Signs become symbols all the time. What you want to be careful about is wrongly making signs into symbols.
A sign is a simple element of thought or communication. Symbols are signs with extra meaning.
Here’s an example. My partner spends a lot of time at her job working outside. She works hard and sometimes it bothers me. This morning I noticed that a sign in my mind had become a symbol.
The symbol was an imaginary image of her at her job with rain falling, wind blowing, and her in a panic to finish. It was one of several images I have of her at work.
As it floated into the foreground of my mind, I simply asked her, “Tell me this image is not true.”
I described it and she said, “No, that’s not true. Sometimes it happens, but generally I enjoy what I am doing.”
My imaginary sign (her in the rain) became a symbol (her being worked too hard) that she corrected with a few words (“no that’s not true”).
Our years of FIML practice allowed me to allow the symbol to lose all meaning and the simple sign to become a sign again. My bad feeling about her going to work and the conditions of her work changed immediately.
To become symbols, signs must be invested with meaning and feeling. Sometimes signs are symbols and sometimes not.
We all turn signs into wrong symbols all the time. Observing how that happens in you with the help of a trusted partner will do more to clear your head than anything else I can think of.
In this respect, FIML is a form of analytical psychotherapy that removes wrong symbols from the brain’s semiotic networks.
Since humans are fundamentally semiotic animals who react instinctively to symbols, it is essential that we have a way to clear out wrong ones. FIML, or something similar, is an absolute must for clear thinking and rational psychology.
You cannot clean up most wrong symbols (or signs) by yourself. You absolutely must have a trusted partner to help you because signs and symbols function as tools of communication.
Since they are also the building blocks of human psychology, clearing up wrong signs and symbols also clears up human psychology.