A psychological morpheme is defined as the smallest unit of a psychological response.
This term is used in FIML practice to distinguish psychological micro responses from meso and macro responses which are more general and less amenable to change and productive analysis.
There are many kinds of psychological morphemes and every individual has a multitude of them that are unique to them. Some are associated with personal memories and emotions that were aroused in the past. Others are new and arise in the present moment.
Still others are internalized social responses which at their most basic feel almost like disembodied responses, responses that precede thought, that begin creating the world we live in before we even know it. They are part of us, but can be slightly astonishing when we notice them for what they are.
A good example of one happened yesterday. My partner was away on a short trip and since it was a warm day I was working at home in my birthday suit. At some point I decided to call my partner, who would think nothing of seeing me in my birthday suit, but before I did I found myself reflexively putting on a pair of shorts.
I stopped and wondered why I was doing that and realized I was being “directed” by an almost completely emotionless and thought-less psychological morpheme.
Since I was going to speak, I was going to engage in a social act. And since I was going to engage in a social act, some part of me decided I needed to put on a pair of shorts.
This morpheme is interesting because it is so elementary. I was going to speak over the phone, long-distance to someone I have been living with for many years. And yet even still a very weak and basic sense of propriety that I had learned from my culture arose in me and got me to put on a pair of shorts.
It was like a single cold spark. And yet it was strong enough to move my system. It was a sort of “logic” like the logic of a small pattern in sand, or a twist in a tree’s bark. It was “me” putting on the shorts, but the “logic” of my doing so seemed to belong more to nature or a physical process than “my” being.
Psychological morphemes of this type are wonderful to observe. They belong to an almost blank class of responses that work like directional signs that induce us to move one way or another, to do something or not.
Other kinds of psychological morphemes induce us to feel, think, or believe something with no more “charge” than the single small spark that got me to put on my shorts.
Psychological morphemes are the most basic data of FIML practice. They are the small signs that make up the “language” of our psychologies, our minds. Understanding them leads to a rich understanding of your own and others’ behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.