Memory Reconsolidation is one candidate for a scientific of theory of "How to Actually Change Your Mind." In this post, I'll give a few fake frameworks about how memory reconsolidation works, in order to provide intuition pumps for the rest of the sequence.

Schemas as Belief Clusters

For the purposes of this sequence, we'll describe a schema as a particular cluster of felt Aliefs that point towards a goal or set of goals.

I often find it useful to think of beliefs as arranged in a hierarchy of goals, as theorized in Perceptual Control Theory, Connection Theory, and Predictive Processing Theory.

Schemas, or Parts, then represent clusters of these beliefs trying to achieve some specific need.

In this framework, schema's don't represent any sort of natural boundary, and we can expand them and contract them at will based on what we're working on. Schemas themselves can overlap without natural boundaries, and can even contain their own internal conflicts.

3 Steps to Reconsolidate Schemas

In Unlocking the Emotional Brain, the authors state three steps needed for memory re-consolidation:

1. Activate the Old Schema

2. Challenge the Old Schema

3. Learn a Replacement Schema

All of the techniques covered in this sequence implicitly or explicitly cover the three steps. However, step #3 is also augmented later on in the Debugging Process through the "Integration" step.

The Tradeoff Between Activation and Challenge

There's an inherent tradeoff between activating the old schema and challenging it. The stronger and more perceptible the challenge is, the more likely it is to be strong enough to trigger the reconsolidation. However, this strength comes with two downsides:

1. Challenging yourself in a very strong way doesn't feel good. It feels internally violent.

2. The stronger the challenge, the more likely you are to deactivate the schema you're challenging, creating resistance and making reconsolidation impossible.

For this reason, we start with the techniques that provide the weakest challenges, and gradually work our way up to stronger and stronger challenge, waiting till we feel a shift towards a more nuanced and accurate schema.

4 Schema Access Points

In Kaj's Post on Unlocking the Emotional Brain, he points to a paper by Lane et al that give 3 ways to access a schema:

Because I think the names for these 3 methods to access a schema are overly long and technical, I'm going to call them Felt Sense (Emotional Responses), Belief (Semantic Structures) and Evidence (Episodic Memories). Based on my own experience with changework, I'll also add a fourth category, Metaphor (metaphorical representations of a schema).

Felt Sense involves looking at the physiological or indescribable "Feelings" evoked by a schema. An example is the tightness in your throat you get when trying to express yourself.

Belief involves the semantic content of a schema as expressed through language. An example is "If I express myself, then I will be ridiculed."

Evidence represents our internal memories of how we learned the schema. An example is blurting something out in 4th grade and being laughed at.

Metaphor represents some novel/new way of representing the schema, as an object, location, situation, or story. An example is imagining that you're wearing a mask at all times, and if you take it off people will see the silly clown face underneath and laugh at you.


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15 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:41 AM

I do feel like the mental mountains post, this sequence and Kaj's work is kind of a branching point for the community, one where we may be able to really, really get at a systematized way of changing our minds.

I wonder if someone is going to come forth with a concrete example just like Richard's in the book; that way we can track progress in a more meaningful way. I know it may be kind of weird, but it would make the results much more substantial.

I'd like to do a whole post with examples in this sequence.

You mean a concrete example of some LW reader doing memory reconsolidation on themselves? I'm applying updates on a regular basis, though they are mostly small tweaks rather than really big stuff. Can report on some if people are interested.

I've been thinking about that top image for a day now and find it really good and helpful. It gets at both "parts may use opposite strategies for achieving the same goals" and the hierarchical nature of goals. I'm going to start using that image or something like it from now on when explaining these things.

My only suggestion would be to reverse the order: I had difficulties reading it until I figured out that the logic goes from the right to the left, and not the other way around.

I feel that my entire life since I was 5 (when my survival mechanisms began) my entire personality is based around getting admiration. And now I get tons and tons of it, I have so many ways to get admiration, I have honed many talents and my intellect and worldviews that impress people. But the thing is, I hate it. And yet I still get it, automatically, because my entire subconscious behavioural pattern is around getting it - even when consciously, I'm sick of it and no longer want it.

All I actually want is love. I want nurturance and to be held. But instead people put me on a pedestal, and in that same way, it feels like they distance themselves from me. All because my entire behavioural complex during my childhood was about getting attention and admiration. Love wasn't available in my childhood, so to survive I HAD to find ways of getting attention and admiration. I was severely abused and neglected.

And to this day I can't seem to find and receive love and warmth, whatever I try it always is a way to impress and attract people, never secure their affections.

I know I'm not alone, a lot of us intellectuals are getting fried on this, a lot of talented people, we developed from the absence of love, we developed due to perfectionism (the Clean Room route). So my question is - what IS the route to love?

Justified flaws seems to be an important part of that schema, but what else can a person do to secure love and warmth and affection? I'm willing to do anything now.

Welcome to LW! I haven't been in your situation, but it feels like I could have been, if things turned out a bit differently. So take this for what it's worth.

I think a lot of it comes down to the way you talk and recount your feelings to others. It can feel either "spiky" or "rounded", like the kiki/bouba effect. For example, when you say you want to secure love and affection, that's you being honest, and also "spiky". These are not the same thing! There's a whole art form of expressing your feelings, even going to some very dark places, while still coming across as "rounded". Take the edge off of your word choices; understate things; allow a range of possible reactions; accept how much or how little the person actually cares about you, and be kind to their feelings. It might feel like a restrictive filter, but to me it's liberating. I can just have a normal conversation with anyone, anytime, about anything that's in my head.

It's not quite the "route to love" that you're looking for, but it opens the door to some new connections, and sometimes you'll click with someone in a deeper way. Hope that made sense.

Have you written anything like "cousin_it's life advice"? I often find your comments extremely insightful in a way that combines the best of LW ideas with wisdom from other areas, and would love to read more.

Thank you! Not sure about writing a life advice column, that's not quite who I am, but if you're interested in anything in particular, I'll be happy to answer.

if you're interested in anything in particular, I'll be happy to answer.

I very much appreciate the offer! I can't think of anything specific, though; the comments of yours that I find most valuable tend to be "unknown unknowns" that suggest a hypothesis I wouldn't previously have been able to articulate.

" There's a whole art form of expressing your feelings, even going to some very dark places, while still coming across as "rounded". "

Umm this is actually amazing. How did you figure this out and can you elaborate?

Do you know any person in your life (not necessarily a close one, just someone who you've met at least occasionally) who feels like they express warmth and honesty at the same time? If you do, looking at how they express themselves is one way of getting pointers.

It might also be worth checking whether your problem is just about not knowing what to do, versus your brain having an outright objection to getting what you want. If you can, try to imagine what it would feel like to get love and affection, in exactly the way you would like to have. Take a moment to imagine it in as much detail as you can. Then pay attention to how it feels - is there any trace of unease, of anything not feeling quite right about you having achieved it?

Great I will keep a lookout for such people.

As for your second question:

1) I am open to receiving love, but it needs to be from someone who has self-respect. I can't abide codependent love because again it just feels like I'm up on a pedestal or being controlled or being used to fill a hole in their lives.

2) I imagine love to be a very physical act, lots of physical affection. That and some verbal expressions, such as encouragement. However, when I think of someone doing favours for me or buying me gifts, I do feel resistance to that, I feel a bit awkward, like I 'owe' them something back.

3) I also feel unease in terms of my flaws - the parts of me that feel out of control, like sinkholes of my personality, I don't want anyone to see me in those states, the 'unacceptable' traits. Where I'm a bit rough, a bit irritated or giving off 'bad energy', and also unresolved internal stuff - I feel unloveable there and don't want to show those aspects of me.

4) additionally, I always imagine them, at least initially, loving me for something that I do well, even if it's just my personality (infatuation), than loving me as I am. Yes it makes me feel like an object, a trophy. I just don't know what else would attract someone to me other than my attractive traits. And yet it's a self-fulfilling prophecy - I subconsciously lead with the best features of me, and then I always end up feeling like a trophy. I am not sure how to be loved for just being a mediocre person... :(

Great exercise though, seems to reveal a lot.

edit: nevermind, I think I've solved it. The problem with objectification is that it makes a person out to be only their desirable traits, and cuts off their undesirable traits in shame. When, if we view a person as a system, they must have all the traits they have to be who they are, they work in synergy. The objectified traits are only part of them, not all of them, it misses the wholeness of who they are and the life force that drives all of them. To see someone wholly, both positive and negative traits as a part of who they are, and the negative traits as necessary to the positive traits which we so enjoy, is closer to the ideal of love. Than simply enjoying someone's positive traits and condemning their negative traits, as if they could be what they are without their undesired traits, as if their undesired traits are a crime. It's like taking insects out of the ecosystem - all your crops would die. So taking a person whole, synergistically, is the key - enjoying the good traits and understanding the negative traits. Understanding that a person is greater than the sum of their parts. And loving them for that. And it starts with loving myself for that. :) because I'm a complex human being, and I'm not going to divide myself up any longer to be palatable to another.

I'm always surprised by how people construct their idea of identity; I worry that it may be putting obstacles on what you want to achieve.

Relationships are forming and breaking all the time; you are bound to find someone who will love you if you are looking for it and nothing stands in your way, that's a fact of modern life and evidence is overwhelming.

I do think, that coming here is the right step to make, it has certainly helped me. Welcome.

I really like the content in this post and the three following ones, but would prefer them to be in a single post, as length-wise there doesn't seem to be a reason for them to separate and the transitions interrupt the flow of reading. It also makes me confused about how to upvote them: if I like them all, not upvoting them all feels wrong, but it also feels like it's awarding triple karma for one article's worth of content and that feels wrong too. (Fortunately in this case, 3/4 of the posts felt like I wanted to upvote them [for a total of 9 karma] and if they had been a single article I might have strong-upvoted it [for a total of 10 karma], so that felt like an acceptable solution.)

Breaking up a single large post into a series of much smaller posts in a sequence is an experiment I'm trying for this sequence, to get some qualitative and quantitative data before I post my much more substantial sequence on overcoming akrasia. This is good feedback. In terms of this particular issue, I think the ideal would be to be able to vote on sequences separately from posts in the sequence.

(Also, there are 5 more small posts in the sequence that go over techniques for each of the rest of the steps in the reconsolidation hierarchy, so I may break your voting scheme :)