Re: Fear of Discomfort


(Posted to the Usenet group as a response to the topic 'Fear of Discomfort', on Sept 26, 1996.  The original, with replies, is here)


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.

DDSteve 6m+