The problem of smoking and other bad habits in the modern world
Copyright © 2017
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The information presented herein is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling. The author of this book disclaims any liability or loss in connection with wrong interpretations or implementations of ideas presented in this book.
Introduction: The history of the tradition of smoking tobacco 4
The process of smoking tobacco 7
The false self-motivation to obtain satisfaction from smoking 11
Gustatory and tactile perception in the mouth and throat 14
Willpower and the opposite intention to not want to obtain pleasure from smoking 18
The power of words and beliefs 23
Spontaneous thoughts 30
The other side of willpower: the ability to perceive obstacles as a challenge 35
Why the modern man tries to find happiness in drugs 39
The tradition of smoking tobacco leaves is deeply rooted in antiquity. The first images of tobacco smokers were found in the ancient temples of Central America and date from 1000 years BC. According to many researchers, in those times, tobacco was of particular importance to the inhabitants of America. It has been used for the treatment of wounds, as medicinal decoctions, as an anesthetic, and for ritual purposes to communicate with the supernatural.
In those Ancient times, people practiced two ways of smoking tobacco: in North America, tobacco was smoked mainly with the help of special devices in the form of pipes, whereas in South America, people smoked whole tobacco leaves, twisted into the form of cigars.
For various rituals, different pipes and smoking blends were used. The most famous (thanks to cinematography) ritual was “Smoking a peace pipe”. This ritual signified making peace agreement between warring tribes. Generally, the “peace pipe” symbolized peace and harmony, both between people and nations, and between man and supernatural forces or the gods.
In European culture, the tradition of smoking tobacco has gone in a completely different direction. Tobacco began to be used for pleasure, and for several centuries after the advent of tobacco in the Old world, many people become ardent fans of this bad habit. Tobacco smoking has become an inherent part of the social status and privilege of the noble stratum of society. In the twentieth century, with the beginning of the production of low-cost cigarettes, smoking tobacco has become widespread. Many people began to smoke; rich and poor.
Interestingly, the process of smoking tobacco has taken on very different roles in two different cultures. The Native Americans smoked tobacco, in the first place, for ritual purposes, and everything that was associated with smoking, had a special significance for every Native American tobacco smoker. Smoking pipes had a special value because they formed a kind of connecting link between humans and otherworldly forces with whom the Shamans, using various smoking mixtures including tobacco, came in contact. These ancient tribes, probably, never thought to smoke tobacco just for pleasure or relief from boredom, as they may not have been familiar with this condition unlike a person of modern culture. The state of boredom that comes with routine is more relatable to the civilized man, who is often at home between his four dreary walls. In traditional communities people can have totally different moods which might be completely alien and inaccessible to the modern humanity.
Let’s begin with the process of the inhalation of tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoking it is not like smoking pot, hashish or other drugs which are smoked only for the effects of the drug intoxication. Some researchers theorize that the main cause of smoking is habit and psychological addiction to the taste of tobacco smoke. (Dar & Frenk, A critique of nicotine addiction., 2000) (Dar & Frenk, Nicotine addiction: Fact or theory?, 2002) (Dar & Frenk, Do smokers self-administer pure nicotine? A review of the evidence., 2004) (Dar, Florencia, Roni, Meir, & Frenk, 2005) (Reuven, Nurit, Oren, Yair, & Hanan, 2010)
Let’s see in more details what could be attractive in the process of inhaling smoke?
The process of smoking tobacco is made up of several aspects. One of the main aspects is the action of putting a cigarette in the mouth and inhaling of tobacco smoke. Regular implementation of this action causes a mechanical habit. This can be compared with a habit, similar to, constantly drinking hot tea or coffee. All the habits related with exposure to the taste buds can be combined by the presence of a burnt taste and aggressive impact to the mouth and throat.
Old habits are hard to break because the behavioral patterns which people repeat are imprinted in their neural pathways. In other words, any old habit at its core is a kind of program which is recorded on a physical level in the brain. (Rosenthal, 2011.) (Wood & Neal, 2007) However, the habit works only because a person does something automatically, without thinking and without intention to carry out a particular action.
According to the observations of psychologists the formation of habit and anti-habit requires a minimum of 21 days. (Clear, 2016) The more or less complete destruction of any habit requires about 90 days.
The next aspect is the process of inhaling smoke, which provides some sort of effect on the receptors in the oral cavity, tongue, and throat. (In the mouth and throat there are many types of receptors: tactile, heat, cold, taste, pain, and proprioception.) This impact can be compared to combing the taste and tactile receptors, by a passing stream of smoke. It is important to note that the presence of smoke in the lungs is highly addictive. One of the reasons, besides the use of nicotine, may be the process of passing smoke through the mouth and especially the throat (larynx and windpipe), not just filling the oral cavity. The effect of tobacco tars can reinforce this habit; there might be a craving for the taste and smell of the smoke. The strong satisfaction from smoking usually occurs only if one refrains from smoking for several hours. Therefore, novice smokers usually smoke only when they have a real physical need to comb through the mouth and throat by inhaling and exhaling smoke. The smoking process is initially something completely unnatural; this process can’t last forever with pleasure. Tissues of the throat of a heavy smokers stiffen; hence, the raspy voice; heavy smokers can smoke without stopping because the rough tissues of mucosa cannot be satisfied by inhaling smoke. There are known cases, when people on winter hikes, sometimes have to sit directly in the smoke near the fire all night in order to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures. In such cases, one would have to endure a hit of smoke in the face and eyes. After returning home, to the warmth, irritation of the skin and eyes may persist as a small tickle or itch for a few days. If one starts to scratch the eyelids and face regularly, it can also become a habit. The physical desire to inhale smoke may be only a temporary sensation. In a sense, it could be a small disease in the form of irritation (tickling) of the receptors of the mouth and throat by tars and tobacco smoke, but no desire to smoke. The physical desire to inhale smoke is more of a false psychological set, which can be formed as a result of repeated elimination of the irritation (tickling) of receptors by scratching them by smoke again. Perhaps, for this reason, the first cigarette smoked after not smoking for a few weeks, seems unpleasant, and does not cause a high; the tissues of the oral cavity and throat are more or less restored. There is no tickling of the receptors in the mouth and throat, so the physical desire to scratch the taste and tactile receptors no longer exists. However, if a person resumes smoking and smokes one or two cigarettes, the process can restart again.
The last aspect of the process of smoking is the effect of the exhalation of smoke. When exhaling smoke, one can feel relief and satisfaction, since the presence of smoke in the lungs is something unnatural.
Motivation is a process that occurs in the human psyche, inducing a person to act. The word “motivation” is derived from the word motive, which in psychology refers to a movement in consciousness, orientation to anything, etc. The word “motive” comes from the Latin (“moveo” – I move anything), and in different areas it can be interpreted in different ways.
The motivation process may be the result of both external and internal stimuli. The stimulus is either an external factor, the impact of which starts the process of motivation in the human psyche or subjective state, for example, the feeling of reward or self-assertion, etc. For example, if a person feels the need to smoke, the smoking process is the goal, the desire to be satisfied by smoking is the motive, and the physical lack of something in the mouth and throat is the stimulus. The stimulus can also be a feeling of dissatisfaction in the form of discontent or boredom without smoking process or withdrawal syndrome.
Self-motivation means the urge to do something by one’s own conscious volitional actions. A man himself decides whether or not to respond to any external or internal stimuli. Self-motivation creates a more natural and sustainable enthusiasm better than external factors do. Perhaps, this can be one of the main reasons for the difficulties in getting rid of any bad habits. In the case of regular smoking, a person starts smoking a cigarette with some false self-motivation. At the moment of inhaling smoke, there is some goal, intention, or mind striving in the consciousness: to obtain a physical or psychical pleasure. This intention, at the moment of smoking, can lead to the formation of some false attitudes. For example, not everyone who tries smoking becomes addicted to smoking. Probably, these type of people, at the moment of inhalation, smoke without intention to obtain pleasure; consequently, they do not become a victim of such unconscious self-deception. Over a certain amount of time after smoking, a person has the desire to comb through the receptors of the oral cavity with smoke, which is also combined with a false intention to get pleasure from smoking. In the end, after some time of regular smoking and self-deception, a rookie-smoker becomes a full member of the “smoking community”, believers in a false installation. Non-smokers, in comparison with smokers, do not have such an intention (striving) in mind. Of course, it does not mean that in order to become a non-smoker one just needs not to smoke. It is too simple logic; this logic is relevant only for non-smokers or those who have quit smoking long ago. If quitting smoking was so simple nobody would have the need to smoke constantly. Any prolonged exposure always causes a certain result; in this case, it is a spontaneous self-motivation to smoking and striving in the mind to obtain some satisfaction from smoking. In order to get rid of this false motivation and striving, it is necessary to invest a certain amount of energy in necessary direction because the process of habituation was launched as a result of certain efforts; psychological habits will not stop by themselves.
In social psychology, a series of experiments were conducted to study the power of conformity in groups of people^^1^^. According to these experiments, a person in a group of people can agree with an obviously false opinion of the majority. (Asсh, 1951) (Asch, 1955) Perhaps, in relation to the taste of the smoke of tobacco, something similar can happen. Any person, who attempts smoking, does it either in the company of other smokers, or even alone, and heard that smoking is cool and pleasant.
Every perception as a process can be broken down into sub-processes. In any perception, it is possible to allocate some focus on what the person concentrates his attention, and some peripherals – what is perceived in the background. Eventually, the brain creates an image that is, the perception of something.
For example, every visual image can be broken down into highlight, shadow, shade, reflection, etc. The highlight is the location, where the light falls and is totally reflected. A shadow is an area where no light falls, etc. As a result, the play of light and shadow creates a visual perception of the object. The purpose of an artist is to determine the visual image between light areas and dark, and transfer it to the paper in the form of shades of different colors. The artist is able to look at reality differently by swapping focus and the periphery of his visual perception. Ordinary people look at reality in only one habitual perspective.
Auditory perception also can be broken down into some constituent parts. For example, listening to music, you can focus either on vocals or on an individual musical instrument. For this reason, live acoustic music brings an incredible impression, as all of the musical parts come together from different directions and merges only in the perception of the listener, not in the dynamics of the player.
Over time, as a result of repetition, the brain of the person creates some templates, in the form of habits, to perceive anything as the only familiar way.
Taste perception and olfaction occur through chemical stimulation of the respective receptors and they are not so clear in comparison with vision and hearing. Reaction to taste and smell in humans can vary depending on various factors. Taste buds are located throughout the oral cavity, including the larynx and the palate.
The most interesting thing is that all of the addictions caused by nicotine or caffeine have something in common – smoke, fumes, tar. Tobacco smoke, black tea, and coffee contain the results of combustion. For example, green tea contains more caffeine than black tea. However, green tea usually does not cause such a strong addiction. Many people can drink cups and cups of black tea, like coffee, without stopping. Tar and other combustion products can specifically affect the receptors in the oral cavity, throat and nose, creating the desire to busy the mouth and throat. However, much depends on the perception and attention of a person. The attention of adults is focused mainly on their thinking. Due to excessive fixity on the thinking process, the perception process of an adult is slightly “delayed” compared to the perception of the child. In the adult, every perception is instantly projected in the mind; the person instantly recalls and ponders one’s own feelings. The focus of attention should be on the senses, and then it is a true perception. Usually, smokers fix attention on a mental representation of the tactile and gustatory sensations, which sensations are reflected in the mind and merge with the desire to obtain satisfaction at the time of smoke inhalation. Such false maneuvers in consciousness can be the foundation of any bad habit. If people always were focused on the perception, but not on mental projections of their feelings, such self-deception would not have been possible. Those who did not become regular smokers, perhaps, just smoked with genuine perception of the smoking process while focusing on the mouth and throat. As a result, smoking seemed disgusting for them and didn’t turn into a habit.
To achieve anything, in the first place, one must have a clearly-defined goal. This goal must be specific and clear. Usually, the confusion on many issues begins with the incorrect use of words, language and concepts. Among non-smokers it is very common to hear this phrase: “you have to be able to just say no”. It is absolutely true. But, unfortunately, for too many smokers this phrase provides no help. And the reason may be that there are no specifics. Smokers sometimes just can’t understand to what they need to say “no”, because often we hear: “Say no to smoking”, or “say no to cigarettes”. These are completely meaningless phrases from the point of view of setting goals and achieving them. It is useless to say “no” to cigarettes as they do not put themselves in the mouth, or to say “no” to smoking, which does not happen by itself either. According to this logic, one needs to understand that the cause of smoking is a false motive that induces a person to smoke. This motive is the desire to obtain satisfaction either from the effects of nicotine and other substances, or from the process of smoking. [Sometimes it appears because of boredom or feelings of dissatisfaction] It is this false motive to which one must learn to say “no”; to reject it with forceful impact. One needs to be able to make a decisive refusal. Many people, who do not smoke, also experience similar desires, but not regarding smoking. It happens to each person when he does not know what else he needs to satisfy himself, and wants something to please himself. Many non-smokers have a very good phrase: “There is a lot that I want to do, but should I really indulge every desire?”
In principle, when this false motive appears, a person can have the following reactions:
• agree with it, get a cigarette, and light it;
• disagree, resist, and endure, just limiting oneself;
• reject completely by resolutely saying “no” to the desire (motive).
In everyday life, the concept of “willpower” is often interpreted incorrectly. Very often it is interpreted as the ability to endure or withstand any restrictions, or even torments. But in fact the concept of “willpower” is the ability to make decisions and follow through with them. Again, the same confusion about concepts is apparent. One can say that every willful rejection of the motive to want to smoke, gives rise to a strengthening of the will and consequently the will of man acquires some strength. Many people make similar waivers with ease. For example, at a party, in the midst of it, someone may not be able to stop drinking and therefore gets drunk, but one can say “No, enough”, although he may want to continue drinking. People in this case, by conscious volitional intention, cease the desire to get drunk. Therefore the desire to drink passes. This is the power of will. Those who do not possess this skill, often confuse willpower with the ability to limit oneself, to suffer anything. Will power in this case is the ability to manage one’s own psyche, the ability not to want to do anything, when there is a real desire. Willpower is not some method; it is a psychological quality of a person. It requires exercise. The absence of this quality leads to difficulties when quitting something. Roughly speaking, the lack of willpower is the inability to say a resolute “no” – either to their needs or to other people. Willpower is the ability to be specific and decisive. However, many people misunderstand even this interpretation of the concept “willpower”, trying exteriorly to be decisive or specific. In simple words, a person who has willpower, is a true master of himself, he does not allow any of his spontaneous thoughts or other people to impose anything on him. He has his own independent self-consciousness. People without willpower are reminiscent of sailboats without control which react to any fluctuations of their mind and immediately change course; as a result, they can’t quit smoking because they cannot control their mentality.
This problem can be approached another way. Most people use willpower intuitively, and its ability cannot be simply put into words. It is possible to understand this phenomenon when it is explained in more detail. The reason for any result is the originally set goal. In this case, the desire to smoke is the result of multiple mental striving to the goal: to get satisfaction from the smoking process or from the effects of nicotine. One needs to destroy or obscure this goal in the mind. Without breaking this goal, a person will always come to an old intention (motivation) in the form of anticipation of some pleasure or satisfaction from smoking. If a person decided to quit or reduce smoking one needs to make the decision to destroy this spontaneous aspiration. Otherwise, why would a man quit smoking, if he always needs to get some joy from smoking? To not want to smoke, for some, is difficult as there is a real mental craving and nowhere to escape it. To not want to obtain pleasure or satisfaction from smoking is already quite feasible, because there is something to exert will on it; there is some measure of choice for a person. First and foremost one must learn intentionally to not want to obtain satisfaction from anything. This is the ability to say “no” to any request, but more specific. In other words, the person must question the process of satisfaction. This can only be done by the person himself.
The impact of words on the human body has been known since ancient times. In all ancient traditions there exist various rituals with incantations, mantra singing, etc. Even in modern days there are a lot of people who believe in omens, and are treated with energized water, reciting spells, etc.
In the modern world, the examination of the impact of words on an organism is facilitated by the method of finger plethysmography. The experiment is carried out as follows: special devices are put on the fingertips of the subject which detect blood volume and the subtle changes of diameters of blood vessels in the fingers. At the time of the experiment, a special metal tube, in the form of a coil, is put on the shoulder of the subject through which hot or cold water passes. When the cold water passes, the device starts recording the narrowing of the blood vessels; when the hot water passes, the expansion is recorded. If the test person hears that they skip the hot water, but actually, cold water passes, the device registers the influence of verbal commands, but not the impact of the stimulus. In the opposite case, the same thing happens. When the subject hears: “Warm goes”, the vessels are subject to verbal command of psychotherapist, but not to the real impact of the stimulus which is cooling. (Boule, 2001, pp. 10-11)
In subsequent experiments, it was proved that the internal organs and bodily fluids (blood, urine, gastric fluid, leukocytes, etc.) can also obey the verbal commands of the doctor and that the person, with rich imagination, can induce both positive and negative reactions by himself in the body. However, in most cases, people tend to generate negative pulses which can lead to a psychosomatic disease. One can say that people not taking into account the power of suggestion and words may unconsciously induce various adverse symptoms which are caused by excessive valetudinarianism and anxiety. (Boule, 2001, pp. 12-13)
Such autosuggestion often operates on the basis of belief in the ritual. For example, there are many people who go for treatment to traditional healers or sorcerers and mediums, read prayers or spells, etc. As a rule, any ritual or spell deprives a person of doubt, and if there is no doubt in his mind, the person may recover from some illness or from desire to smoke or to drink alcohol. All of this is unconscious working of the psyche (placebo effect). Humans are mysterious creatures, but the danger of such rituals may lie in the fact that a person can become dependent on rituals or someone else’s promises. This can lead to more negative consequences than smoking or illness. After these rituals, many people have become obsessed with these ideas. They believe that the ritual helped them or begin to exalt someone’s ideas and make someone a “guru”. Furthermore, the scope of impact of words and beliefs has a limit. In modern days, we can find much advice on how to gain wealth or become successful using only the power of words and beliefs. These marketing tricks, in the form of excessive motivation, usually lead to a false feeling of omnipotence and mental deviations. Interestingly, any dependence is based on a similar anticipation of some reward. But the anticipation of some reward or satisfaction is only a deceptive maneuver of a reward system in the brain, which triggers the motivation process, but no more. (Olds & Milner, 1954) When some need appears in the mind then neurotransmitter dopamine is released in these structures of the brain; it stimulates a person to chase some reward. In 2001, a Stanford neuroscientist Brian Knutson published a convincing study in which he proved that dopamine is responsible not for the experience of reward, but for the anticipation of reward. (Knutson, Fong, Adams, & Hommer, 2001) The main function of dopamine is not the feeling of pleasure or satisfaction, but the process of motivation to achieve that what is desired. Dopamine is also released at the thought of some reward (delicious food, cash prize, smoking, intoxication, etc.) and is blocked at the thought of the impossibility of achievement a reward and also promotes fixation of attention on what is important to the person. Drugs have a stronger and deeper stimulating effect on the reward system of the brain than any natural factors. (McGonigal, 2012, pp. 107-132) However, beliefs may also be involved in the process of drug exposure. An interesting study was conducted by researchers of the University of Texas at Dallas. In this experiment the analysis of brain activity of smokers was performed on the MRI scanner. Twenty-four chronic, nicotine-addicted smokers used two types of cigarette: with nicotine and without it. When participants thought they were taking a dose of nicotine, but actually they smoked a cigarette without nicotine (placebo), the fMRI scans recorded the increased activity of some brain region. [This brain region is responsible for the desire to use substances that cause addiction] When participants smoked a nicotine cigarette and knew that its nicotine content was genuine, then the fMRI scans also showed significant neural activity of these brain structures. However, when smoking cigarettes with nicotine but thinking it was a placebo, fMRI scans did not show the same brain signals. The results of this study suggest that if a person believes that he smokes an ordinary cigarette, then his need in smoking is satisfied regardless of the presence or absence of nicotine in the cigarette. But if a person is confident that he smokes a cigarette without nicotine, then even the presence of nicotine in the cigarette doesn’t cause the feeling of satisfaction. According to the findings of this study, beliefs can alter the effects of drugs such as nicotine. (Gu X. , et al., 2016) However, it can be assumed that Israeli scientists are right and the process of satisfaction from smoking is not related to nicotine at all. (Dar & Frenk, Nicotine addiction: Fact or theory?, 2002) (Reuven Dar, 2007) In any case, being addicted to smoking does not mean that the person literally depends on the drug to live. According to classification in ICD-10, the dependence syndrome is a complex (cluster) of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive phenomena – when a man can’t control himself – and the use of psychoactive substance or a class of substances, which start to occupy a central place in his life^^2^^. (EJ N. , 2013) Many smokers tend to take literally the word “dependence” as if they depend on smoking in the same manner as on air or water. In everyday life, literal interpretation of the word “dependence”, perhaps, finally convinced many tobacco smokers that they are in a direct sense dependent on nicotine. According to the stories of real addicts, who could overcome real drug addiction (heroin users, alcoholics, etc.), the main obstacle was not the physical dependence but the inability to understand themselves (a certain split in a person’s opinions). [It should be noted that there is a difference between people abusing something and addicts] If the addict agrees with the thought “Maybe I can try it again” (smoking, alcohol, drugs, or gambling), sooner or later he can fall under a kind of self-hypnosis (mental craving) and loses control over oneself. Apparently, a person’s beliefs can change the mental states; addiction is primarily a mental deviation which unfortunately cannot be cured completely. The only thing that the former addict can do with this is not to allow oneself to agree with his old beliefs of an addict; the power of beliefs is based on the actual acceptance of a certain opinion.
Every modern person, carrying out an action, uses different types of thinking. The thinking process of a modern person can vary from the process of thinking of a man who lived, for example, several centuries ago, or even more so, several millennia. Modern man has learned to use verbal thinking, which is characterized by a specific form of thinking in the form of speaking words. For example, besides verbal thinking, there are a number of other ways of thinking, such as: sensory-visual (visual-situational), subject-practical, and imaginative thinking. These types of thinking, in contrast to verbal thinking, do not require mandatory use of the language form. (Rogalev, 2010)
Every normal person, in the course of any activity or at rest, periodically has fleeting thoughts in the form of short pulses which are verbalized into the form of verbal or visual images. This stream of thought flows parallel with the conscious purposeful thinking, and a person very often perceives spontaneous impulses as something obvious; not giving the question the content of these thoughts.
Most often, in the process of communication people perceive not the meaning of the words, but the emotion (intonation, intention) of the expression. For this reason, a person often does not understand himself or others because he doesn’t capture the essence of emotional-verbal transmission of the message, taking all literally, or on the contrary, too emotionally.
The same thing can happen when a person is thinking. In the process of thinking, there might be confusion between the perception of spontaneous thoughts and intentional thoughts of the person. For example, the impulse in the mind: “I want to smoke” can be just a spontaneous thought, which, in reality, has no intention; it’s kind of a familiar phrase that pops up in the mind automatically out of habit. If a person continues this thought, in fact, he unconsciously strives in the mind to want to smoke. As a result, the “empty” (non-intentional) thought “I want to smoke” becomes an intentional thought of human consciousness.
Usually the person breaks down and lights a cigarette due to the fact that he begins to trust the spontaneous thoughts and unknowingly starts the process of motivation to smoking. As already mentioned, the reward system in the human brain creates only motivation or anticipation of any satisfaction which deceives people. Each person is taught from childhood to expect a reward for his actions: “if you behave yourself, then you get the toy car on your birthday,” etc. Every person from childhood is unconsciously “hooked” on the feeling of reward, and is taught to anticipate what he wants. Any unnatural desire only exists because of expectation (anticipation). Expectation (anticipation) of something moves the person from the present moment of life in the imagination (in the future) and creates an illusion of lack of something in the present moment.
In some sense, people cannot want to inhale smoke because it is not provided physiologically. Permanent excessive smoking is kind of an anomaly to the human body. The reason of such excessive smoking can be the emergence of spontaneous thoughts, with which the person agrees, since the need to smoke is a social norm. In the human’s mind, besides the motive to want to smoke, the most silly, spontaneous thoughts or mental delusions can occur; but a decent person does not agree with this nonsense because he has a public position on what is good and what is bad for morality. Acceptance of the spontaneous thoughts can lead to the formation of a habit to succumb to this thought. In such cases, many people may feel angry because intuitively feel that they lose control over themselves and they fall under the influence of spontaneous thoughts.
For an adult, the presence of spontaneous thoughts in the mind is something quite acceptable, perhaps, because this acceptability has never been questioned. In some sense, spontaneous thinking cannot be fully conscious by a person, since it happens automatically without the participation of the person’s volition. This is a very important point – “without participation of the person’s volition.” It turns out that the presence of uncontrolled thoughts can be a phenomenon which is not affected by the will of man, but why? Perhaps this is the cornerstone of any bad habit. While becoming an adult, one begins to allow spontaneous thoughts to coexist parallel to deliberate thinking. This can be a deviation from normal speech-thinking activity, which deviation is particularly evident during the process of getting rid of any bad habit.
For example, the desire to smoke is usually manifest in the form of an impulse, which is basically verbalized into words.
- I need to smoke.
- But I quit.
Then there is an impulse again:
- Come on, one cigarette is nothing to worry about.
It’s hard to explain what could be the reason of such duality in a human’s consciousness. Perhaps, the cause of some dispute with oneself can be the formation of a certain false abstract-imaginative “Self”; which is a kind of lens through which a person begins to perceive himself and the world with some distortions in sensations. A person, perceiving himself through the prism of the process of continuous thinking, in some sense, may lose the real sensation of himself, and can become a kind of intellectual psycho-linguistic model. This model can be an idea about oneself, or view for which the constant smoking, or other permanent adverse effects, may not seem particularly harmful, and are quite desirable.
As mentioned before, to achieve anything, in the first place, one must have a clearly-defined goal and unwavering mental striving to this goal.
One of the most effective approaches to achieving goals is the acceptance of any obstacles as a task or test, which must be treated as a challenge to the person. With respect to any difficulty or problem as a challenge, there is a natural motivation to achieve success, and to solve this problem.
Usually, one of the main negative incentives that instigate a person to take up smoking (alcohol or drug) again might be a feeling of dissatisfaction or a sense of meaninglessness of existence without tobacco smoking (alcohol or drug). The most effective solution in such case might be the acceptance of any feeling of discontent or dissatisfaction as a challenge. Furthermore, one can try to become intentionally angry in response to the feeling of dissatisfaction, which can lead to bellicosity (decisiveness). Man is a predatory creature, not in terms of violence, but in terms of struggle and in terms of ability to be active. Modern humans are descendants of ancient hunters. In all traditional communities hunting was considered as a special activity as the hunters were providers who supported the existence of the whole tribe. Without hunting, it was impossible to survive in the wild and extend the existence of the genus. To be a hunter required the presence of certain knowledge and skills, as well as to be in equilibrium, in harmony with the surrounding wild reality. People at that time were very careful to the world around them, they used the world moderately.
For example, before the Mari peoples cut down trees to build houses, they would appeal to the Element by apologizing for the killing of trees, and promised the Elemental force that they would take only as much timber as they needed to build housing, but no more. In all ancient traditions we can find similar rites. People of ancient times probably felt deeply the transience and temporality of existence of all living things, and, first of all, temporality of themselves; therefore, they apologized to the forest for the damages, promising the Elements, that someday they would also have to die, and their bodies would be a sustenance for the inhabitants of the forest. The people of those times were probably forced to live with the feeling of some challenge continuously, maybe for this reason they had not seen themselves as more important than all things surrounding, and were primarily, in harmony with themselves.
Modern people may lack precisely similar reactions. If a person will learn to take the feeling of discontent or dissatisfaction without smoking, (alcohol or drug) as a challenge, the desire can immediately lose its power over the person’s will or can disappear completely. A feeling of dissatisfaction without smoking, in some sense, is only a small whim (caprice), and is an attempt to feel sorry for oneself. Small self-pity and the acceptance of something as a challenge are two opposite mental states that do not coexist together. Many ex-smokers and alcoholics come to similar methods intuitively. When they have thoughts about smoking or alcohol, they try to become deliberately angry at themselves with maximum determination. In such mental state one can realize that only being in a similar bellicose (resolute) state of mind you can be a true manager of your behavior, but not an abstract thought or idea about oneself.
In the modern world one can find much advice on how to become happy. In general, the concept “happiness” implies a certain subjective state of satisfaction and joy. In some ways, intrusive desire to be always happy could be some blurred and illusory vision of the world through the prism of verbal thinking “I am happy”, whereas, actually, these words may hide anxiety or unconscious fears. True happiness cannot be achieved by autosuggestion or training. The natural state of happiness is a state of being – the result of certain harmony of the subjective world of the person and the surrounding reality. Perhaps, the obsessive pursuit of happiness in today’s society is caused by unnatural and unsatisfied mental state of a modern man. Being in the modern information environment, modern man has come to rely on verbal thinking too much. Every event in life, even just look out the window, produces a reaction in the form of thoughts which people perform automatically, without conscious effort on the part of the person. (Thorndike, 1905, pp. 264-266) Therefore, most of the time attention of an adult person is also focused on the thinking, rather than the real world. Some of these thoughts become words, and some are in the form of images. Perceiving reality through the prism of continuous thinking, the person is unknowingly immersed in the imaginary psychic reality and, presumably, tries to escape from this reality with the help of various drugs.
As already mentioned, the process of smoking tobacco is rooted in some Native American traditions. The indigenous people of America, perhaps, never had the idea to only smoke for the pleasure of inhaling smoke into the lungs. Most likely it came from modern civilization; from its hedonistic aspirations only to get physical pleasure from any given action. Of course, those ancient varieties of tobacco weren’t as soft, compared to those which have been grown later in Europe and in the USA. According to some researchers of the twentieth century, those ancient tobacco varieties could contain substances similar to the effects of some hallucinogens which subsequently manufacturers began to withdraw from harvested commercial varieties of tobacco. (Janiger & Dobkin, 1976) In various Native American traditions, smoking tobacco or other plants has always had a ritual focus. The main purpose of smoking was to enter an altered state of consciousness to obtain a certain kind of knowledge and experience. Perhaps, some echoes of this tradition survived even in today’s smokers. All smokers which were caught into this trap remember their first cigarette very well. The first cigarette smoked into the lungs, leads to dizziness, and some temporary clouding of consciousness. People who start smoking continuously, of course, feel nothing like this, but some effects may still remain. Many smokers say that smoking calms them down, and supposedly, that’s why they smoke. Maybe this really makes sense. Every drug – tobacco, alcohol or others – primarily affects the consciousness. The feeling of joy or a little happiness can arise from the transition from a normal state into an altered state of consciousness. The moment of transition can cause a feeling of joy from some changes in sensations and perceptions. For example, in the use of alcohol this moment usually does not last long, which is followed by the clouding of consciousness, which brings little, if any, joy or pleasure from intoxication.
Smoking tobacco can be something similar, except that smoking does not cause such intoxication. At the initial stage, smoking tobacco may lead to a small change in consciousness that might be perceived by a person as a kind of solace or joy, or vice versa sadness; simply put, a small change in the sensations. One can say that smoking tobacco might be some psychological “restart”. However, after some time of continuous smoking, the human body adapts, and the effects of a small change in consciousness disappear; there is only the memory of this in the form of a little joy or hope, and smoking becomes a routine habit. The memory of joy caused by a small change in consciousness can lead to misconception that one can always obtain such mental effects from inhaling of tobacco smoke. This aspect of addiction to smoking can be a clumsy attempt to return to a more fulfilling perception and sensation; which a person loses while becoming an adult. In this respect, tobacco smoking unites modern man with ancient people in a hopeless search for a state of inner order; a state which possibly was mentioned in ancient American legends as peace between oneself and the unknown of surrounding reality.
Any unnatural desire is based on a sense of hope. We just always hope to get some joy or a little happiness from the actions which we expect in the near future. Therefore, in order to be free from any false desire, first and foremost, it is necessary to learn how to truly live in the present.
In the modern world we can often hear that you need to live here and now, do not live in the future, live in the present, you need to enjoy every moment, you need to stop living in thoughts, etc. Unfortunately, these slogans usually do not go beyond beautiful expressions, since the problem of “Here and now” is not just the result of a free choice of a person.
As mentioned before, spontaneous thoughts arise spontaneously in the mind, so to live or not to live in thoughts is not only a matter of a personal choice. We are always forced to live either in thought about the past or about the future, since our attention automatically follows these spontaneous impulses. Therefore, it is impossible with the help only of our desire to start living in the present, since spontaneous impulses in the mind will not allow us this. In order to really live here and now it is necessary to prevent our attention to follow these impulses.
In a sense, motion of our attention with the spontaneous impulses in the mind is only a wrong habit; which is usually formed when a person becomes an adult. If we learn to notice that our attention is captured by these spontaneous impulses, then we can make sure that all unnatural desires seem real only in this spontaneous stream of thinking. If you do not allow your attention to immerse in this illusory mental reality, then inhaling smoke, drinking alcohol and other unnatural desires may seem as they really are – disgusting unnecessary action. Roughly speaking, separating one’s attention from the stream of spontaneous thinking a person may return to a real feeling “here and now” – to that mental state in which he was in childhood.
Young children, being in the true perception of reality do not need any unnatural ways of self-satisfaction, since their attention has not yet been glued together with a stream of thoughts. It is not surprising that in the modern world there are variety ways of self-satisfaction – everything that you could think of. And all of these desires seem real only because the attention of an adult person is automatically immersed in the thought of what he just saw, heard or felt. Roughly speaking, a person instantly supplements his perception of something in the mind with the anticipation (expectation) of some pleasure or satisfaction. Of course, in this illusory mental process any absurd desire can begin to seem real, since the imagination of a modern person has no limit.
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1 Conformity — a change in behavior or opinion of a person being influenced by real or imagined pressure from another person or group.
In this book, the problem of smoking and other false desires is discussed. Any unnatural desire is based on a sense of hope. We just always hope to get some joy or a little happiness from the actions which we expect in the near future. Therefore, in order to be free from any false desire, first and foremost, it is necessary to learn how to truly live in the present. Unfortunately, we are always forced to live either in thought about the past or about the future, since our attention automatically follows these spontaneous impulses. Therefore, it is impossible with the help only of our desire to start living in the present, since spontaneous impulses in the mind will not allow us this. In order to really live here and now it is necessary to prevent our attention to follow these impulses. In a sense, motion of our attention with the spontaneous impulses in the mind is only a wrong habit; which is usually formed when a person becomes an adult. If we learn to notice that our attention is captured by these spontaneous impulses, then we can make sure that all unnatural desires seem real only in this spontaneous stream of thinking. If you do not allow your attention to immerse in this illusory mental reality, then inhaling smoke, drinking alcohol and other unnatural desires may seem as they really are – disgusting unnecessary action. Roughly speaking, separating one's attention from the stream of spontaneous thinking a person may return to a real feeling “here and now” – to that mental state in which he was in childhood. Young children, being in the true perception of reality do not need any unnatural ways of self-satisfaction, since their attention has not yet been glued together with a stream of thoughts. It is not surprising that in the modern world there are variety ways of self-satisfaction – everything that you could think of. And all of these desires seem real only because the attention of an adult person is automatically immersed in the thought of what he just saw, heard or felt. Roughly speaking, a person instantly supplements his perception of something in the mind with the anticipation (expectation) of some pleasure or satisfaction. Of course, in this illusory mental process any absurd desire can begin to seem real, since the imagination of a modern person has no limit.