Reformations might be divided into two types: minor ones (which change one’s way of thinking but little else), and reformations which change behaviour. Neither kind is particularly significant to the current discussion, but will be examined because doing so helps us understand what happens when conversions and revelations occur.
We “reform” our way of thinking when we accept another’s point of view. For instance, someone might point out that we have always maintained that such-and-such was true, whereas, in fact, it is not true. They might then provide justifications that we realize are valid and, after a moment’s thought, we accept. In such cases, just a few, often secondary, neural constructs are disassociated. During this minor reformation, new links between a few memories will be formed, leaving the old associations to atrophy from neglect. This behaviour is usually the result of third-level conscious thinking, and typically happens during conversations or while reflecting upon something recently read, heard or seen. It is often permanent and will affect our thinking, but it may never affect our behaviour.
Behaviour-changing reformations are a somewhat more complex form of neuronal modification because more constructs are involved. However, the new neural patterns that form may not be permanent. For instance, recognizing that an excess of calories is going straight to the waistline and deciding to diet often produces a “reformation” that lasts no longer than a few weeks. More significant reformations, perhaps on the scale of forsaking habits such as alcohol, recreational drugs or gambling, may be more permanent. Reformations (of any kind) often fail without regular boosts such as those provided by support groups, because mental links to earlier constructs which present enticing goals (usually rich with associated emotions) remain.
More permanent reformations occur when some new mental purpose is held to be more attractive than a previous one, and decisions are then made in order to attain this new goal. As long as the latest purpose is sufficiently valued, the mind’s decision-making process refers to this new purpose for guidance. This means, of course, that reformations last only as long as the new purpose is held in higher regard than the previous one. For any reformation to last, the prior purpose must be permanently replaced by the new one. For example, memories of eating favourite chocolates and of their pleasurable taste sensations, might be replaced by thoughts of looking slim and being fit. Using terminology defined in Making Decisions, we might say that the purpose guiding our activities must be switched from valuing a sensation of gustatory pleasure to valuing slimness or health. For the reformation to be long lasting, a fresh construct must be deliberately built focused upon attaining the new end result. In short, it’s not the diet that produces enduring results, it’s the mind-set.
Reformations, then, are consciously made decisions to change one’s behaviour in order to gain a newly desired goal. They fail as soon as the goal or purpose loses its attraction.
- This implies that there are degrees of “valuing.” (See also Determining Moral Behaviours.)
- Army “boot camps” regularly operate by enforcing a behavioural mode; after a while this becomes the soldier’s mind-set. In time, such conditioning can even create belief. (Pompous “Colonel Blimp” personalities believe that their way of behaving is the one-and-only proper way to behave, and many children are brought up possessing beliefs inculcated in this manner.) The kind of “reformation” we are discussing in Chapter Five occurs in the reverse order. It starts within the mind with a changed way of thinking, and behavioural change follows later. Either sequence of events develops mental constructs.