Snowballing in FIML practice

FIML practice may seem easy if you just read a simple description of it.

A simple description, however, communicates as much by what it leaves out as what it says.

Many FIML discussions do begin and end with a simple query about what one partner meant and a simple answer that leaves no loose strings. A resolution is found almost immediately. That kind of FIML discussion is extremely important and common, but it is also very basic. It can be thought of as an important tool in your FIML tool chest, and also as a simple model for more complex FIML discussions.

Experienced partners will find that many FIML discussions quickly generate secondary contretemps, or mix-ups, as we sometimes call them. A contretemps, as we are using the word, means some sort of discrepancy between what is said or heard leading to a mistaken interpretation in one or both partners’ minds.

When secondary and tertiary contretemps appear in a basic FIML discussions, it is important that partners recognize what is happening. It can be frustrating and unproductive to try to explain a primary contretemps when your partner is reacting to a secondary one that followed quickly upon the first.

The best rule of thumb is to avoid emotional reactions while trying to understand where and when the speech, listening, or meaning got lost.

The basic FIML query is a model for all FIML practice. If you and your partner find yourselves becoming confused as contretemps accumulate and start to snowball, do your best to stop everything and go back to the beginning. Then in a neutral state of mind try to explain to each other how your discussion got off track. When a FIML discussion becomes confusing, you will almost always find that more contretemps followed quickly upon the first. By the time you notice what is happening, it is very unlikely that both of you will remember everything with enough accuracy to gain a perfect resolution of all that happened.

What you can do, though, is see the rough outlines of how your discussion got off-track. Use this understanding as the basis for your resolution of the snowball that you just stopped. Realize that what happened will happen again. Contretemps can come fast and furious, especially as confusion mounts and feelings get out of hand.

Always remember, contretemps are part of language and communication. There is absolutely no way that you and your partner will not experience a great many contretemps. They are completely inevitable and entirely natural. In my experience, it is common for an hour of conversation between two people to generate five or more contretemps. Of course, there can be great variations in this figure depending on the subject matter and the moods of the participants.

Main point is contretemps absolutely are going to happen to everyone with great frequency. FIML practice is designed to help partners understand how and why they happen and how to fix them. If you don’t fix them, you will bring about suspicion, shallowness, or some other sort of unpleasant and destructive weirdness in your relationship with your partner. Fixing contretemps is very fulfilling and enjoyable. Not fixing them leads to suffering. I do not think there is any way around this. It is built into language and how we humans use it.

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