Various research studies conducted over the years have consistently proven that the vast majority of cigarette smokers do want to stop smoking. So why don’t they just stop?
The human mind works on two different levels. We have an unconscious mind that is programmed from our birth to respond automatically to the world. Our unconscious mind runs all of the things we don’t need to think about, including our breathing, heartbeat and immune system as well as our automatic emotions and habits.
And we also have a conscious mind. It is the part of the mind where we tend to live, it is whatever we are aware of in any given moment. We think, we make decisions, and we act on those decisions with our conscious minds.
For the majority of smokers, smoking starts at a young age through a conscious decision. Typically, when young people start smoking, they cough, they feel dizzy, their eyes water and they want to throw up. But they force the body to continue smoking and pretty soon it adapts to smoking and it becomes a habit.
For the unconscious mind to form a habit all that we need to do is to practice it, making use of conscious repetition. The unconscious mind is not judgemental, and so it does not matter if what we are practising is good for us or not. If we are practising something, the unconscious mind assumes that it is important to us, and our survival.
No Conscious Control
And so after a certain amount of practice the unconscious mind will take the behaviour that is being practiced on board. And if great importance is placed on the behaviour the unconscious mind will send a signal through body in the form of a craving, at precisely those times that the behaviour has been practiced in the past. And this is why social smokers have cravings only in social settings and not at other times.
And because we tend to act on unconscious cravings this means that the conscious mind is no longer in control. We can decide to stop smoking at a conscious level and we can demand that the unconscious mind stop the habit, but it will continue, following a basic survival mechanism.
Since we don’t usually practice something we don’t want, this is not normally a problem. Smoking is unusual in this regard. We were mislead when we were young to believe that smoking is beneficial in some way, after all actors in movies and adults smoked. And so we practiced smoking until it became a habit, only to discover later on in life that it is not beneficial to us at all.