Thought-Culture or Practical Mental Training

While we generally speak of Representation _picturing_ the recollected percepts, still, we must not make the mistake of supposing that it is concerned with, or limited to, only mental pictures. We are able to _represent_ not only visual percepts but also sounds, smells, tastes or feelings, often so vividly that they appear as almost actually existent. We may also even _represent_, symbolically the processes of reasoning, mathematical operations, etc. In short nearly, if not all experiences which are possible in Presentation are also possible in Representation.

The phase of Representation, in the processes of Memory, is of course subject to the general laws of the Cultivation of Memory which we have stated in detail in our previous volume on that subject. But there are some special points of development and cultivation which may be considered briefly in this place. In the first place the importance of Attention and clear Perception, as necessary precedents for clear Representation, may be emphasized. In order to form clear mental images of a thing we must have perceived it clearly in the first place. The advice regarding the use of the Attention and Perception given in preceding chapters need not be repeated here, but special attention should be directed toward them in connection with the processes of Representation. If we wish to cultivate the Representative faculties, we must begin by cultivating the Presentative faculties.

Then again we must remember what we have said elsewhere about the facts of development through (1) Use; and (2) Nourishment, in all mental faculties. We must begin to _use_ the faculties of Representation in order to exercise them. We must give them _nourishment_ in the shape of objects of mental food. That is to say we must furnish these faculties with _materials_ with which they may grow and develop, and with exercise in order to strengthen the mental-muscle and also to give the faculties the opportunity to “acquire the knack.” The exercises and methods recommended in our chapter on Perception will furnish good _material_ for the Representative faculties’ growing requirements. By _perceiving_ the details of things, one is able to reproduce clear mental images of them. In studying an object, always carry in your mind the fact that you wish to _reproduce_ it in your mind later. In fact, if you have the opportunity, let your mind “repeat it to itself” as soon as possible after the actual occurrence and experience. Just as you often murmur to yourself, or else write down, the name of a person or place which you have just heard, in order that you may recollect it the better thereafter, so it will be well for you to “mentally repeat” to yourself the experiences upon which you wish to exercise your Representative faculties.

As to the matter of development and cultivation by Use, we would advise that you begin gradually to train your mind to _reproduce_ the experiences of the day or week or month, at intervals, until you feel that you are developing a new power in that direction. Tonight, if you try you will find that you can reproduce but a very small part of today’s happenings with any degree of clearness. How clearly can you image the places you have been, the appearances of the people you have met, the various details of persons and things which you perceived during the experiences of the day? Not very clearly, we dare say. Try again, and you will find that you will be able to add new details. Keep it up until you feel tired or think that you have exhausted all the possibilities of the task. Tomorrow, try it again, and you will find that the second day’s experiences are more clearly reproduced in your mind. Each day should find you a little more advanced, until you get to a place where the normal degree of power is attained, when the advance will be slower.

Then, at the end of the week, review its experiences. Do the same the following week. At the end of the month, take a hasty mental trip over the month’s experiences. And so on. Exercise, in moderation, along these lines will work wonders for you. Not only will it develop the Representation, but your powers of observation and your general memory will be found to be improved. And, moreover, in “chewing the mental cud” you will think of many things of interest and importance in connection with your work, etc., and your general mental efficiency will be increased for the faculties of the mind are interdependent and share benefits with each other.