On this site we have often employed the idea that human instincts function within a “semiotic realm,” rather than a realm of “nature” that is external to us.
In line with this idea, we have used such concepts as “public semiotics,” “social semiotics,” “private semiotics,” “semiotic wells,” and “semiotic networks.”
A semiotic network is a connected web of semiotics that exists privately (or idiosyncratically) within a single mind or publicly within a culture or society made up of many minds.
A semiotic well is a “gravitational well” within a semiotic network; a gravitational well is like a solar system of semiotics that revolves around a semiotic-sun that defines it and holds it together.
Individuals can create their own semiotic wells within their own idiosyncratic semiotic networks, but most people most of the time import their semiotic wells from the public semiotic network(s) they find around them.
A good example for all of the above might be the American cultural value (now shared by much of the world) of owning your own home.
Most Americans gradually assimilate to (or import) this value, or semiotic well, as they grow up. As they become young adults, many Americans start planning to buy their own home. And many of them imagine all sorts of other things—children, community, picket fences, coffee in the morning, etc.—that go with the semiotic well of home-ownership.
Depending on how strong or weak the gravitational force of this semiotic well is, an individual who entertains it may be more or less “healthy.” If the desire for a home is “excessive,” consuming more time and resources than are “appropriate,” this semiotic well will be “unhealthy.” If the desire is reasonable and doable, it may be considered “healthy.”
Readers can define the words in quotation marks in the paragraph above however they like. It is really up to you, and your partner/family if they exist, to decide what is “excessive” and what is not.
In this context, an “excessive” fixation on owning a home can become a fetish. A semiotic fetish.
If someone believes that they simply cannot be happy until they have a home of their own, they have probably fetishized home-ownership. When such a person gets their home, they may find it is not making them happy or that they cannot share their happiness or that their happiness is based far more on what they have than what they have.
It is my contention that all of us do stuff like this all the time in many areas of our lives. In fact, I do not believe anyone who does not do FIML or something very much like can escape fetishizing many parts of their life in this manner.
A fetish is a “displacement,” “replacement,” or “misplacement” of something richer and better with a symbol. When we replace emotional contentment with the fetish of owning a home, we have misplaced our contentment.
When we replace constructive, honest communication with the prideful fetish of social “status,” we have misplaced communication.
When we misplace our sense of who we are with an excessive fixation on physical vanity, we have fetishized the natural sense of being-a-body-in-this-world with a semiotic well that can take on a life of its own.
Why do I say that FIML practice or something very much like it is essential to breaking this pattern?
The reason is semiotics tend to become static. We need semiotics to think and communicate, so semiotic stasis is necessary in many ways and often a good thing.
But we do it too much and we misplace how we do it. Thus, we get emotions, instincts, values, and beliefs all mixed into a few simple semiotics, a few signs and symbols.
One may be able to see this intellectually and even be able to capably analyze this process, but that can never be a substitute for seeing how our fetishized semiotics—our unique semiotic wells—actually function in the world.
Once you do see that, your whole view of what constitutes human psychology will change. And with that will change how you view culture and what you want out of life.
Consider how many common concepts that we take for granted can be or can become fetishized semiotics. Our understanding of what it means to have a “personality,” a “personality trait,” a “soul,” “no-soul,” a “need,” an “instinct,” a “hobby,” an “addiction,” a “psychology,”and so on can and often are fetishized semiotics that distort how we perceive our “selves,” the world, and the people that we know in it.
Consider also how easily our fetishes and semiotic wells can be manipulated by news and communication media.
Are we living in a world where other people communicate authentically with us or are we living in a world where other people communicate with us through fetishized semiotics?
Without FIML, how can you know?