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.