Denial and self-deception

Robin Hanson has an interesting post—Dark Pain, Dark Joy—about pains and joys “…we don’t let others know, and are often are in denial to ourselves.”

“Why do we hide and deny pain?” he asks. “Some pain makes us look bad. We’d look weak to complain of pains that many folks put up with without complaining.”

Hanson also describes “dark joys”—secret pleasures that would embarrass us if others knew about them.

I am glad to see Hanson expanding our sense of what the “unconscious” may hold and/or what we feel we must repress within our conscious minds. It is important to do this for, as he says, “consciousness…is a matter of degree, and repressed pain [or secret pleasures] can infect our mood and feelings in many indirect ways.”

In FIML practice, partners will discover a great many subconscious and semi-conscious misinterpretations of themselves and others that “deeply infect [their] moods and feelings in many indirect ways.” I would add that they also infect and affect us in many direct ways that can, and often do, have massive consequences.

Most of us are in denial about our misinterpretations of ourselves and others. Our denial is a complex form of self-deception that may be conscious or unconscious. Entire cultures are built upon a foundation of interpersonal misinterpretations. The central misinterpretation is that we understand each other better than we do.

We use very crude and ambiguous signs and symbols (language, gesture, tone, etc.) to communicate meanings that are frequently fraught with ambiguity. Then we pretend that we have been understood and that we understand how we are being responded to.

In a science lab when speaking about an experiment, the technical parts of exchanged messages may get sent and received without too many problems, but once at home, those same scientists will not be capable of communicating with their spouses with anything near the same clarity.

The “repressed pain” that stems from ambiguity and misinterpretation experienced during communications with significant friends and spouses is the herd of elephants in the room of human civilization from ancient times to today.

To compensate for our terribly poor understanding of each other (much of it deriving from inevitable and completely unavoidable ambiguities in communication), we are forced to adopt stock roles, to have unfounded beliefs about our “selves” and others, to make unsatisfying vows, to adhere to public semiotic standards that cannot possibly reflect or embody our authentic beings.

To correct this problem, we have to learn how to communicate with far more detail and far more accuracy than is normally possible in any culture in existence today. If you could communicate with minimal ambiguity (orders of magnitude better than now) and with great clarity with the people you love, would you not want to do that?

The “dark pains and pleasures” described by Hanson are a significant part of being human. But the corrosive and very harmful dark pain that comes from the bad communication of semiotic babies (us) is even worse.

Being misunderstood

American Buddhist Net

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…

View original post 409 more words

Most people misunderstand everything


Because language is necessarily often ambiguous.


The ambiguities are rarely fixed.


Unfixed ambiguities lead to errors in interpretation. The errors accumulate and snowball. All people have been raised in environments like that and continue to live in them.

This causes pain because our minds are capable of communicating unambiguously, but we don’t know how.

We are semiotic animals, beings that live in semiotic jungles.

Our pain and error-ridden communication makes us mean, simple, greedy, stupid, violent, selfish, crazy.

Communication errors, misinterpretations, cause ghosts to form in the mind. We need to imagine a role for ourselves and others, but since we experience so many errors, our imaginings are fundamentally wrong. They are like ghosts in our minds.

We are as ghosts speaking and listening to each other.

Were Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments wrong?

See this article, Electric Schlock: Did Stanley Milgram’s Famous Obedience Experiments Prove Anything?, for more.

Since so much of our understanding of human behavior is based on Milgram’s experiment, it behooves us to question the experiment.

If Milgram’s experiment was fudged and if its results were exaggerated, as Perry claims, it provides an excellent example of how a false “scientific” semiotic can gain public attention and become a mainstay of our understanding of human psychology.

Identity versus ego

In this post, I will describe some of the main differences between “identity” and “ego” as we use these terms on this site. One of these days, I will make a glossary of all the terms we use.

  • Identity is the internal signaling system.
  • Ego is fiction that overlays identity.
  • Identity is clear, practical, ethically sound.
  • Ego is theatrical, defensive and offensive, designed to communicate with other egos and to further ulterior motives.
  • We need an ego in social situations only because that is how everyone is.
  • People communicate through the fictions of their social groups because that is all they know.
  • You won’t get far with nothing but an identity in a world full of egos.
  • But you will get closer to the truth about yourself and others.
  • Two identities can create their own group without ego fictions.
  • The fictions of the ego are tautological or self-referential.
  • It is very hard for most people to see the difference between ego and identity as defined above.
  • The reason is ego is the major way they have learned to communicate with others.
  • You show me your ego and I’ll show you mine.
  • Ego is a story, a fiction.
  • Groups of egos will always have self-referential stories or fictions that identify them.
  • Groups of motorcyclists, groups of Christians or Buddhists—all ego groups have stories, signs, and symbols that identify them.
  • These stories, signs, and symbols are always false, never completely true, always serve the purpose of upholding the group and the egos in it.
  • People without egos or ego groups can communicate just fine, though it will always be hard for people with egos to understand them.

The ego is the “deluded self” or the “small self” of Buddhism. I suppose the “identity,” if it is very pure, is the enlightened mind, the Buddha mind, the Tathagata.

FIML practice greatly helps the identity see the difference between identity and ego. It does this by showing the identity how the ego interprets what it hears and frames what it says.

The ego is like a ghost in the mind, or a collection of ghosts, that distorts reality for its own purposes. It is hard to see by yourself where it starts and where it ends. With the help of a caring partner, the line between ego and identity will become much clearer.

We “need” an ego only because it is the main way that people communicate. We do not need or want an ego when we communicate with our FIML partners. If more people did FIML, there would be less need for egos.

3 Mules

“The space needed by The Mules to travel this country freely in all four directions on the landscape is being taken over by the suburban model of automobile usage, exclusively, and leaving no space for alternative venues of moving and living.  In our travels, we carry that awareness and bring it to others.”