Alan Carr has said that the main thing that stops people quitting smoking is fear. I have to admit to years of irrational fear related smoking.
I feared how I would feel if I didn't smoke. I feared running out of cigarettes. I feared being put in situations where I couldn't smoke.
These were fears I became used to. They dictated my behaviour, my IRRATIONAL behaviour of smoking and I never questioned them.
B F Skinner was a behaviourist psychologist and his theories around conditioning have become mainstream knowledge. He speaks of reward as a positive, powerful reinforcer. Often reward is considered part of addiction in the sense that people continue to use a substance for it's effect. Cigarettes, however operate mainly in an opposite sense to a positive reward. They do not have much of an effect on us when we smoke, it is only we don't smoke that we notice anything. They operate through a way of negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement involves doing something not to receive a reward but to avoid an unpleasant outcome. An example of this is a seatbelt alarm in a vehicle. The noise of the alarm is so annoying that you cannot continue to live with it, so you put on your seatbelt to stop the loud chiming.
Cigarettes work in a similar way. The noise of the alarm within our body when we are deprived of cigarettes emerges in the form of irritability, anxiety, emptiness etc and can be incredibly intense to the point we will do anything (even IRRATIONAL) to shut it up.
No wonder we feared not having cigarettes and we feared giving them up. This is often why people think they enjoy smoking cigarettes. It is not the action of sucking in smoke that is enjoyable, it is the action of relieving the withdrawal.
At the end of my smoking my fear took on a different tack. With increasing health problems I began to fear continuing to smoke and harm myself. It is very sad and unfortunate that I had been fooled so long (30 years) by fear. It is almost like I had to have something real to fear (as in illness) to highlight the false fear of being without cigarettes and how it felt to not have them.
Right now I am finding myself thinking more than ever about this as I go through withdrawal and recovery from smoking. When I am having urges to smoke I am finding it helps to explore what is really going on for me and think about the consequences of smoking. The more I can stay in my rational brain while I'm feeling intense unpleasant anxiety and low flat feelings the easier it is for me to accept where I am at and why.
I guess as humans we have so many irrational fears at times in our lives such as the monster under the bed, ghosts, spiders, wars etc but the most irrational must be the fear of quitting smoking. I believe this must be the only fear we have that leads us to actually do something very harmful and continue to do it. Unlike our other irrational fears we tend to work to keep ourselves safe but with smoking the fear actually puts us in danger.
I am writing this to remind me of what I'm dealing with right now. I am hoping it may remind others who already know this and teach those who don't.
Best to you all.