Being misunderstood

One of the worst things about being misunderstood is that very often the more you try to be understood, the worse the problem grows.

Most societies have strong proscriptions against too much talking, and Buddhism is no exception.

I want to discuss three people to whom I have tried to explain FIML with little or no success—a close friend, a Buddhist nun, and a close relative.

The close friend, who was a very knowledgeable and conscientious Buddhist, was never able to hear what I was saying. He always seemed to think that I was making excuses for something I said or prying into his thoughts with the intention of tripping him up. At the time, this person was a very close friend to whom I spoke almost every day, often at great length. We could talk about everything else in the world—politics, Buddhism, atheism, history, people, whatever—but he could not or would not talk to me about how we talked to each other. Admittedly, I was not skilled in talking about FIML in those days. I could only see the basics and had little idea where pursuing them might lead. Nonetheless, no matter how much I tried to explain what I wanted to say, my good friend never heard it and often would get mad at me for persisting.

The Buddhist nun was sort of similar in that she always thought I was making an excuse for myself or looking for some way to make her look bad or wrong. No matter how I introduced the subject, she never seemed to understand the meta-perspective I was going for. This person was a skilled meditator and deeply conversant in virtually all aspects of the Dharma. My feeling then, and now, was that what I was saying seemed to her to go too far outside of Buddhist teachings; it seemed to her to be a nutty idea her friend had, not an interesting discovery someone wanted to share with her.

The close relative is not a Buddhist. Since she knows I care about her, she does listen to me, but I don’t know if she is only being polite. I can see that doing FIML practice sometimes pains her and that she has trouble stopping her emotional reactions from taking over. She has done several successful sessions with me and she has said that it is helping her in other areas of her life, but I have yet to see the light really go on in her head.

These three examples showed me that it can be difficult to get friends or family to see or understand the meta-position that is essential for successful FIML practice. The best way to avoid these problems is to focus on trivial incidents and explain beforehand what you are going to do. You have to make your prospective partner understand that a new perspective is called for. FIML actually requires that a new sort of consciousness—an emergent trait—be generated in the minds of both partners.

I provided the examples above because I hope they will help you avoid similar problems. FIML is not that hard to do or explain, but it can seem confusing or difficult because the subject matter of FIML is each person’s dynamic self/speech in the moment and people are normally not used to thinking that way, let alone talking about it.

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