Feeling Smoke No Feeling

I feel the need to not feel.

Hunger is a chemical reaction that once interpreted by the brain points us to the need for nourishment. When we eat, new chemical reactions take place and the hunger feeling stops. We can predict our hunger patterns and set our schedule to eat at the correct time so we don’t need to experience hunger. We live life free from hunger failing to realize that the escape from feeling hunger has become a prison where the prison bars are scheduled meal times. When we stop experiencing hunger, we no longer know what it feels to be full. We need the feeling of hunger to contrast the feeling of fullness. We can’t stop ourselves from feeling hunger, what we can do is to outgrow hunger, to not let hunger-management become the purpose of our lives. We put hunger in its proper place, a need among others. If feelings were just chemical reactions, then we all could overcome the fear of snakes by looking at pictures of snakes until the chemical reactions wear off. Emotions are more than mere chemical reactions, emotions are an integral part of the human experience. Had we not had emotions as children then we would not have made it into adulthood. Emotions are to humans what the ocean is to whales. Whether we like it or not, it is obvious that emotions and feelings are here to stay and we need to stop finding ways of avoiding them and instead work with our emotions and feelings to fulfill our needs. How can we escape danger without the motivation of fear? How can we eat without the feeling of hunger? How can we love without the need for connection and belonging?

How about psychological conditioning? Are we capable of conditioning ourselves to do certain behaviors without even taking notice? Ivan Pavlov took a dog and conditioned it to salivate when a bell was rung. He achieved this by ringing a bell just before the dog was fed. A connection in the dog’s mind was made between food and the sound of the bell ringing. When the food was removed and the bell was rung, the dog would salivate although there was no food to salivate over. The dog was successfully conditioned. Can we condition ourselves, like Pavlovian dogs, to feel certain feelings and emotions in response to certain stimuli? Let’s have a cigarette and think of the question. The uncertainty awakened by those questions has set in motion a chain of emotions, and at least one of those emotions triggered the urge to smoke.

Smoking is a way to manage emotions by numbing and suppressing them. We are afraid to feel our emotions and so we smoke. Let us take a look below:

Feeling sad – Smoke a cigarette. Don’t feel sad…

Feeling scared – Smoke a cigarette. Don’t feel scared…

Feeling angry – Smoke a cigarette. Don’t feel angry…

Feeling happy – Smoke a cigarette. Don’t feel happy…

Feel nothing at all… Feel empty – Smoke a cigarette.

Instead of moving through our emotions we try to manage them. The more we try manage our emotions instead of dealing with them the less manageable they become. Emotions are not meant to be managed, they are meant to emote, be felt, experienced and released. When we practice the art of suppressing painful emotions, our body is practicing the art of suppressing all emotions. Painful emotions and pleasant emotions are like our left and right lungs. When we smoke we can’t choose which lung will be damaged, both lungs get damaged, we can’t simply choose to let the left lung take all the tar. We can’t choose to repress only part of our emotional range. Repressing one emotion is repressing all emotions. When we suppress emotions with smoking, we condition ourselves to smoke every time we have an emotion. The road to addiction is wide open and it’s heading downhill. We can only be free by conditioning ourselves to feel and release our emotions.

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