discomfort', on Sept 26, 1996. The original, with replies,
I had an opportunity
several years back to be introduced to Rational Emotive Therapy.
About all I remember is that: between the occurence of an event
and our reaction to it, there is a mental dialogue that probably
determines what our reaction will be to that event. And also
that the dialogue is usually one that we are unaware of on a
conscious level. Further, that by altering the script of that
dialogue we will alter our reaction to the event.
When I look back
at why I smoked, what I remember is that I seldom smoked a cig
because it tasted good or because it felt good. I usually, like
any chemical addict, smoked so that I wouldn't be/feel uncomfortable.
A sagging nicotine level brought on that awful feeling we called
a nicotine fit. What were it's characteristics? Nervousness,
trembling, sweating, irritability? I remember these and there
are probably others, all uncomfortable sensations. And how did
we "cure" the condition? We smoked a cigarette. Pretty
simple solution, and effective. This is where I see the internal
dialogue being established. As neophyte smokers we "learned"
to relieve discomfort by smoking a cigarette. I'm sure very
few of us willingly waited till we were uncomfortable. The onset
of the sensations associated with a sagging nic level triggered
a response that, with practice, happened more automaticaly till
"we" were no longer consciously in the loop. Here
is where I make a connection that may not be valid. That is
that once we had established the dialogue that went "when
I feel a sensation that feels like a nic fit, smoke a cig to
cure it", then ANY EVENT that produced feelings similar
to a nic fit should/could be cured by smoking a cig. I very
much doubt that we looked closely at "why" we lit
a particular cig. With every cig smoked, with every repetition,
the pattern became more ingrained.
A few days back I
was talking to a friend that had quit cold turkey a few months
earlier. He was telling me how much he wanted a cig. That sometimes
he craved them so badly he felt like he was being turned inside
out. Talking to him it seemed that the only thing that had changed
was that he was no longer putting a cig in his mouth. But the
rest of his habit was somehow still intact. He really believed
that a cig would relieve his discomfort. I wonder if his inner
dialogue is telling him that "a cig will make you feel
better". If that dialogue never changes, is he destined
to repeat the same patterns over and over? How long can he,
or anyone else, hang tough and hang on. Seems to me to be an
awfully precarious position. Certainly in the initial stages
of a quit, hanging tough is what gets us through. But as a long
term modus operendi, it's way too risky.
So far I've only
talked of smoking as a response to discomfort. I believe this
is the primary reason for smoking. However, there are also the
pleasurable connections. A cigarette with; a coffee, a drink,
after a meal, after sex, hanging out by a camp fire. This list
isn't short. And the inner dialogue is just as established and
the "reasons" to smoke are just as innapropriate.
If we don't alter
the script, we run the risk of relapse. If we do change the
script, we can comfortably and confidently carry on with our
lives with no risk of relapse.
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