Watch Dis Honesty The Truth About Lies 2015

This is a pretty good film, worth viewing if you have time. Many of the conclusions are what most of us would expect. Lying is social, there is a fudge factor, most people do it a little bit, while some refrain entirely and others lie with abandon.

There have been other studies showing that not lying feels very good and people like it if they can get into a situation where it is possible.

The take-away from the film for me is that people lie much less, if at all, if they are reminded to be honest.

In part, FIML practice constantly reminds partners of the importance of being honest. It also forms a social bond between partners that highly values honesty. These two features of FIML plus our simple desire to be honest with each other has allowed my partner and me to have a very good space together where we are confident with great certainty that neither one of us is lying and neither one of us has any reason to do so.

Repost: Malignant narcissism and identity

Malignant narcissism is an extreme form of narcissism characterized by aggression against people who threaten the narcissist’s narcissistic supply.

A malignant narcissist sees the other person as the threat, not just what they say or do.

This makes sense in that a narcissist has at some level concluded that they as a person are the standard for all things; thus, other people are blamed and attacked far out of proportion to whatever the narcissist believes they have done.

In Christian terms, the malignant narcissist blames the sinner not the sin and thus attacks the sinner, even when the sin may be as mild as a withheld compliment or a deserved rebuke.

I think all narcissists behave in a manner similar to this, though the ordinary type, which is very common in this world, is less aggressive than the malignant type.

Since narcissism is so common, one can say that in some ways narcissists have good reason to be suspicious of others and take revenge on them. There really is a good chance that they are dealing with another narcissist, who will do the same to them if they get the chance.

In a previous post, I wrote about the vortex or tautology of identity, the tautology of basing our identity on a semiotic matrix that, by its very nature, always refers back to the same “identity.” A malignant narcissist is an extreme example of this problem.

The semiotics of malignant narcissism are such that the narcissist sees his or her identity as being the person they really are. Seeing themselves in this way, narcissists apply a similar logic to others—at their core they are people who must be opposed or attacked for even the slightest perceived offense.

A group example of extreme malignant narcissism might be North Korea. If an NK citizen makes a single mistake—even a slight verbal mistake—they run the risk of being executed and also having three generations of their family sent to prison for life. The reasoning is that the original offender is a very bad person, which can be known from what they said. And since they are very bad, they must have influenced every person in their family who is younger than them and been influenced by every person in their family who is older than them.

If that isn’t hell on earth, I don’t know what is.

It is my belief that most groups, even very cute and nice ones, tend toward narcissism and many of them tend toward and become malignantly narcissistic. This happens because groups form and maintain themselves on the basis of shared semiotics, which necessarily are formulaic or simplistic.

We can see malignant narcissism in many religious, political, nationalist, or ethnic groups. The clearest sign is a disproportionate response to criticism—banishment, murder, violence, loss of employment, etc.—but narcissistic groups can also be clever and hide these responses or delay them long enough that the connection to the “offense” is hard to see.

Just as narcissistic groups cannot bear criticism, even self-criticism from within, so individual narcissists are bad at introspection. For either one, to honestly view and assess the core value (me!) is to destroy the false identity. For either one (group or individual) this would be a wonderful thing for them and others, but it is hard to do because their semiotic matrix is a tautology and they cannot admit this, or usually even see it.

Repost: The limits of general semiotic analyses as applied to human psychology

Much of the work done in human semiotics involves analyses of semiotic codes.

Semiotics and semiotic codes are often treated like language or languages for which a grammar can be found.

One obvious problem with this sort of approach is semiotics indicates a set that is much broader than language. Stated another way, language is a subset of semiotics.

Human semiotics also include music, imagery, gesture, facial expression, emotion, and anything else that can communicate either within one mind or between two or more minds.

It is very helpful to analyze semiotic codes and it is very helpful to try to figure out how cultures, groups, and individuals use them. We can compare the semiotics of heroism in Chinese culture to that of French culture. Or the semiotics of gift-giving in American culture to that of Mexican culture. We can analyze movies, literature, science, and even engineering based on semiotic codes we have abstracted out of them.

We can do something similar for human psychology.

Analyses of this type are, in my view, general in that they involve schema or paradigms or grammars that say general things about how semiotic systems work or how individuals (or semiotic signs themselves) fit into those systems.

This is all good and general analyses of this sort can be indispensable aids to understanding.

General semiotic analyses are limited, however, in their application to human psychology because such analyses cannot effectively grasp the semiotic codes of the individual. Indeed general analyses are liable to conceal individual codes and interpretations more than usefully reveal them.

This is so because all individuals are always complex repositories of many general semiotic codes as well as many individual ones. And these codes are always changing, responding, being conditioned by new circumstances and many kinds of feedback.

Individuals as repositories of many codes, both external and internal, are complex and always changing and there is no general analysis that will ever fully capture that complexity.

For somewhat similar reasons, no individual acting alone can possibly perform a self-analysis that captures the full complexity of the many and always-changing semiotic codes that exist within them.

Self-analysis is far too subject to selection bias, memory, and even delusion to be considered accurate or objective. The individual is also far too complex for the individual to grasp alone. How can an individual possibly stand outside itself and see itself as it is? Where would the extra brain-space come from?

How can a system of complex semiotic codes use yet another code to successfully analyze itself?

Clearly, no individual human semiotic system can ever fully know itself.

To recap, 1) there is no general semiotic analysis that will ever capture the complexity of individual psychology, and 2) no individual acting alone can ever capture the complexity of the semiotic codes that exist within them.

Concerning point two, we could just as well say that no individual acting alone can ever capture the complexity of their own psychology.

We are thus prevented from finding a complex analysis of human psychology through a general analysis of semiotics and also through an individual’s self-analysis when acting alone.

This suggests, however, that two individuals acting together might be able to glimpse, if not grasp, how their complex semiotic codes are actually functioning when they interact with each other. If two individuals working together can honestly observe and discuss moments of dynamic real-time semiotic interaction between them, they should be able to begin to understand how their immensely complex and always-changing psycho-semiotic codes are actually functioning.

An approach of this type ought to work better for psychological understanding of the individuals involved than any mix of general semiotic analyses applied to them. Indeed, prefabricated, general semiotic analyses will tend to conceal the actual functioning of the idiosyncratic semiotics and semiotic codes used by those individuals.

The FIML method does not apply a general semiotic analysis to human psychology. Rather it uses a method or technique to allow two individuals working together to see and understand how their semiotics and semiotic codes are actually functioning.

The US gov’t on cannabis

A new page at a dot gov address has actually posted positive information about cannabis, including its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects as well as pain relief, improved mood, improved sleep, and improved sense of well-being.

The page can be found here: Questions and Answers About Cannabis.

I wonder if Buddhists who broadly interpret the fifth precept to be about “intoxicants” or even sensory indulgence and not booze (as it is stated in the tradition) will reconsider their positions.

I am not advocating the use of illegal drugs and do understand the desire to make Buddhism look “nice” for lawmakers who have no understanding of human liberty or the true effects of cannabis, but times are changing.

I am good with Buddhists saying whatever they believe about cannabis, but am not good with them claiming it is proscribed in the fifth precept. More on that subject here: Are We Misunderstanding The Fifth Precept?

Please remember that the five precepts are for lay followers, not monastics who may live by different rules depending on their ordination vows.

As society becomes more rational about cannabis, we can probably assume that it will become more rational about psychedelics as well, as they similarly almost certainly do more good than harm.

Personal freedom, liberty, civil rights, personal autonomy, or bodily integrity—no matter what you call it, each person’s right to have maximum freedom and control of their own body is fundamental to the American value system.

Explanations made to the self versus explanations made to others

We can make a basic division between how we explain ourselves to ourselves and how we explain ourselves to others.

Explanations we give to ourselves are typically secret and known only to us. They can be quite crude and selfish at times.

In contrast, explanations of ourselves that we give to other people are generally “nicer.” We plead our case for being a “good person” by explaining at length whatever led up to whatever thing we did that needs explaining.

Of course, we have different explanations for different other people and even different classes of other people, but for now let’s just consider the two kinds of explanations—ones given to the self and ones given to others.

These two types are a good way to explain what is meant by honesty in a FIML discussion.

Simply stated, in a FIML discussion the explanation that I give to my partner of my words or deeds should be exactly the same as the explanation I give to myself. There should be zero difference between these two types of explanation.

A refinement of the above is that if there is a difference for some reason that I do not want to go into, I must tell my partner that the difference exists though I need not say exactly what it is.

For example, I may appear upset in a way that affects my tone of voice. My partner notices and asks about it. I know (my explanation to myself) that I am mildly upset because I just remembered a disturbing event from the distant past. If I do not want to talk about that event, I can excuse myself by truthfully telling my partner that, yes, I am slightly upset but it is due to an event from a long time ago and I do not want to talk about that now.

My partner will probably understand and drop the subject. By saying what I did I was completely honest with my partner, importantly confirming her sense that I was upset. At the same time I preserved my privacy in an area where I wanted it preserved.

Exceptions to the honesty rule like the one just described should be rare for most partners. If one or both partners have large exceptions that come up often, it would be best for them to gradually begin chipping away at these topics to reduce their size and influence.

For most FIML discussions for most people, perfect honesty—perfect accord between the explanation for the self and the partner—should be doable most of the time. Remember that the basic FIML discussion deals mainly with very small things that are generally not hard to be honest about.

When FIML partners keep their private and public explanations in perfect accord, they develop a sense of trust and contentment that cannot be achieved in any other way. They will not need to spend so much time “reading” each other (and thereby making frequent serious mistakes). Instead, they will know how to communicate on much more refined levels.

Note: I wonder if some aspect of a definition of morality might be that the two explanations described above are always in perfect accord and that when they are not, we have transgressed an important moral line.

As with almost everything individual or social, the two explanations scale up and down between individuals, small groups, and large ones. Some cultures have explicit rules for explanations given within the culture and explanations given to outsiders. In the case of gangs or criminal societies, these difference can be very large and very harmful to others.

A very simple example of what FIML does

This is a simple, concrete example that is best understood as a material analogy for what happens in a FIML discussion or query.

I wanted some fresh local yogurt and we also needed some cheese. The place that sells the yogurt I like has only a few kinds of very expensive cheese.

My partner and I discussed the merits of going to the yogurt store and paying extra for cheese versus driving to a different store that has a better cheese selection but does not have the fresh yogurt.

Since the yogurt store was on the way to the cheese store, we stopped in but found that they were out of yogurt and also had no cheese.

Oh well. We went to the cheese store and got the cheese and a couple of other items we needed.

In the car we noticed that our having stopped to look for the yogurt in the yogurt store made it possible for us to dismiss that option completely from out minds. Had we not stopped, we might have wondered if we had missed a chance to get the fresh yogurt and probably would have wondered about it.

Our ability to dismiss the yogurt option and not have it be a small shadow in our minds was gained only because we had actually stopped at the yogurt store. If we had not stopped and gone only to the cheese store, we would not have known that the yogurt store didn’t even have any yogurt.

Like I said this is a very simple example.

Now, consider that instead of yogurt or cheese we are working with emotions and human perceptions. A FIML query works in a way that is analogous to stopping at the yogurt store.

Yes, it cost us some energy to stop at the store, but it saved us the energy of thinking that the yogurt was a possibility.

If instead of yogurt, I am wondering if my partner disapproves of something I said, I can ask her (stopping at the yogurt store) or refrain from asking her (not stopping).

If I ask her, it costs us both some energy, but saves me some worry and possible defensive behavior which will likely snowball and cost us even more energy.

Please put in your own emotions or concerns into this example. Isn’t it better to ask about them than not ask?

When we have many small things in our minds that we never ask anyone (including our partner), we begin living in a fantasy world or a world that is simplified to conform to simple standards made up by other people.

FIML clears up problems by catching them when they start. The FIML technique is designed to facilitate quick interventions so snowballing never gets started.

It’s not hard to do FIML if you understand what its purpose is. The hard part about doing FIML is it goes against a great deal of normal human training. Rather than ask, most of us will skip going to the yogurt store.

When we do that hundreds of times with someone, small divisions get larger and larger. When they get really big it is very hard to analyze them and we become their victims.

On Donald Trump

I love outsiders, different viewpoints, personal liberty, end-runs, and anything at all that rocks the American media-political boat, which is even worse than Gore Vidal’s “sinking ship” because it is even more boring.

Ilana Mercer’s essay, Trump Should Triangulate, says much of what I would say about Trump, though I would add a simplification: I honestly hate almost all American politicians. They have sold this country down the river and I hate them for that and for their sleaze. To me, that is the basic reason people like Trump.

Naturally, I am a good Buddhist so I hate their sins and not them. But I hate the news media for the same reasons and with similar qualifications and I know I am not alone in this.

As a good Buddhist I also know that the US political scene is no different than the world political scene and I do appreciate how easy it is to understand the First Noble Truth from watching the sleaze-mongers slime all over each other as they prey upon the public, so I am sort of grateful for the entire mess as well, in some ways.

Edit 8/12/15: Trump is continuing to expose the game of pay-to-play politics in Washington. And the power centers that benefit from that game are going after him for it. Let’s see what happens next. Ron Paul was destroyed by those power centers. Notice, though, that Paul did vow not to run as an independent, a major bargaining chip Trump has not surrendered. Trump showed a lot of savvy by keeping that chip. He remains an interesting candidate in what is otherwise always a super-boring “contest” for the presidency.

Repost: What is FIML and what does it do?

FIML is fundamentally a communication technique with wide-ranging implications for many other aspects of being human.

FIML removes mistakes from communications between partners. FIML reduces or eliminates neurotic feelings. FIML encourages honesty, integrity, responsibility, and many other virtues. It greatly improves communication. It transforms beliefs in a static self, a personality, an ego, or a set autobiography to a more realistic understanding of the dynamic nature of being, speaking, listening, remembering, functioning. FIML skills are useful when dealing with people other than the FIML partner. FIML greatly reduces the need to rely on external standards (public semiotics) for self-definition and/or communication. FIML elevates consciousness in the sense that FIML practice is done consciously and improvements are made in partners’ consciousnesses. FIML works directly with partners’ experiences and thus is a deeply experiential practice that generates experiential understanding.

FIML greatly supports Buddhist practice and though FIML is not specifically a traditional Buddhist teaching, it does not contradict any core Buddhist teaching. For many people, FIML may be a very good tool to use with the Dharma. This is so because FIML allows each partner to identify kleshas (mistaken interpretations) the moment they arise and to correct them with input from their partner. FIML also helps partners experience the reality of no-self, impermanence, emptiness, and dependent origination. When these truths are experienced together with a partner, both partners are able to deeply confirm the validity of their insights as both share in this confirmation. Both partners will notice kleshas being eliminated and both will be able to confirm this to each other, through explicit statements to each other and also through observations of each other.

FIML practice also helps partners understand and experience how the First and Second Noble Truths actually operate in their lives. When one partner discovers a klesha through a FIML query, they will see very clearly how their mistaken interpretation, if not corrected, could be the source of suffering. When they correct their mistake, they will see how eliminating a klesha is liberating and how it produces a bit of “enlightenment” (Third and Fourth Noble Truths).

FIML practice encourages honesty between partners and many other virtues. FIML partners will directly experience the importance of being honest with their partner and treating them with the utmost respect and integrity. This strengthens partners’ understanding of the Buddha’s teachings on morality (sila).

FIML’s emphasis on fully understanding the roles of language and semiotics supports the Buddha’s teachings on Right Speech (for language) and wisdom (for semiotics). In the Prajna Sutras, “dharmas of the mind” (laksana) very closely correspond to the modern English word semiotics as that word is used in FIML practice. By focusing on this word and concept and experiencing with a partner how semiotics affect everything we think and do, partners will gain great insight into the kind of consciousness described in the Diamond Sutra–a consciousness without the “marks” or “characteristics” (laksana, semiotics) of a self, a human being, a sentient being, or a being that takes rebirth.

FIML accomplishes most of what it does by being a technique that is called up quickly, the moment it is needed. FIML queries almost always lead to long and interesting discussions, but the basic technique must be done quickly. The moment either partner feels a klesha arising, they should stop and query their partner about what is/was in their mind. After hearing your partner’s honest answer, compare it to what you had thought. The better data from your partner should eliminate that particular klesha after a small number of its appearances. Remember, your partner’s data is better because you asked them quickly enough for them to be able to recall with great accuracy what really was in their mind during the moments you were asking them about. If you wait too long or get into long stories or theories, or become emotional, you will miss the chance to catch that klesha. When you do catch a klesha, feel good about it. That means there is one less hindrance in your mind.

Non-Buddhists will experience the same results from FIML practice as Buddhists, though their understanding of these results will be framed differently. We have discussed FIML from a non-Buddhist point of view in many other posts. Interested readers are encouraged to browse some of those posts for more on that angle.

An example of a mistake in meso understanding

My partner and I discovered a significant meso mistake this morning.

(See: Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding for more on this.)

The mistake was not “psychological” so much as it was simply a mistake—significant over time but having little or no emotional valence of its own.

The mistake concerned how we understand our evening walks. I had mistakenly thought that my partner preferred a brisk pace with few if any pauses. Consequently, I had for a number of years been walking faster and pausing less often to look around than I would have liked.

For me, that mistake in my thinking took a bit of fun out of our walks.

Recently, the weather has been very hot where we live and I found myself insisting on walking slower and stopping more because I was becoming uncomfortable. After several days of feeling apologetic about this and actually speaking about it apologetically, my partner insisted back that it did not bother her at all to walk more slowly and to pause more often.

In fact, she said that it never had bothered her to go at a slower pace in warm weather and that she always had enjoyed stopping to look at things as we rambled along.

This was news to me, so we talked about it for a while. I came to understand that I had formed a wrong idea, a wrong meso-thought/belief, about my partner.

It had slipped into my mind over the years. I am sure it started somewhere as a micro-mistake that I did not catch (maybe due to pride) and had then persisted for a long time.

This is an example of a kind of mistake that FIML practice may not discover. Fortunately, this mistake had little or no psychological valence. I was delighted to find that I had been wrong and am looking froward to our walks more than ever.

At the same time, I am aware that my partner and I probably have at least four or five other meso mistakes of roughly the same amplitude as our walking mistake. They may be similarly “benign” but some of them may also have significant psychological valence.

Though both of us are experienced FIML practitioners and though we do FIML queries regularly, we can’t be sure what our other meso-mistakes are, assuming there are some. All we can do is continue to look closely at our impressions and beliefs about one another and do our best to confirm them or correct them as needed.

Once discovered, the walking mistake—and any other meso mistake no matter how emotional—will be analyzable and amenable to elimination through FIML practice. It just has to be seen for what it is first.

Semiotic manipulation as an essential skill

Semiotics can be large or small in our minds.

We must be aware of this and also be able to change their sizes and positions when warranted.

For example, my partner and I are looking for a home to buy. All of my life I have loved square houses. They always did something special for me, so we tended to look at more square houses than we would have if the square-house semiotic had not be so prominent in my architectural semioitc network (all the things I group together as desirable architectural features).

The other day we viewed a square home that came off as cramped and boring to me. After viewing it, I told my partner that I am done with square houses being a thing for me. I spent a couple more sentences explaining my change of heart to her and now she knows and we are both done with that.

Recently, something similar happened to her, or my understanding of her concerning shakes. We both thought (for slightly different reasons) that she liked them more than she did. She explained to me that she thought that the shake semiotic had grown too big—become a thing—and that we should demote it. We both did that quickly and now both shakes and squareness occupy different places in our individual and shared semiotic networks involved with home-buying and architecture.

I would maintain that if you can’t make semiotic changes like the above as an individual and with important friends, you aren’t using your mind properly.

The architectural examples cited above are easy to understand because they have a clear material foundation and because they do not elicit passionate feelings.

But just because strong feelings may be elicited by semiotics and semiological manipulation does not mean they should not be similarly amenable to analysis and change.

Politics is a good example of a field that runs almost exclusively on semiotic manipulation. Is McCain a hero or a coward? Is Trump strong or bull-headed? Is Hillary a progressive or a crook?

Arguments like those have already begun and will continue to go back and forth during the presidential campaign. We have shallow politics largely because semiotic manipulation is always the rule in politics.

Here is an example of an in-depth semiotic analysis of one aspect of the current state of American politics: The Cuckservative Phenomenon.

Without ever using the word semiotics, the author consciously wields a very sharp semiotic sword that amply reveals the power of signs and symbols over our minds. Whatever you think of the linked essay, it should be clear that it is often simpler to conquer a people with semiotics than with actual weapons.

Now, I would further maintain that semiotic analysis and manipulation must not stop with simple architectural examples or end at the the public sphere with analyses of political symbols and their uses and abuses by media and prominent figures.

Semiotic understanding and the ability to manipulate signs and symbols is also essential to interpersonal communication and psychological analysis.

You cannot possibly form a deeply satisfying intimate relationship with another human being if you cannot analyze and manipulate your individual and shared uses of semiotics. You also cannot possibly fully understand your own or others’ psychologies if you do not understand their idiosyncratic semiologies, what they are, how they are formed, how “meaning” is appended to them.

Cooperative narcissism and meta-communication

I think we can describe virtually all group cohesion as “cooperative narcissism.”

Groups are pretty much all self-aggrandizing and almost all of them show callous disregard for other groups, unless they are connected in a narcissistic super-group.

Sports teams are a very basic example of narcissistic groups; players and fans revel in their selfishness and contempt for competing groups. That we generally consider those emotions to be playful and healthy demonstrates my point.

Another example might be a parent who dedicates excessive time and energy to a group outside of the family. To the extent that that parent’s participation in that group is excessive it is narcissistic. Excessive in this context would entail some degree of self-aggrandizement and callous disregard for the family. Some degree in this context is open to question but often can be decided.

Once again in this context, the family itself might be considered a narcissistic group if it demands an excessive degree of group allegiance from the parent. What excessive means here can often be reasonably decided.

The reason I raise the above topic is I think that most groups most of the time have so much difficulty with honest meta-communication they simply cannot allow it.

Groups, of course, excel at the meta-communication we call conformity. Honest meta-communication that does not support conformity, though, usually causes discord. Generally it is perceived as being disruptive, aggressive, rude, “other.” We like those who are like us and dislike those who are not.

Honest meta-communication is not only dangerous for group cohesion but also for interpersonal bonding. This is so because virtually all interpersonal bonding is a type of group bonding. We like the same things, believe the same things, so we can bond; we are friends because we already are members of the same group(s).

When people are very close and have formed their own group that is stronger than any other group they feel they belong to, meta-communication is much less likely to produce discord.

For example, my partner can say she doesn’t like my shirt or the way I cut my hair without bothering me at all. In fact, I am grateful if she tells me that because I trust her and can easily fix the problem. If she criticizes me for something I can’t fix, that’s another matter (and another subject for another day).

If a new friend or colleague criticizes my shirt or hair, I probably will not take it in the same spirit as I did when the comment came from my partner. Rather than feel grateful (which I still might do), I am more likely (than with my partner) to hear my colleague’s comment as aggressive, rude, or disruptive. Rather than strengthen our bond, it can damage it.

This is a basic reason why so many groups and so much human communication is so dissatisfying, so dukkha. As such, we simply cannot say interesting meta things to most people without risking strife.

Some other examples of dangerous meta-communication that should be neutral but are not for people with strong beliefs or group allegiances are:

  • doubting the veracity of religion or science
  • saying anything bad or good about vaccines
  • saying anything bad or good about political parties, political philosophies, or politicians
  • saying anything bad or good about ethnicity or ethnic history, regions or regional histories or politics, symbols, flags, etc.

Lists like this could go on for miles. And that is because most people normally organize their minds along lines like that. When you engage in meta-communication about any subject that organizes someone’s mind, they will have trouble with it. Propaganda even uses that basic reaction as part of its basic formula.

Cooperative narcissism very often exists in intimate relations between two people. This happens because the dominant means (conformity, agreement, general semiotics) people use to communicate within groups are brought into the intimate relationship as a “natural” part of it.

The problem with that is it is much too confining for individual minds. This point is probably obvious to many readers. But I wonder if those same readers have a means to overcome it. How many intimate partners can do clear meta-communication with each other extensively without causing discord?

I bet it is not so many. The reason there are often problems in this area is partners restrict themselves to doing meta-communication on meso and macro subjects only.

“I think you are this kind of person.” “I believe your personality is thus and so.” “I think you are like this because you have that background.” Etc.

These sorts of meta-conversations can be fun and informative, but they also tend to go in circles while generating massive misunderstandings. At worst, we come to believe them—to reify “main points”—and bind each other to forms and stereotypes that are not deeply real.

The way out of this problem is to escape through micro communication. As long as two people have a prior agreement (as in FIML practice) to honestly do micro corrections on as much of their communication as possible, they will overcome the problems of cooperative narcissism and the damage it does to human communication at all levels.

An example of a psychological morpheme

A psychological morpheme is defined as the smallest unit of a psychological response.

This term is used in FIML practice to distinguish psychological micro responses from meso and macro responses which are more general and less amenable to change and productive analysis.

There are many kinds of psychological morphemes and every individual has a multitude of them that are unique to them. Some are associated with personal memories and emotions that were aroused in the past. Others are new and arise in the present moment.

Still others are internalized social responses which at their most basic feel almost like disembodied responses, responses that precede thought, that begin creating the world we live in before we even know it. They are part of us, but can be slightly astonishing when we notice them for what they are.

A good example of one happened yesterday. My partner was away on a short trip and since it was a warm day I was working at home in my birthday suit. At some point I decided to call my partner, who would think nothing of seeing me in my birthday suit, but before I did I found myself reflexively putting on a pair of shorts.

I stopped and wondered why I was doing that and realized I was being “directed” by an almost completely emotionless and thought-less psychological morpheme.

Since I was going to speak, I was going to engage in a social act. And since I was going to engage in a social act, some part of me decided I needed to put on a pair of shorts.

This morpheme is interesting because it is so elementary. I was going to speak over the phone, long-distance to someone I have been living with for many years. And yet even still a very weak and basic sense of propriety that I had learned from my culture arose in me and got me to put on a pair of shorts.

It was like a single cold spark. And yet it was strong enough to move my system. It was a sort of “logic” like the logic of a small pattern in sand, or a twist in a tree’s bark. It was “me” putting on the shorts, but the “logic” of my doing so seemed to belong more to nature or a physical process than “my” being.

Psychological morphemes of this type are wonderful to observe. They belong to an almost blank class of responses that work like directional signs that induce us to move one way or another, to do something or not.

Other kinds of psychological morphemes induce us to feel, think, or believe something with no more “charge” than the single small spark that got me to put on my shorts.

Psychological morphemes are the most basic data of FIML practice. They are the small signs that make up the “language” of our psychologies, our minds. Understanding them leads to a rich understanding of your own and others’ behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.

Repost: Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding

This post is concerned with the micro, meso, and macro levels of existential semiotics and communicative thought, and how those levels affect human understanding.

  • Micro levels are very small units of thought or communication. These can be words, phrases, gestures, etc. and the “psychological morphemes” that accompany them. A psychological morpheme is the smallest unit of an emotional or psychological response.
  • Meso levels lie between macro and micro levels. Longer discourse, a sense that people have personalities or egos, and the basic ideas of any culture appear at this level.
  • Macro levels are the larger abstract levels that sort of stand above the other two levels. Macro levels might include religious or scientific beliefs, political ideologies, long-term personal goals or strategies.

Most people most of the time socialize on the meso level, often with support from shared macro level beliefs or aims. For most people, the broad outlines of most emotions are defined and conditioned at the meso level. This is the level where the nuts and bolts of convention are found. This is the level that tosses the beach balls of conversation back and forth across the dinner table and that defines those balls. The meso level defines our subculture and how well or badly we conform to it. The meso level is necessary for much of social life and sort of fun, though it is by definition not very detailed or profound. It is something most people can agree on and work with fairly easily for an hour or two at a time.

Many people define themselves mainly on the meso level and judge others by their understanding of this level. Many subcultures become stifling or cloying because meso definitions are crude and tend to leave out the rich subjectivity of individuals. Macro definitions are not all that different from meso ones except that they tend to define group feelings more than meso definitions. Groups band together based on macro level assumptions about ideologies, science, religion, art, style, location, ethnicity, etc.

Since most people are unable to fully access micro levels of communication the rich subjectivity of the individual mind is rarely, if ever, communicated at all and almost never communicated well.

In other fields, micro levels are all important. For example, the invention of the microscope completely changed the way humans see and understand their world. All that was added by the microscope was greater resolution and detail in the visual sphere. From that arose germ theory, material sciences, modern biology, modern medicine, and much more.

Micro levels of communication are basic to how we understand ourselves and others. Poor micro communication skills consign us to communication that occurs only at meso or macro levels. This is a problem because meso and macro levels do not have sufficient detail and also because meso and macro levels become the only tools we have to decide what is going on. When we are forced to account for micro details with the crude tools of meso thought, we will make many mistakes. Eventually we become like the long-term cigarette-smoker whose (micro) alveoli have collapsed, destroying full use of the lungs.

Without the details of the microscope, people for millennia happily drank germ infested water. Without a way to resolve micro levels of communication, people today, as in the past, happily ingest multitudes of micro error—errors that make them ill.

Micro communication errors make us sick because we make many serious mistakes on this level and also because our minds are fully capable of comprehending the sort of detail we can find at the micro level. We speak and listen on many interpersonal levels like crude beasts when we are capable of very delicate and refined understanding.

FIML or a technique similar to it provides a method for grasping micro details. Doing FIML for a long time is like spending a long time using a microscope or telescope. You will start to see everything differently. Detailed micro analysis of interpersonal communication changes our understanding of micro communication and also both the meso and macro levels of existential semiotics and communicative thought. Microscopes allowed us to see germs in water and also to understand that some of those germs can kill us.

Meaningfulness or emotional valence of semiotic cues

A new study on post traumatic stress disorder shows that PTSD sufferers actually perceive meaning or emotional valence within fractions of a second.

This study bolsters the FIML claim that “psychological morphemes” (the smallest psychological unit) arise at discrete moments and that they affect whatever is perceived or thought about afterward.

The study has profound implications for all people (and I am sure animals, too) because all of us to some degree have experienced many small and some large traumas. These traumas induce a wide variety idiosyncratic “meaning and emotional valence” that affects how we perceive events happening around us, how we react to them, and how we think about them.

The study in question—Soldiers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder See a World Full of Threat: Magnetoencephalography Reveals Enhanced Tuning to Combat-Related Cues—is especially interesting because it compares combat veterans without PTSD to combat veterans with PTSD.

It is thus based on a clearly defined pool of people with “similar” extreme experiences and finds that:

…attentional biases in PTSD are [suggestively] linked to deficits in very rapid regulatory activation observed in healthy control subjects. Thus, sufferers with PTSD may literally see a world more populated by traumatic cues, contributing to a positive feedback loop that perpetuates the effects of trauma.

Of course all people are “traumatized” to some degree. And thus all people see “a world populated by traumatic cues, contributing to a positive feedback loop that perpetuates the effects of trauma.”

If we expand the word trauma to include “conditioned responses,” “learned responses,”  “idiosyncratic responses,” or simply “training” or “experience” and then consider the aggregate all of those responses in any particular individual, we will have a fairly good picture of what an idiosyncratic individual (all of us are that) looks like, and how an idiosyncratic individual actually functions and responds to the world.

FIML theory claims that idiosyncratic responses happen very quickly (less than a second) and that these responses can be observed, analyzed, and extirpated (if they are detrimental) by doing FIML practice. Observing and analyzing idiosyncratic responses whether they are detrimental or not serves to optimize communication between partners by greatly enhancing partners’ ranges of emotion and understanding.

In an article about the linked study (whose main author is Rebecca Todd), Alva Noë says:

…Todd’s work shows that soldiers with PTSD “process” cues associated with their combat experience differently even than other combat veterans. But what seems to be driving the process that Todd and team uncovered is the meaningfulness or emotional valence of the cues themselves. Whether they are presented in very rapid serial display or in some other way, what matters is that those who have been badly traumatized think and feel. And surely we can modify how we think and feel through conversation?

Indeed, what makes this work so significant is the way it shows that we can only really make sense of the neural phenomena by setting them in the context of the perceptual-cognitive situation of the animal and, vice-versa, that the full-import of what perceivers say and do depends on what is going on in their heads. (Source)

I fully agree with the general sense of Noë’s words, but want to ask what is your technique for “modifying how we think and feel through conversation?” And does your technique comport well with your claim, which I also agree with, that “we can only really make sense of the neural phenomena by setting them in the context of the perceptual-cognitive situation of the animal”?

I would contend that you cannot make very good “sense of neural phenomena” by just talking about them in general ways or analyzing them based on general formulas. Some progress can be made, but it is slow and not so reliable because general ways of talking always fail to capture the idiosyncrasy of the “neural phenomenon” as it is actually functioning in real-time during a real “perceptual-cognitive situation of the animal.”

The FIML technique can capture “neural phenomena” in real-time and it can capture them during real “perceptual-cognitive situations.” It is precisely this that allows FIML practice to quickly extirpate unwholesome responses, both small and large, if desired.

Since all of us are complex individuals with a multitude of interconnected sensibilities, perceptions, and responses, FIML practice does not seek to “just” remove a single post traumatic response but rather to extirpate all unwholesome responses.

Since our complex responses and perceptions can be observed most clearly as they manifest in semiotics, the FIML “conversational” technique focuses on the signs and symbols of communication, the semiotics that comprise psychological morphemes.

FIML practice is not suited for everyone and a good partner must be found for it to work. But I would expect that combat veterans with PTSD who are able to do FIML and who do it regularly with a good partner will experience a gradual reduction in PTSD symptoms leading to eventual extirpation.

The same can be said for the rest of us with our myriad and various traumas and experiences. FIML done with a good partner will find and extirpate what you don’t want knocking around in your head anymore.

More on TV

Cultivation theory:

In its most basic form, cultivation theory suggests that exposure to television, over time, subtly “cultivates” viewers’ perceptions of reality. Gerbner and Gross say: “television is a medium of the socialization of most people into standardized roles and behaviors. Its function is in a word, enculturation”

Institutional process analysis:

This investigates how the flow of media messages is produced and managed, how decisions are made, and how media organizations function. Ultimately, it asked: What are the processes, pressures, and constraints that influence and underline the production of mass-media content?

A good example of institutional process analysis:

According to the Jewish Journal, Kohan’s “refusal to limit herself in her show’s creative content has made moral ambiguity a Weeds trademark. No topic is too grim, no character too depraved.” In giving her the scope to explore these depraved characters, and to mine them for humor and ask questions, Kohan claimed that Weeds allowed her to get in touch with her Jewish identity, noting that, “For me, the essence of my Judaism is to ask questions — ask why, ask more. And in a way, the show allows me to follow that path of Judaism.” (Source)

Obviously, the people who produce TV shows have a significant influence over the effects of those shows on audiences. TV is worth thinking about because, as cultivation theory states, it is a dominant factor in the process of enculturation for all who watch it, and especially for those who watch it without analyzing its effects.