“How to Quit Smoking” = A Very Crummy Question!

Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers.” Pierre Marc-Caston

If you have been asking,  how can I quit smoking for many years and you are still smoking, that may suggest that the question itself is to blame. That question apparently has no power; it’s keeping you going around in circles.

           In his classic book People in Quandaries:  the Semantics of Personal Adjustment,  the psychologist Wendell Johnson  points out that a “vague question always leads to a vague answer. ” The question,  how can I quit smoking is a vague question because it has 1000 or more different answers:

  • I can get locked up in jail,
  • have my mouth duct taped,
  • cut my hands off,
  • have a stroke,
  • be kidnapped by terrorists,
  • keep a lemon in my mouth…

Johnson goes on to say,  “… Of his every question, the scientist asks, by exactly what procedure might a reliable factual answer to this question be found? If the scientist cannot find such a procedure, he abandons the question. That is why he is so efficient in solving problems; he confines his energies to questions that can be clearly answered.” (People in Quandaries, p 55, 56)

So if we are going to approach quitting in a scientific manner, we need to ask questions which lend themselves to specific procedures by which we may find an answer. For example, how many times a day do I kick myself for smoking? One could carry a notepad and pencil, and count the times, if not every time at least a general approximation.  Do I smoke less when I kick myself for smoking?

Another question: how much of my cigarette do I really enjoy? The first three puffs? The last three puffs?  Again, with notepad and careful observation, as scientists are trained to do, we might find a true answer to this question. And answering such a question will give us a deeper insight into our own relationship with smoking.

And yet still other questions: what part of me hurts when I want a smoke? Is it my toes? My knees? My belly button? My ears? My mouth? My brain? What part of my brain? These questions can be answered, and thus we are on our way to understanding the truth about our smoking behavior. (“Ye  shall know the truth, and truth shall set you free.”)

The point here is that we need to ask better questions if we want to get free of the smoking habit.  The question how can I quit smoking is a very weak question because it does not lend itself to simple, observable, tactile answers.

Of course, most of us have asked more detailed questions in our attempts to quit smoking:  Will Chantix help me stop smoking? Will the patch help me quit smoking? And then perhaps we investigate, we experiment.

But what questions had we been asking around these questions? For most of us, not many. To take an (artistically) scientific approach to quitting smoking, we must start questioning our questions. When we begin to question our questions, light at the end of the tunnel begins to appear.

We will need to find questions that unravel the mental and emotional matrix that we have built up around our smoking. When, with better questions,  we unravel this mental and emotional matrix, the physical quitting will be much easier.  Do you question this observation?  I’d like to hear your questions.

I intend to do many more posts about this question of questions in the weeks and months ahead.  I think it may be the key to the whole enchilada.  I would of course appreciate your questions. Contact me at:

bear (at)smokersfreedomschool (dot) com

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