The Noble Eightfold Path and Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML): Part 2

Right View: The opposite of a Right View is a wrong view or a delusion. In Buddhist teachings almost all people are considered to be deluded almost all of the time. Another way of saying that is everyone is crazy.

In Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML) wrong views (or neuroses or craziness) arise when we form an erroneous interpretation of what someone is saying or has said. When we are not certain about what someone means, we are all but forced to fill in the blanks with an interpretation that arises in our own mind. Generally, those kinds of interpretations will have a long history in us. If we are insecure, for example, we will tend to interpret what people are saying to us in a negative or self-abnegating way.

With most people in most situations, we cannot do much to correct this problem. In most situations, if someone says, “you look nice today,” we cannot ask them if they really mean it. If we are insecure about our looks, we may be powerless to avoid drawing the conclusion that the person is patronizing us by trying to make us feel good. If we are really insecure, we might even decide they are insulting us and walk away feeling offended.

In FIML practice, this kind of very common problem can be corrected by working with your partner. In a secure setting if your partner says, “you look good today”, if you feel a jangle of insecurity or discomfort at hearing those words, you can stop the conversation right there and ask: “Why did you say that? What was in your mind when you said that?” Chances are your partner, especially if they are your spouse, really does think you look good. If that’s the case, you can talk about that for a while and explain how compliments like that usually make you feel, how you both understand what looking good means, etc..

If your partner really was just trying to cheer you up with their compliment, from now on they will know that this is not a good way to do that. Once you both understand each other’s states of mind when that compliment was given, you will then have the opportunity to have a long conversation about compliments, how they feel, why you like or dislike them, when you give them and why, and so on. The important thing to understand is that in doing a FIML exercise, at the very moment that a jangle of neurosis begins to arise within you, you will disentangle yourself from the usual cascade of bad feelings that normally follow. Your partner will also benefit from understanding you better, and in many cases, they will benefit because they have similar feelings themselves.

If conditions allow, FIML practice can and should be done whenever either partner feels a jangle of discomfort, anxiety, fear, sadness, etc. while interacting with each other. If we are mindful, we should with practice be able to immediately stop our conversation and fully explain our states of mind to each other. What we want to do is explain the few seconds just before and during the jangle of discomfort as it arises. If both partners can remember their states of mind and if they can explain them in an objective fashion (no emotion here), both will greatly benefit from the increase in mutual understanding. And both will have taken another step toward basing their relationship on a Right View of each other.

FIML practice emphasizes language because when we work with language, we have good objective data. We want to avoid, especially in the beginning, going into long explanations about our psychology. Instead, we want to focus very clearly on what the words just spoken were and how we may have interpreted them. We can also focus on tone of voice, expression, gesture, or demeanor, but keeping a clear memory of what the words were will almost always make FIML exercises run more smoothly. In many cases, the speaker may simply have chosen a vague word, or a wrong one, and by explaining that remove the need to go any further.

FIML exercises can also be done with excessive or misplaced positive feelings, but negative ones tend to be more common and are easier to deal with at first.

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