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"Can smoking be an outlet for emotions?"

Dear Ayal,

What is your opinion on tobacco smoking as an emotional outlet for "fuming," i.e., anger?

Hi - Your use of the word "fuming" in regards to smoking is a great play on words. It is also right on the money. This is a very big question.

I think that people smoke, or drink, or use any other addictive substance as a way to escape dealing with deep seated emotional issues, such as hurt, or anger, anxiety, fear, hatred, and grief, among others. I don't see it as an outlet at all. A teacher of mine once said, when I was going through a difficult emotional time in my life, that "the only way out is through." It wasn't something that I wanted to hear at the time, but it still resonated with me as being true.

We have to face, acknowledge, and work through the hurt, or anger, or hatred within us, not blaming it on anyone or anything else, to get through to the other side, which is peace. External substances don't heal it for us. They only distract us for a moment, numb us, and delay us temporarily from facing the real issue.

It sounds as if you are aware that you are fuming, or have a large amount of anger. Emotions that we are holding onto don't go away, I have found, until we face them, and consciously release them. Unresolved emotions just seem to go in deeper, like splinters, until perhaps they get buried so deeply we don't think they are there. But they are there, and they do surface in our lives and relationships and health, causing difficulty, in one form or another. If we have a backlog of anger in us, for example, it is like wearing red tinted anger glasses. Everything we see will look red to us. We will see everything through a haze of anger, whether there is a need to be angry or not. Our job is to first of all realize that we have these glasses on! That takes personal introspection and inner work. Then we need to choose to take off the anger glasses in order to be able to respond to situations differently. Sometimes getting the splinter out involves truly forgiving ourselves or others. There are many forms of anger release work which can help with this. Finding the way that works for you is an important step.

I think we all come here to learn how to handle and appropriately use the powerful energy of emotions - we learn that we have choices about how we can respond to a given situation. But until we clear out the backlog of unresolved, stuffed emotions, our choices are limited.

So, what I would invite you to do, if you choose to, is to make a choice to deal with your anger lovingly, and with compassion. It is a powerful journey, but one worth doing. It requires being able to accept and be with how you feel without judging yourself, and it requires being aware and responsible enough not to put the anger out on others. You will learn a lot about yourself, and like the velveteen rabbit, you will become more real. Trust that you are strong enough to do this work and let others support you as you do it. Rather than hiding what is really there for you to face behind a smoke screen, trust that finding your way through your anger appropriately can be a great gift.

With best regards, Ayal

P.S. You will also find that your aura, or energy field, becomes brighter. The energy field around a smoker is always a sort of dirty, dingy gray. So, by giving up smoking, if you choose to do so, you will have more clear energy at your disposal to use in your life. If you do choose to go that route, make sure that you replace the comfort or safety you got from smoking with a better form of comfort and safety, perhaps a support group, or a massage once a week.

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