It is not easy to stop smoking and abandon what can be seen as a “reassuring” ritual. Quitting can indeed be the source of a deep feeling of fear. So, how can you overcome this fear that prevents you from moving forward and clearing yourself of this addiction? The answer is to transform this fear into courage. Easier said than done, to be sure. To maximize your chances, you must know what is meant exactly by “fear” and “courage” and then how you can go from the former to the latter.
The smoker's feeling of fear
First, let’s see what the feeling of fear is generally referring to. We can say that fear is an emotion characterized by an intense and unpleasant reaction to a perceived danger, present or future, real or the fruit of one’s imagination. This is a basic emotion that we can observe in both animals and humans. Psychologies magazine proposes this definition of "fear": "Threats or situations of physical or psychological danger make us enter a specific emotional state, often accompanied by physiological reactions: shivers, sweat, stomach pains, acceleration of the pulse.""
Testimonies from smokers who want to quit show that this feeling of fear overwhelms them and slows the cessation process down. The reasons behind this feeling can be the following :
- Smokers can find life boring because of the lack of cigarettes and the pleasure the latter gives. A regrettable connection is thus made: being deprived of cigarettes means being deprived of pleasure!
- There is a fear to put on weight because we often link the cessation process to weight gain.
- Stress can also be anticipated and feared since smokers systematically perceive and use cigarettes as stress relievers
- The fear to fail in this process is important as smokers know how hard it is to quit. Therefore, the easier way not to fail is to simply keep on smoking…
Of course, these feelings are real and must be taken into account as they are both the results and symptoms of a psychological and physical dependence. That’s why they are a genuine obstacle to the withdrawal.
The smoker’s courage
According to Le Monde, courage is "a distinctive feature in living beings that enables them to overcome their fear; tolerate the pain, face a danger, start something difficult or adventurous."
In the case of smokers who are hindered in their smoking cessation by their fears, such situation is the chance to transform these fears into courage. By drawing inspiration from positive psychology, these smokers are encouraged to surpass themselves by developing their own strengths, resilience and their underestimated – if not unknown – abilities in order to overcome the obstacle and achieve their ultimate goal.
From fear to courage
Three steps to get from fear to courage:
- Step 1: Getting the better of our fears requires, first and foremost, to identify them: fear of failure, fear of putting on weight, fear of experiencing a relapse, fear of being de-socialized, fear not to be able to handle the stress, fear or boredom, etc. Then, it is necessary to analyze them (our fears can make us think about the future), understand them in order to accept them and get rid of them, learn to make them appear less scary, downplay “fear” in itself. Finally, it is essential to understand that they are normal and should not be the source of a feeling of guilt.
- Step 2: Transforming fears into challenges. For instance, a smoker who worries about the fact he or she could put on weight can start doing some sport, climb up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, settle an appointment with a nutritionist in order to be on a diet while he or she is quitting smoking. To take another example, a smoker who fears to be de-socialized can organize a networking event with unknown people, make a list of all his/her non-smoker acquaintances, friends and family members, or inform everyone of his/her intention to stop smoking in a staged big announcement.
- Step 3: Replacing fears with courage. Someone who has identified his/her fears, transformed them into challenges which were then overcome with courage, has provided himself/herself with the means to complete the cessation process. Such achievement is a victory over tobacco that even goes beyond the cigarette.
The most important element in this process is to remain benevolent with yourself, to not underestimate your capacities to go through this and to develop a fighting spirit. For the smokers going through the cessation process, this liberation will increase their self-esteem and self-confidence regarding their abilities to overcome all sorts of problems. Nothing but positive results!