The Noble Eightfold Path and Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML): Part 3

Right Thought: Just as Right Views lead to Right Thoughts, so wrong views lead to wrong thoughts.

In Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML), a wrong view occurs when one partner misunderstands what the other partner is saying to them. If the misunderstanding has no emotional content, it will be unlikely to cause serious problems. If I ask for a pencil and you hand me a pen because I turned my head as I said “pencil”, it is unlikely that any difficulties will result. This is so because I have asked for a particular physical object. When you hand the wrong object to me, I should know immediately that you misheard what I said. I will correct the mistake and ask you again for a pen, which you will now hand to me.

Seems so simple.

But if we are honest with ourselves, isn’t it true that we have at some time in the past formed wrong thoughts during an exchange as simple as that one? Maybe there was a bit of extra pressure, like doing taxes. In times like that who has never become irritated at having to ask twice for something? Who has never blamed the person who misheard the word you mispronounced? Or if you were the one doing the handing, who has never become irritated and said, “Make up your mind already!” And what couple has never gotten into a fight over an incident as small as that?

Once the fighting starts, who knows where it will end? We can be sure that throughout history many human beings have lost their lives over less than that.

I hope the example above illustrates several points: 1) that the start of the misunderstanding is nothing more than a mistake; 2) that if the mistake is discovered and corrected immediately, no wrong view or wrong thoughts will be formed; 3) but if the mistake is not discovered and corrected, there is a significant chance that an emotional scene will follow.

Even if there is no emotional scene, this situation may well result in one or both partners harboring wrong thoughts. I may not say anything, but I may think that you never listen because you don’t respect me. Or you may stay quiet but think that I am disrespecting you by making so many requests. Unfortunately, there are far too many ways in which even very affectionate couples or close friends can misunderstand each other.

If a misunderstanding does develop from an incident like this, isn’t it clear that that misunderstanding will be likely to grow stronger when similar incidents occur? Once we have formed a wrong view and bolstered it with wrong thoughts, we will have a great tendency to find even more evidence for our wrong thoughts.

In previous posts we have called wrong thoughts of this type neuroses or, to use the Buddhist term, kleshas.

FIML practice is designed to help us focus on very small incidents of wrong view or wrong thought. Doing this helps us discover exactly how and why our neuroses are formed and maintained. By focusing on very small, even trivial, incidents like the one described above, FIML practitioners will learn how to disentangle themselves from the wrong thoughts and neuroses that cause so much trouble in their interpersonal relationships.

If you can catch yourself forming a wrong view and the wrong thoughts that must necessarily follow, you will probably discover one of your neuroses (kleshas) as it is happening. If you can discuss this objectively with your partner and see the matter from their point of view, you will very likely succeed in disentangling, at least for the moment, from that habitual neurotic reaction. And if you can do this three, four, or five times with incidents involving the same neurosis, you will very likely cause that neurosis to be eliminated from your mind like smoke in the wind.

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