Essay 4A: 10/16/03  Psychology

Accepting New Concepts

It is very difficult for people to alter their fundamental beliefs about the world.  This is
partly because many people are extremely protective of their belief systems and
derive much of their own sense of identity and security from them.  Also people cling
tenaciously to their beliefs because they have been formulating them since they were
very young. Ideas that are radically different from their own can be threatening,
confusing and difficult to compensate for.

Most people do not want to engage in the mental work that is involved in accepting a
new idea because it can be a very difficult task.  This is especially true if the new
idea contrasts greatly with their belief system. The more fundamental the belief, the
more difficult it is to replace because it is likely to be interrelated with other beliefs
that may be contingent upon it. For a mean person to try very hard to suddenly
become nice or for an optimist to become a pessimist is incredibly difficult. A
person who makes such rudimentary changes would have to alter the way that they
speak, make decisions, make attributions and they would even have to change their
automatic or reflexive reactions.

For a person to truly make a fundamental change in their character, attitude or belief
system they must change their initial reactions to the relevant external stimuli. Many
angry people begin to get angry the second that they perceive a particular stimulus
to be threatening. This response is often not initiated by their analysis of the
situation, but instead by an unconscious and often habituated, reflexive reaction.  

The unconscious mind- our brain circuitry- is programmed by repeated, habitual
actions.  Often the more an action is performed, the more ingrained it becomes and
the more likely your brain is to rely upon it.  In these terms one can think of a reaction
as the sum of many closely related reflexes.  Once we begin to express unconscious
anger at a friend it can quickly become too late to take back what we expressed in

Accepting a new thought, idea or concept can take some getting used to.  One
cannot expect to be able to use new knowledge in every applicable situation until
they consciously, intentionally apply that knowledge.  Thus embracing a new belief
involves changing all of your previous, related beliefs, and reprogramming your
unconscious reactions.

Viewed in this way individual thoughts can be described as discrete and conscious
deliberation can be described as the process that creates continuity.

Unconscious: noun
The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception.
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