When is a FIML discussion finished?

A FIML discussion is initiated when one partner (or both) experiences an emotional jangle. It is finished when both partners experience a profound resolution.

A FIML discussion begins when one partner feels that something in what the other has said or done has caused them to begin to have an emotional reaction. Before that reaction becomes very strong, we want to stop ourselves and observe its cause while asking our partner what was in their mind at the moment they said or did whatever it was that caused us to react. Ideally, we will be able to quickly stop ourselves, monitor our response, and calmly query our partner, who will answer our questions clearly and neutrally. With practice this is not as difficult to do as it may sound.

So then, when is a FIML discussion finished? How do we know when to stop?

A FIML discussion ends when both partners fully understand all relevant levels of meaning pertaining to the emotional jangle that initiated the discussion.

When this happens, partners will feel a sense of relief or resolution that is very similar to the feeling of relief we get when we figure something out or come to understand something that has perplexed us. Partners will feel a palpable sense of resolution, a calming and very pleasant sense of deep understanding when a FIML discussion has properly concluded.

This is because a FIML discussion involves meaning. Stuff means things to us. What our partner says to us means something to us. Often this meaning is far more complex than the surface levels of our words or gestures. When there is a mismatch of meaning or when one partner is making a mistake in their interpretation of the other, the shared meaning of both partners will become disjointed, confusing, and emotionally painful.

A successful FIML discussion will clear up all levels of confusion. That is the purpose of doing FIML. To clear up all pertinent levels of linguistic, emotional, and psychological meaning. When both partners fully understand the exchange that led to a FIML discussion, their understanding will be something they both will know and feel with great clarity.

When this point is reached, it is a good idea for both partners to confirm that they both have experienced a full resolution and are completely satisfied with their discussion. There should be no loose ends. Partners will greatly benefit from reviewing what just happened and considering how it can serve as an example, or template, for future discussions. They might also reflect together on how the initial misunderstanding–had it not been dealt with–might have grown out of proportion and ruined the rest of their day, if not worse.

The resolution of a FIML discussion arrives with a clear and distinct feeling because that resolution has brought coherence to the shared reality of both partners. It has brought a deeper and truer meaning to their shared reality. When a FIML discussion has ended with a satisfactory resolution, partners will experience a deep appreciation of both themselves and the other.

The Noble Eightfold Path and Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML): Part 5

Right Speech: Once couples, partners, or close friends learn how to successfully do FIML practice, they will have enormous freedom of speech.

They will be able to speak to each other without fear of being misunderstood or wrongly judged. This is so because each person will know that if they say something that causes a jangle in the other, it will be brought up and resolved quickly. Who wants to be married to someone with whom we are afraid to speak our mind? Who wants to have to monitor their speech when they are at home with their partner? With successful FIML practice couples can enjoy a free-flowing, creative style of speaking whenever they are together.

Right Action: In Buddhism Right Action indicates harmless conduct or ethically sound conduct.

Just as our speech can be misunderstood and just as we may misunderstand words spoken to us, so our actions may be misinterpreted by our friends and loved ones. Misunderstandings based on actions can and should be addressed in FIML practice in a way that is similar to, but not exactly the same, as the ways we deal with speech misunderstandings.

Some of what we do is unconscious. Much of what is in our unconscious mind has been conditioned by the culture or subculture within which we were raised. It is not likely that any two people in this complex, modern world will have the same cultural responses to everything. Even two people raised in the same town will have some cultural differences. These might include family traditions (the family is a subculture), religious training, the kinds of friends they had or have, and so on. Some of these cultural influences are easily changed or adapted, but some are more stubborn. Cultural influences condition our actions.

Here is an example of a stubborn cultural difference I share with my SO. I come from a subculture that requires “multiple-offering”. This subculture uses multiple offering as a way of communicating feelings or negotiating what to do next, among other things. My SO was formed in a subculture that does “single-offerings.” In her subculture, if she wants to communicate her feelings or negotiate what to do next, she can just say it.

Put very simply, multiple-offering means when you invite someone or offer them food or something else, you usually have to do it several times. And if food or something else is being offered to you, you can’t just say, yes, give me some. You have to be a little demure or even refuse until it is offered a time or two more. Supposedly, in Kyoto, Japan, you must refuse an offer three times before accepting it. In my subculture, there is not such a specific requirement, but you do have to wobble a little and be reoffered at least once or twice in many/most cases. If you don’t, it seems cold or even rude.

In the single offering subculture within which my SO was raised, there is nothing as confusing as this. If someone offers you some food, you take it and say thanks if you want it. If you don’t want it, you say no thanks. It’s a great system, but one in which someone like me will go hungry.

Anyway, what we have noticed about these cultural differences is they are really deeply entrenched in us. I do multiple-offering quite subconsciously with great regularity in a wide variety of situations. I do it so often, my SO can even become mildly irritated with me, or at least she used to; now she understands how it looks from my point of view. On the flip side, she almost never does multiple-offering with me. You get one chance to jump at something and if you pass it up, you won’t get any. I used to feel that her system was pretty cold, but now I understand that it is very rational and direct, two qualities I admire. In her subculture, people negotiate feelings differently and probably more efficiently and effectively than in mine.

These ingrained cultural sensibilities that affect speech and behavior are actions. To be Right about these Actions, we don’t have to change them since neither system is harmful or unethical. All we have to do is understand that we each feel differently about them. Once we understand that, these culturally ingrained actions can play themselves out while we can find them amusing, even fascinating sometimes.

Some of our actions we can change, but some we cannot change easily. With FIML practice we should be able to figure out when cultural differences are causing misunderstandings and how to deal with them. What we have noticed about ours is some of them can and should change to be more ethically sound or more based on wisdom, but others of them can be left alone to be enjoyed as harmless artifacts of the conditioning (karma) we received in the past.

The Noble Eightfold Path and Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML): Part 4

Right Speech: A great deal of Buddhist literature emphasizes the importance of Right Speech. In this post, I want to emphasize that for FIML practice right listening (or right hearing) is every bit as important. If we only pay attention to Right Speech, especially within an intimate relationship, we will very likely become sort of formal, wimpy, even dishonest, in what we say to each other.

When we do FIML practice we want be mindful both of what we say and what we hear.

Right Speech and right listening are based on Right View and Right Thought. The basic way that the Noble Eightfold Path is understood is that if our views are right, our thoughts will be right, and then Right Speech will follow from that. The problem with such a general statement, though, is that it does not take into account the many errors that can and do occur when people speak, gesture, make expressions, or listen to one another. A basic premise of FIML practice is that we frequently make errors when we speak and when we hear.

In this post, I am going to emphasize listening in relation to FIML practice because it is usually the listener who initiates a FIML query or discussion. And it is usually within the listener that a neurosis is stimulated.

To add a little background, in general terms, we can make a distinction between the limbic system of the human brain and the neocortex. The limbic system is associated with emotion, while the neocortex is associated with reasoning, conscious thought, and language. The day may come when neither of these two terms is considered useful by scientists, but they can serve us well enough for this discussion. When we have a limbic response, our heart rate often increases, we may experience a surge of adreniline, we will surely feel some sort of emotion rising within us.

In contrast to the limbic system, the neocortex is capable of observing our behavior objectively and without emotion. It is the neocortex that allows us to be mindful, to reflect on what we are doing or have done, and to make changes for the better. In FIML practice, we want to use our neocortex to help us quickly dissociate from our negative limbic responses. This means that the moment you hear your partner say something that causes a negative limbic response in you, you call on your neocortex to stop or slow that response while at the same time indicating to your partner that you want to begin a FIML query.

This may sound hard to do, and it can be difficult at first, but with a bit of practice both partners will get good at it. The main thing to understand is that we want to prevent our limbic repsonse from running away from us. If we call on the neocortex the moment we notice a limbic response rising in us, we will very likely succeed in halting that response and halting the customary neurotic thoughts and views that are associated with it.

Remember, in FIML practice, especially at first, we want to deal with very brief periods of time–just a few seconds. If your partner says something that causes you to have a limbic response and if you can identify that response immediately, there is not enough time for you to go into all the complaints and explanations you are used to. Your habitual neurotic thoughts, feelings, and stories will not have time within a few seconds to dominate your mind.

For example, if you hear what you think is derision in your partner’s voice and you feel an emotional jangle due to that tone of voice. Stop. Ask your partner without accusing them, without assuming anything else, what they just said. If their tone of voice was what caused a jangle in you, just ask them what were they thinking, why did they use that tone of voice. If you listen carefully to their answer and accept their explanation, you will almost always find that there was no derision at all in their mind. Maybe they were tired, maybe the subject (not you) seemed irritating, maybe you completely misheard them.

Once you succeed in doing this practice a few times with the same neurosis, you will discover that that neurosis will begin to lose its power. When you don’t feed it with yet another mistaken interpretation, it will begin to wither and die. The human mind is very efficient. If you can show it that there is a better way to think or do something and if your mind is convinced of that, it will change. So, when you show your mind through repeated FIML queries that one or more of its habitual interpretations (one or more of its neuroses) is clearly mistaken, your mind will abandon that wrong interpretation.