How come nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patch and gum) only has a 7% success rate for quitting smoking?1 Why do people on nicotine replacement therapy still crave cigarettes? Clearly, there are reasons for smoking that go far beyond simple chemical addiction. This article, based on The Body-Psyche Guide To Inner Wisdom, explores the uses of smoking. It gives you some pointers for how you can go about quitting successfully.
People use smoking to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions such as sadness, grief and anxiety. This is accomplished partly through the chemical effects of nicotine on the brain. (Many other articles discuss this, so I won’t go into it here.)
Smoking acts most directly on our lungs. From a Body-Psyche perspective, we use our lungs as a place to hide emotions that we don’t want to deal with: grief, loss, and sadness.
Smoking deadens feeling in the lungs. It anesthetizes them and physically clogs them with mucus. If your objective is to hide your emotions from yourself and not feel them, smoking certainly helps. If you’re a smoker ask yourself “What situations make me smoke the most? What emotions am I trying to avoid or deny?”
Research has shown that smokers who are depressed generally find it harder to quit than those who aren’t depressed. There is a good reason for this: quitting smoking means that the depressed feelings are more likely to surface, and so the person starts smoking again to help hide those feelings again. The problem is that if you never deal with your feelings they will never have the opportunity to heal (see my article Degeneration or Regeneration – It’s Always a Choice), so this becomes a life-long addiction as you deny more and more feelings and you need to smoke more and more to help hide them.
So, one of the most effective ways to help quit smoking is to learn how to deal with the ‘unwanted’ emotions and to start to heal them. Here is one of my clients’ experiences of using Body-Psyche as a tool to help her quit smoking:
“I had recently quit smoking and was having a very hard time with it. I had a couple of emotional crises in the first two weeks that caused me to fall off the wagon. Frustrated with what I perceived as weakness, I went to Mark Fiveman for help.
He explained some of the causes for smoking addiction to me and I immediately related to the “stuffing” of emotion. Every time I have begun smoking again it had to do with some emotional crisis that I did not want to deal with.
I lay fully-clothed on a massage table and Mark used gentle touch to draw my attention to the back of my ribs and my lungs. I was suddenly overwhelmed with an intense emotion… and I laughed. I was very aware that I laughed instead of cried. Very interesting! Mark suggested that it might be more productive for me if I tried to go with what I was feeling instead of fighting it. From there he continued to guide my attention using touch to my liver and right hip, where I discovered I held some deep and serious trust issues with males. It was emotionally very intense but I tried to keep with it and work through the emotions I was experiencing.
By the end of the session, I felt very calm and peaceful. What I noticed at once was that the knot at the back of my neck, which had been growing tighter and tighter over the last year (and which no amount of massage seemed to be able to penetrate), was completely gone. My shoulders were completely loose and free. Since this session, my cravings for cigarettes have dramatically reduced.
I recently had a phone call from my mom (one of the prime triggers for past smoking missteps). There was yet another crisis in her life that I could do nothing about. It was a difficult conversation. Usually I would have reached for a cigarette right after talking to her! The remarkable thing is that I did not even realize until the next day that I didn’t even think about having a cigarette. That is truly amazing.
Since the session, I have continued to feel much more relaxed and the tension in my neck and shoulders has not returned. Mark explained that I have the tools now to confront and work through future emotional crises without resorting to smoking. I’m more aware now where the cigarette cravings originate from and finally feel like I have the capability to be free of them.”
If you want to quit smoking, the most effective way is to address it in an integrated way – that is by including the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bases for the addiction in your path to healing. Here’s an article that goes into more depth on how you can effectively give up your additions: Giving Up All My Addictions; Keeping All My Vices.
If you’re a smoker, or have been a smoker, post a comment here about how it relates to your experiences with smoking. And feel free to share this article with friends using the social buttons to your left.