After explaining the basics of FIML to a friend, he replied: “Oh, so just pretend you are autistic.”
It was a good joke with a good deal of truth to it. The reality is, though, that no one knows all that well what others are thinking unless they ask and are told honestly. When people rely too much on “normal” intuition in their primary relationships, far too much ambiguity develops. And from that ambiguity neuroses arise or perdure. Neuroses can entail either unsatisfying clinging to conventional semiotics or disturbing idiosyncratic interpretations of interpersonal behaviors. Both ways of dealing with ambiguity are based on mistaken interpretations, and both of them lead to suffering. I don’t see how a “normal” person can escape this without FIML any better than someone with Asperger’s or autism.
The New York Times had an article the other day on Asperger’s, Navigating Love and Autism. The article is worth reading in and of itself, but it works especially well for me because FIML training has shown me that Asperger’s problems, though they may be more of a certain type, are problems all people have. Asperger’s people may be less able rely on conventional emotional packaging than “normal” people, but in truth I don’t think anyone should rely too much on conventions in their private life. A “normal” person can more quickly achieve the illusion of intimacy and sharing and more easily maintain this illusion, but without FIML or something like it, it will remain an illusion. As the years go by, all of those ambiguities and wrongly shared assumptions will lead to lying, harmfulness, and suffering.
It may very well be that “normal” people have more to learn from Asperger’s people than the other way around. The couple in the article seem to have figured out a way to be together that relies on something similar to FIML–they know that they need to explain themselves to each other in ways that are anything but conventional. This frees them to see the wonder of their unique individuality and to share that with each other.