I think I know why people smoke, it occurred to me when I was thinking about an answer for "why do I keep my hands in my pockets [while everyone around me is dancing]?".
I attended a trance music festival, several DJs were invited and each of them played their set. The crowd was cheering and jumping; everyone except me, that is. (Sorry Eddie, but I guess there's a reason why you are #19 and Andy is #18 :-)
The music was not exactly my type, but "listenable" - so I entered "listening mode" and simply stood there and enjoyed the feeling of the bass touching my thorax. Can't get the same effect at home, because the neighbors would probably not enjoy the vibrations of their furniture, kitchen gear and chandeliers :-)
So I just stood there and did what I almost always do - listen to music. Everything was going well, up to the point where I began to feel weird in just about 5 minutes, because I was not like everyone else. Instead of twisting, jumping and shouting, I was just standing there. My hands were in my jeans' pockets all this time.
Why were they there? The answer is simple - because one would look utterly stupid with their hands outside, doing nothing. Am I a statue? Am I a soldier on guard? Even those guys get it easier - they have a weapon they must hold, so if you look from a side you see that they do something. Another advantage is that what they do is follow an order, so even if they appear to be idle, they are doing their job, and therefore are productive.
That is not the case of the typical idle mortal. If you "just stand there" you are useless, non-productive, inefficient, a burden to society. Pockets are a defensive mechanism, one can't see your hands when they're there, so there is always a chance that you are doing something. Warming them up, keeping an egg safe, holding a vial with a drug for your grandma, polishing your skills of reading Braile, and so on.
If hands are kept inside the pockets for too long without any motion, the picture begins to look suspect, so you need to change positions. Either choose a different pocket, or change the angle at which the hands enter, etc. After a few iterations you run out of "things to change", and the picture begins to look suspect again.
Basically, it boils down to one idea - if you are in the wrong place, doing something you don't enjoy, you simply get bored. If the circumstances were better, then you would be doing something. Writing, turning pages, sketching something, carrying something, holding items, pointing to objects, gesticulating...
To protect yourself from that, you need to keep your hands busy. Search your pockets, find the lighter, find the cigarettes, open the pack, light a cigarette. That gives you a whopping 80 seconds of being active; and after that you get to smoke your cigarette for about 2 minutes, keeping yourself busy. But most importantly, not looking stupid, because idle hands are the hands of a non-productive person at which everyone points their finger.
What else can be done? Open the menu, explore it for 6 minutes, pick a drink [the second most-expensive one:-], order the drink. After that you can get up to 30 minutes of being active if you know how to "stretch" a drink for that long. Then you pay for it and get yourself another one.
For a combined effect - get a cigarette and a drink. Rinse. Repeat for as many times as your money allows :-)
The marketroids don't hesitate to exploit this effect. They will sell whatever sells and delivers profit... Not that they see much resistance from us, consumers.
Back to my pockets. After a while I decided to change the way my hands were placed in the pockets, and as I caught myself doing that, I asked a simple question: "why do I do this?". Let's see what my options were:
- Everyone is looking at me and thinking about how stupid I am
- My hands are tired, I need to change the position before the hands go numb
I was really beginning to feel tired, so I just retired to the back of the crowd and sat on the floor. The first option is absolutely irrelevant, for at least two reasons:
- No one cares what you do. In fact, no one even notices you because they're focused on their own business. To learn more about this, read about the spotlight effect
- Even if they do see you, what are they going to do about it? Should you let yourself be affected by the fact that J. Random Anonymous thought "what a weirdo!" about you?
In other words, I conclude a new term should be coined - "ego pressure", see it as an analog of "peer pressure" that comes from the inside, rather than from the outside.
It is not solely responsible for the things we do, but often it is the first step. If the environment is "optimal" and you're assisted by other elements such as peer pressure, feeling cool, identifying yourself with a group, etc - you're much closer to becoming a full time smoker, drinker or pocket changer :-)
Why does ego pressure exist? Here are some thoughts:
- Fear of other people thinking "bad" about me (I have an image to keep!)
- Fear of being myself and not doing what everyone else does (doing that means that I separate from the group, which is bad because for many people the need of "being a part of something" is quite important)
- Sub-developed analytical skills. If you actually analyze the situation you quickly realize that there is nothing wrong about being independent and "like no other"
- Fear of admitting that I made some mistakes. For example "Unbelievable, I had to pay to get this ticket, and now that I'm here I just stand and do nothing? No! I must justify the expense!" (I must make sure I don't degrade in my own eyes either, I have an image to keep!)
In conclusion I wish to say that a simple self-test question can do wonders - "why do I do this?". Ask yourself this question every now and then. Humans are not robots, we don't do things because we were programmed to do them, we're not running on "autopilot". If you're satisfied with your answer to that question, go ahead and do it, otherwise have no mercy for yourself :-)
P.S. Having written all of the above, I guess there is another conclusion that has to be made. If you want to quit smoking, get yourself a little toy that you can play in your hand with. What could it be... a pair of magnets, one of those buddhist bracelets. Every time you want to light a cig, play with the toy first.
An alternative is to keep a copybook and a pen with yourself all the time, and when you begin to feel idle, start writing. Your mileage may vary, but it works in my case, I always have something to write.
Comment from: Natasha [Visitor]
That’s all very true indeed. For an individual who is aware of her/ his actions, and who does ask the ‘why am I doing this?’ question, it is rarely an issue to look or be different. There are enough of those people around. I sometimes see people who looks somewhat isolated, a tad clumsy, maybe a little lost - I sympathize immediately, coz it only means that they are not overly busy trying to be a complicated someone who is very busy and very important in what they do, and thus extremely interesting. I like that. We might get along.
My sad observation at this moment in time, based on what certain people do, without thinking, or what many say without thought of the consequences, or the insults and the criticism that flies left and right, is that some people ARE mostly on ‘autopilot’- ’social zombies’.Awareness alone can make them change. To change, however, you need to WANT to do it. You WANT to do it, when you’ve become AWARE of the flaws that you have that you want to change. It’s a Catch-22 situation, isn’t it?
Hah, you know what the funny thing is? I forgot to write it, but one of the other conclusions of the article was “if you find yourself around a weird person - they are good friendship material” :-)
Yes, it is a catch-22, but there is a solution - a critical mass of aware folks. These people have the ability to influence others and awaken them. “The chosen one, it was he, who freed the first of us” :-)
What you say about automation is true, the funny part is that to this day, I still catch myself doing some things on autopilot. Aaargh…
recently i’ve understood that you’re not afraid of other’s judgement, not beeing a bit afraid of looking stupid. The simpliest example is putting not the most glamurous photos on facebook (it’s a battle against the system? :D) . Are you self… i’ve forgot the word, self-suficient? what is your social group [belonging] ? i was really thinking if it’s possible this - “not carring"… what your opinion ?!
The thing is, if you swap the cigarette for a toy, it still doesn’t solve the fact that you have nothing productive to do. =] You’re just saving 10% of your health, but you’re still lost and have no idea what you should do.
Hmm.. I see, so it’s official now - sometimes I look stupid :-)
- Am I self-sufficient? I try to be. I feel pretty good when I haven’t got company and I can find a million ways to enjoy time spent on my own.
- I don’t think there is a social group to which I belong, but there are many in which I fit partially :-)
- “Not caring” is not the right way to describe it. My version is “Care about those who care". People who have common sense and some basic reasoning skills will always be reasonable in their attitude towards you. Everyone else is usually not worth any attention anyway. If they’re being unfriendly\unreasonable\offensive, all they do is make it easier for me to decide to filter them out of my social life. I thank them for the favour and move on :-)
Placinta, you’re right, but you say “just saving 10% of your health” as if that is nothing, which is not true. Moreover, “not being productive” is an incorrect way to describe a person who appears to be idle. Many activities have no instant visible results. For example I can think about a poem, a lecture, or an idea while my hands are in my pockets, doing nothing. It doesn’t matter that others think I am idle, what matters is that I know I am doing something.
Fear of being seen as “not being productive” is probably a common thing, especially societies where intellectual work is not seen as “real” work. I am afraid our society is an example.
Concerning health value, I assumed that it is known, so I didn’t dig deeper. )
Maybe YOU are being productive when you appear to be idle, but, alas, the general public is probably just wasting their time, so they are surely non-productive. Not sure how that would be mended though, just stating it to people doesn’t really help.
You’re right, many people are indeed not being productive when they stand still. The good news is that those people aren’t bothered by that at all, they don’t care, the problem does not exist for them. Ignorance is bliss.
This article, if it is useful at all, may only help those who are already on the path of self-improvement.
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