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.

One comment on “The Noble Eightfold Path and Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML): Part 4

  1. ABN says:

    This line may need some explanation: “Maybe they were tired, maybe the subject (not you) seemed irritating, maybe you completely misheard them.”

    If your partner is irritated with you, they probably are experiencing a neurotic response themselves and probably should have initiated a FIML discussion before that point.

    My SO and I have found that it is quite common for one of us to appear irritated, discouraged, or unhappy about the subject we are discussing, but be understood by the other to be having those feelings about them. See if you are not doing this with your SO. I bet it is very likely you are. Once this mix-up is understood, you will go immediately from feeling bothered by your partner to feeling that you are fully sharing the experience with them.

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