One of the features of FIML practice that interests me is how it depends upon and strengthens trust between partners.
I cannot think of another system that strengthens interpersonal trust as well as FIML.
My understanding of game theory is not very good, but I suspect FIML could be seen as a game that works with human consciousness to strengthen trust in six ways. If there are two FIML partners—A and B—partner A will strengthen trust in B, in A, and in A and B together. The same is true for partner B. Added together, trust is strengthened in six different ways.
For example, after doing FIML properly for a few months, I will almost certainly trust my partner more than before, myself more than before, and the both of us together more than before. I will be able to trust myself more because I will have a better sense of what to say and why. I will be able to see how my honest answers have a good effect on both my partner and myself. From this, I will be able to quite reliably conclude that my partner is experiencing something similar. And from this we will both be able to see/conclude that the both of us together have a much more trustworthy interpersonal system than we had before we started doing FIML.
A few months of FIML practice will make it abundantly clear to both partners that lying is a huge waste of time. A few months of practice also shows partners how ambiguity and/or soft lies commonly arise in non-FIML relationships. Those same few months will also help partners find many of their blind spots. They will discover how cultural conditioning influences their perceptions and expectations.
Some other systems
Some other systems for establishing interpersonal trust are making vows, getting married, exchanging gifts or confessions, signing agreements, or even spending 100% of your time together.
The best or deepest of these methods is probably the vow, but even a well-meant vow, willingly and mutually undertaken by both parties, will not be all that reliable because it will be stated in general terms and have no way of dealing with the thousands of unique situations that will always occur in all lives. Vows typically have few rules for communication and they rarely, if ever, take into consideration the enormous difficulties all people have with the ongoing details of interpersonal communication.
Vows are general and often highly emotional. Exchanging gifts or making confessions may be slightly more concrete or specific, but there is less obligation. At their best, they are one-time signals of an implied vow. At their worst, they are ways to trick others.
Prenuptial agreements, or other contracts, can limit damage from fake vows or real ones that cannot be kept, but they are actually based on a sort of mistrust and won’t do much to strengthen trust. Some people have actually tried spending all their time together, but all this assures is that partners can’t say or do anything that violates their vows. It doesn’t mean they are telling the truth to each other or even know how. Maybe it would work. I don’t know. I respect people who do this, but it would drive me nuts.
FIML as a game
FIML can be thought of as a game in many ways. Here is one basic formula for FIML as a game that may stand in for many others. It’s very basic, so enhance it or add to it as you see fit or as fits your circumstances.
The formula deals with semiotics by grouping the ongoing semiotics of a conversation between two people into three parts. The first part (the first semiotic grouping) is the context in which the conversation is occurring. The second is the semiotics in the mind of one partner, and the third is the semiotics in the mind of the other partner.
Generally, the context in which the conversation is occurring defines many aspects of the conversation. If partners are in a museum, the museum displays and the need to be quiet will determine a good deal of what is said and how it is understood. If partners are at work, the context will be different.
If partners are relaxed in their own home and with a decent amount of free time, the context will be perfect for a FIML discussion, should the need arise.
No matter what the context, partner A will speak with some sort of semiotic in their mind. It might be very specific or it might be vague. Partner B will listen in much the same way—they may be hyper-attentive to one aspect of what A is saying or they may be in a relaxed state or even daydreaming.
There are many ways that the semiotics of A and B can and will be different. In most cases, these differences glide along and resolve or are ignored in common ways without causing problems. You can’t possible monitor everything that happens in your minds.
But, if the semiotics in the minds of partners A and B get too far apart—if they diverge from each other too much—misunderstandings and mismatched feelings will begin to arise.
This is when you do FIML—when the semiotics in your mind and your partner’s mind are no longer referring to the same thing and one or both of you notices, either by feeling the mix-up or by other signs.
The game is to see the mix-up right when it happens, then to discuss how and why it happened, appreciate that it is very common for stuff like that to happen, figure out what to do about it (if anything), enjoy what you have learned, and then keep doing what you were doing.
The value of this game is you will not only keep doing what you were doing but you will enjoy it even more. If you don’t do the game, you won’t get that added level of fun and you won’t see more deeply into your shared awareness.
FIML as mindfulness
A friend yesterday said in an email that FIML was working well for him and his fiancee. He also referred to it as Buddhist mindfulness. FIML is greatly enhanced by Buddhist mindfulness, but it is not exactly the same because FIML involves two people being mindful (and honest) together. Having a second person do detailed mindfulness with you is different from doing mindfulness alone. When you do mindfulness or introspection by yourself, you have no way of checking your work. When you do it with an honest partner, you can check your conclusions, and very often find out why you were wrong.
The value of FIML lies in being able to check our mindfulness with an honest partner who is also being mindful. Doing this corrects interpersonal mistakes as well as individual idiosyncratic ones. FIML also increases trust and honesty while improving communication overall between partners.