On the Importance of Honesty and the Decision to Believe

An element of FIML practice that will no doubt receive further emphasis is this: At the outset, both partners must agree to be honest with one another.

Perhaps if we were totally honest with ourselves, we’d admit that this sounds kind of scary. Perhaps it conjures up images of tear-soaked confessional outpourings, during which you disclose all your deep, dark, embarrassing secrets on demand. But this is not the kind of honesty we’re talking about.

Say you feel a slight twinge of irritation at not being able to get your meaning across as quickly or easily as you’d like during an exchange with your partner about some mundane topic. If you were to assign a percentage to this irritation, perhaps it would only be 4% of everything that’s in your mind at that moment, but nevertheless you feel it. Say your partner, detecting this slight twinge of irritation in your voice, initiates a FIML discussion and asks, “Did you feel at all irritated just now? The last thing you said sounded a little short,” you must admit to it, rather than saying, “No, I wasn’t irritated at all. I wasn’t being short.” The fact that the irritation was slight, that it only represented a very small percentage of what was in your mind, does not mean it’s too trivial to bring up. Quite the contrary! As far as FIML is concerned, the more trivial the better.

The other side of this, and just as important, is that both partners must agree to believe each other. This can be surprisingly difficult for a neurotic being to do, even during a trivial exchange. Which is why it may be helpful to make a conscious decision to believe your partner, rather than simply relying on a general feeling of trust that seems rock-solid during placid times.

When a neurosis perceives that its ability to perpetuate itself is threatened, as during a successful FIML exercise, it will do what it can to undermine such feelings; it really wants to keep on spinning its tired old tale. But the decision to believe that you made is more impervious to neurotic wiles. It can take over during an emergency and carry you through to the end of the exercise, so that you may enjoy the ultimately pleasant consequences of the death (or at least the weakening) of your neurosis. Over time you may find that your reluctance to believe was itself neurotic.

So, following the example given above (topic still unspecified) say your partner replies to your inquiry: “Yes, I did feel a twinge of irritation. It did occur to me briefly that perhaps you were being a little obtuse, that you were not understanding me on purpose. Please tell me if I’m wrong but I don’t actually think that was the case. I think I was mostly just frustrated at not being able to find the word I was looking for quickly enough…” You must believe them, rather than harboring suspicious thoughts like, “You’re just saying that! You really do think that I was misunderstanding you on purpose! I know what you’re up to!” Of course, if you were being obtuse, even just 4% obtuse, you must say so. Pretty soon these kinds of admissions will seem like no big deal.

As you build up a history of more and more successful FIML sessions, it will become easier and easier both to be totally honest and also to believe. Pretty soon, you won’t have to think about it anymore, it’ll just happen automatically.

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