Do you enjoy smoking? Or still trying to quit?
I smoked a lot in my late-teens. I told everyone I loved it. I believed it. But it wasn't true.
A few years on, it was normal for my friends to ask, "are you smoking at the moment?". It was a running joke. Because I'd quit cold-turkey for a few weeks, then quickly be back chain-smoking in the pub garden. Like a human yo-yo. But why?
Cognitive biases help your brain stitch reality together. But they also make it less realistic. And more..biased. Ever had someone explain "well, that's different because.." to some contradictory evidence you offered about a strong belief they have?
The world isn't consistent. And neither are we. But inconsistency makes us anxious. So our brain prefers to rationalise (i.e. bullshit us) rather than contradict itself.
Eventually, I discovered smoking - to me - meant inclusion. A reason to stand outside and not feel awkward. To start conversations. Be accepted. Not feel alone. I had no idea at the time though. Only the god-awful cravings.
All habits and behaviours have a positive, unconscious intention. But it's rarely logical, and we don't get a memo. We can, however, start to dig:
"What do I LOSE because I do this?"
"What would I GAIN from stopping?"
We've usually asked those before. Probably no real surprises. So try these:
"What do I GAIN from this?"
"What would I LOSE from stopping?"
A common first response is "nothing!" So stick with it. Ask "what if there WAS something?". Because it probes your unconscious intentions - and fears - about what smoking really means to you.
Serve someone a bowl of soup, then offer them a fork or a straw. They'll ask for a spoon. But I'd bet money they choose straw over fork when there's no spoon around. Your brain looks for simple, available solutions to its problems. Not good ones.
Once your unconscious has a strategy, it tends to stick to it. Until we offer a better one. So when it comes asking for that proverbial straw, take a moment, and start by asking what it's for.