Triggers and microaggression

I greatly dislike the way these two words—trigger and microaggression—are currently being used.

Trigger implies that something inevitable will follow while microaggression outright claims that the other person is at fault.

I much prefer my own neutral term for those small stimuli that might cause emotional discomfort.

My term is psychological morpheme, which is defined as:

The smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

I strongly believe psychological morphemes exist and that they arise at distinct moments and that these moments can be perceived by the owner of them and that that owner of these moments can and must learn to control them, analyze them, learn from them.

It is a huge mistake to automatically blame another person for our own psychological morphemes. From a FIML point of view, there is almost nothing worse.

The reason this is a really bad thing to do is you are very likely wrong.

Even if you are wrong only one out of twenty times, the consequences of your mistake can be very large. I guarantee you are wrong much more often than that.

I say this after doing years of FIML practice during which I have discovered in myself and my partner hundreds of wrong psychological morphemes, most of which were connected to subjective networks that had grown large over many years.

Most psychological morphemes arise due to habits of subjective interpretation.

Rather than let these subjective interpretations have their way, a far more profitable and much wiser course of action is to stop that process at the initiating morpheme. Stop it before it gets going and fills your mind.

If you can stop it at the psychological morpheme and analyze it with the help of your FIML partner, those morphemes will not become mindless triggers that you wrongly interpret as microaggression, but rather opportunities to see and understand how your brain is actually functioning in real-time.

Psychological morphemes are also commonly misinterpreted as signs that reside in the other person of boredom, anger, contempt, arrogance, insecurity, optimism, happiness, pleasure, and so on including as many states as you can imagine.

When a sign becomes a (wrong) symbol

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.

Metacognition improves memory retrieval

In this post I am going to argue that strong metacognitive awareness of one’s own intentionality in real-time translates into better and more accurate memory retrieval.

More specifically, I mean that the strong metacognitive awareness of one’s own intenti0onality that results from FIML practice is a skill that transfers to memory retrieval.

FIML partners spend a good deal of time asking and answering questions about each others’ intentionality in real-time.

The metacognitive skills that develop out of that practice streamline communication between partners, while also streamlining communication within the brains of each partner.

Each partner benefits psychologically as a standalone individual from the practice of FIML because FIML skills can also be applied to individual, subjective brain functions.

One of the psychological benefits of FIML practice is greatly enhanced awareness of the difference between truth and lies during interpersonal communication with the FIML partner.

This awareness beneficially affects memory retrieval.

It does so by increasing the individual’s capacity to better know when memories are reliable and when they are dubious if not outright false.

Advanced FIML practitioners will have less need for egotistical interpretations of their pasts (or anything else), and thus have minds and memories that are more streamlined and efficient.

This happens because FIML practice gradually shifts brain organization away from the heuristics of a static ego to operations that can be described as “metacognitive.”

Metacognitive operations of this caliber are a great improvement on static beliefs in a self or an egocentric narrative.

Additionally, since psychology is based on memory, fine metacognitive awareness of memory retrieval will also improve psychological functioning in other areas.

For example, emotions based on memory (all of them really) will be less likely to negatively influence intentionality if fine metacognitive awareness of memory retrieval is also functioning in the individual.

The same can be said of psychological schemas, framing, values, beliefs, instinct and its interpretations, and so on. All aspects of human psychology can enjoy improvements (more truthful, less stupid) through the metacognitive skills that result from FIML practice.

Repost: Linguistics and psychology meet in FIML

FIML is a practical technique that optimizes communication between partners by removing as much micro ambiguity as possible during real-time interpersonal communication.

FIML will also greatly improve meso and macro understanding between partners and discussions of these levels are of significant importance and cannot be ignored, but the basic FIML technique rests on micro analysis of real-time communication. Please see this post for more on this topic: Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding.

Real-time micro communication means communication within just a few seconds. If we are reading we can focus on a word or phrase and think about it as long as we like. If we are listening to someone speak, however, we normally cannot stop them to analyze deeply a particular word choice, a particular expression, a particular tone of voice, or anything else that happens rapidly.

This missing piece in the puzzle of interpersonal communication is of great—I would argue massive—importance because huge mistakes can be and often are made in a single moment.

FIML practice corrects this problem. In other posts we have referred to psychological morphemes, which we have defined as:

The smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

The theory of FIML claims that psychological morphemes arise quickly and if they are not checked or analyzed can have massive influence on how people hear and think from that point on. This is why the practice of FIML focuses greatly on the initial arising or manifestation of a psychological morpheme. The morpheme may be habitual, having origins in the distant past, or it may have first arisen in the moment just before the FIML query that seeks to understand it.

The important point is that the person in whom the psychological morpheme has arisen, or has just begun to arise, realizes than it has arisen due to something that seems to have originated in the other person, their FIML partner.

This is the reason a basic FIML query is begun—because one partner notices a psychological morpheme arising within and wants to be sure it is correctly based on objective data shared with the partner. If the partner honestly denies the interpretation of the inquirer (who need not say why they are inquiring), then the inquirer will know that the morpheme that has arisen in their mind is baseless, a mistake. By stopping that mistake, they further stop a much larger mistaken psychological or emotional response from taking hold in their mind.

The stopping of a much larger mistaken psychological or emotional response from taking hold in the mind is the point at which FIML practice greatly influences psychological well-being. If we can see from the honest answers of a trusted partner that some of our most basic emotional responses are not justified—are mistakes—we will in most cases experience a rapid extinction of those responses.

In some cases of deep-seated mistaken interpretations, we may need to hear many times that we are mistaken, but extinction will follow just as surely even though it takes longer. FIML can’t cure everything but a great many people who are now dissatisfied or suffering with their emotional or psychological conditions will benefit from FIML practice. With the help of a trusted FIML partner it is easier to extinguish mistaken interpretations than it may seem upon fist hearing of this technique.

In addition to the above, FIML practice itself is interesting and will lead to many enjoyable discussions. Furthermore, FIML practice can also find and extinguish dangerous positive mistaken interpretations. A positive mistaken interpretation is one that feels good but that can lead to dangerous or harmful actions due to overconfidence, false assumptions, and so on.

FIML cannot remove all ambiguity between partners. That may be possible one day with advanced brain scans, but I suspect that even then ambiguity will still be part of our emotional lives. FIML can, however, remove enough ambiguity between partners that they will feel much more satisfied with themselves and with how they communicate with each other. When micro mistakes are largely removed from interpersonal communication, meso and macro emotions and behaviors will no longer be undermined by corrosive subjective states that cannot be analyzed objectively or productively.

Brain optimization

Optimize your brain by optimizing broad-spectrum communication with at least one other person.

By optimizing broad-spectrum communication with at least one other person, signal sending and receiving is optimized both externally and internally.

“Broad-spectrum” communication means communication involving  a wide range of brain activities, including perception, speech associations, emotion, memory, subjectivity, narration, and so on. The only limits are what can be imagined.

When broad-spectrum signals are optimized in the brain and between that brain and another brain, the apparent structure of the mind or personality will change because clarity and depth are increased as mistakes are removed.

Many brain activities based on mistakes will cease, freeing brain energy for other tasks. At the same time, many broad-spectrum associations and functions will become clearer, allowing the brain to imagine new things.

FIML practice is designed to optimize brain activity in these ways.

Listeners are different from speakers

A listener’s state of mind is different from a speaker’s.

It is more dreamy, often more visual, and has a wider range of associations in play.

For this reason, listeners often react more to their own minds than to what the speaker meant.

An example of this occurred recently.

While my partner was speaking, she referred to someone as a “douche bag.” She meant to distinguish that person from someone else with the same name (who is not a douche bag).

As she said “douche bag,” a strong image rose in my mind of the person in question being pushed into a region of darkness.

In response to that image, I protested “he is not a douche bag”; not so much to recover his honor or reputation as to keep him from being pushed further into the darkness.

She changed her wording and the conversation went on. I completely forgot the incident and the image that had arisen in my mind.

The next morning my partner brought the subject up again and explained in FIML detail why she had used “douche bag.” The memory came back to me.

It’s a good example of how a speaker’s mind differs from a listener’s.

You can’t say what they don’t already know

The main problem with culture is, in virtually all cases, “you can’t say what they don’t already know.”

Some very small cultures of just a few people are exceptions to this rule, but no large culture with anonymous and/or not-well-known members is.

Cultures demand constant authorization and reauthorization from their members. To stray from established norms is to weaken group authorizations.

In the world today, you cannot escape the above truth about culture. You will find it prevails no matter where you go.

In your private life you can escape the above truth by doing FIML practice. The whole point of FIML is to speak about things you don’t already know.

Intellectual intimacy

My partner said today that she thought many people ignore or avoid intellectual intimacy.

“They’re either afraid of it or don’t understand it’s possible,” she said.

I agree.

We know we exist, have minds, perceptions, emotions, thoughts. And we also have language. Shouldn’t many topics of conversation involve our intellects probing and sharing these rich areas of subjectivity, idiosyncrasy?

Great film, especially from a FIML POV

The following link contains a short film written by an algorithm.

From one point of view, the film illustrates through exaggeration what communication is like without FIML.

Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense

I do not see the film as particularly hilarious because that is the way most interpersonal communication is.

Hierarchies evolve to reduce connections (and confusion)

Large social systems, especially those with many members who do not know each other, evolve into hierarchies because the number of connections is reduced.

When the number of connections that hold a group together is reduced, it is less costly to maintain the group and thus such groups are more likely to survive.

Military organizations, companies, religious organizations and schools are usually organized into hierarchical structures. Creative, independent modules can relieve some of the formalism of hierarchy but these modules will still fit into the hierarchical structure somewhere.

Hierarchies are (always?) organized around a purpose—money for corporations, winning for militaries, belief and organizational systems for religions, food for animals and so on.

You can even see the hierarchical principle in plant structures.

A research project on this topic as it applies to artificial intelligence demonstrates that biological networks evolve into hierarchies:

…because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. (Research showing why hierarchy exists will aid the development of artificial intelligence)

If we accept this principle behind the development of hierarchies, I would submit that we can also apply it to how language has developed as a hierarchy in and of itself and also as a support system for the social hierarchy within which it is used.

Language and culture are held together by a system of hierarchical categories.

These categories are what we think of as beliefs, values, codes, stories, political systems, who’s who in the group, and so on.

Hierarchical systems based on general categories of that type typically also exist between individuals within any society. Indeed, we can find the same sort of hierarchical system within the individual themself.

This is an efficient and very reasonable way to maintain a society and a language.

Problems arise in this system, however, when the individual does not know any other way of organizing themself or of communicating with others.

An individual who exists and communicates only within a hierarchical structure will be alienated from the great mass of idiosyncratic perceptions, responses, thoughts, and emotions that exist within them and others. I think that this causes a great deal of psychological suffering and is a major part of what the Buddha meant by delusion.

FIML is designed to fix this problem between individuals.

An example of explosive arm’s length (non)communication

The following video provides a good example of arm’s length communication happening in a public forum.

This is a type of formal communication in that it follows some basic forms and deviation from them is rarely allowed. Private communication, in contrast, is intimate communication between close friends where deeper levels of subjectivity are allowed, even desired.

No need to watch too much of this vid because it quickly becomes a ridiculous shouting match:

Do I even need to point out that no one even bothers to define racism? It’s a strong semiotic that once hurled tends to prevent further thought.

My point today is not Trump and the judge, but rather how Trump and the judge is a good example of something that can also happen in private settings.

When nebulous words, ideas, values, or beliefs become strong symbols in private conversations like the word racist in the video, confusion, bad feelings, alienation, or apathy will be the result.

In arm’s length communication, the instinctual human lurks behind signs and symbols much like a wild animal in the forest.

In formal settings, this is typically not a huge problem because everything is predefined. In the video, the exchange is largely a performance designed to excite the viewer.

In private settings between close friends, however, arm’s length communication is a recipe for disaster.

This is so, because even if there are no bad motives, there will be bad interpretations. And these bad interpretations will snowball and eventually lead to problems.

Since almost all of us have been raised in environments that only allow arm’s length communication and see it as the norm, almost all of us carry very heavy psychological baggage.

Few of us know how to overcome the very serious limitations of the communication norms we have learned.

The people in the video are being ridiculous, but almost all of us are just as ridiculous in our own kitchens.

If you want to do better, practice FIML.

Communication at arm’s length

Most communication is done at arm’s length.

By this I mean our deepest levels of meaning, emotion, and intention are either implied or more often concealed from the person(s) we are speaking with.

In professional and formal settings (school, clubs, church, etc.) this is pretty much how it has to be since there is not enough time to delve more deeply and no good reason to do so in most cases.

Problems arise, however, when the arm’s length habits of formal settings are imported into intimate private settings such as close friendships, marriages, families.

Arm’s length communication is effective in formal settings, but its use of reduced messaging techniques in private settings invariably enters gray areas followed by conscious lying.

I think people do this in their private communications mainly because they don’t know how to communicate in any other way. Humans are basically somewhat smart apes who have a fairly complex (for us) communication/language system grafted onto the instincts of a wild animal.

When the inevitable ambiguities and lies of arm’s length communications build up within the intimate communications of couples or close friends, the result will be explosive emotions or alienation and apathy.

The simple arm’s length system is a primitive, basic system for communicating obvious things. To be honest, if you enjoy your communications at work or the clubhouse more than at home, you are basically showing how primitive you are.

In formal settings communication is entirely based on predetermined mutual agreement concerning values, beliefs, etc.

Private settings require much more nuance and thus a much more nuanced communication technique.

FIML is designed for private, intimate communication. It allows partners to open their minds to much richer and much healthier interactions.

You cannot achieve optimum psychological health if you engage only in arm’s length communication. You can only do so by using a technique like FIML that allows you and your partner to consciously share the profound world of interpersonal subjectivity.

You have to have a clearly-defined technique and an agreement to do this. FIML is not about sitting around drinking herb tea while doing “compassionate listening.” That is bullshit. That’s just another form of arm’s length communication.

FIML takes some time and practice but it is no harder than learning how to ski or cook  or play a musical instrument moderately well.

Computational psychiatry

Computational psychiatry is a fairly new field that

…seeks to characterize mental dysfunction in terms of aberrant computations over multiple scales….

….Aberrant decision-making is central to the majority of psychiatric conditions and this provides a unique opportunity for progress. It is the computational revolution in cognitive neuroscience that underpins this opportunity and argues strongly for the application of computational approaches to psychiatry. This is the basis of computational psychiatry. (source)

One important computation that I believe is missing from our current understanding of human cognition is the high rate of interpersonal communication error.

Interpersonal communication error is especially significant psychologically because so much of human psychology is based on and grows out of interpersonal communication.

If we are making a lot of mistakes when we communicate with friends, family, spouses, and so forth, it follows that our psychological make-up will be burdened with errors that contribute to mental illness and poor functionality overall.

My considered guess is that most people make several serious mistakes in speaking or listening every hour.

In normal interpersonal conversation, most people  mishear, misspeak, misinterpret, or misunderstand several times per hour.

These mistakes can be very serious. Often they snowball to produce strong emotional reactions that have no basis in fact.

The day will surely come when we will have technology that measures mistakes in communication. Before then, we have to use special techniques to find and correct communication mistakes.

Firstly, we have to recognize that such mistakes are common. Secondly, we have to understand that even a single small mistake can cause big problems. Thirdly, we need a technique to find and correct our mistakes.

FIML or something very similar to it is the technique we have available today. FIML is based on the idea that communication mistakes are common, serious, and have very significant psychological ramifications.

Over time, FIML practice completely changes the way we view communication, self, and other.

The brain as a guessing machine

A new approach to the study of mental disorder—called computational psychiatry—uses Bayesian inference to explain where people with problems are going wrong.

Bayesian inference is a method of statistical reasoning used to understand the probability of a hypothesis and how to update it as conditions change.

The idea is that people with schizophrenia, for example, are doing a bad job at inferring the reasonableness of their hypotheses. This happens because schizophrenics seem to be less likely to put enough weight on prior experience (a factor in Bayesian reasoning).

Somewhat similarly, “sensory information takes priority [over previous experience] in people with autism.” (Bayesian reasoning implicated in some mental disorders)

Distorted calculations — and the altered versions of the world they create — may also play a role in depression and anxiety, some researchers think. While suffering from depression, people may hold on to distorted priors — believing that good things are out of reach, for instance. And people with high anxiety can have trouble making good choices in a volatile environment (Ibid)

The key problem with autism and anxiety is people with these conditions have trouble updating their expectations—a major component of Bayesian reasoning—and thus make many mistakes.

These mistakes, of course, compound and further increase a sense of anxiety or alienation.

Like several of the researches quoted in the linked article, I find this computational approach exciting.

It speaks to me because it confirms a core hypothesis of FIML practice—that all people make many, significant inferential mistakes during virtually all acts of communication.

In this respect, I believe all people are mentally disordered, not just the ones who are suffering the most.

I think a Bayesian thought experiment can all but prove my point:

What are the odds that you will correctly infer the mental state(s) of anyone you speak with? What are the odds that they will correctly infer your mental state(s)?

In a formal setting, both of you will do well enough if the inferring is kept within whatever the formal boundaries are. But that is all you will be able to infer reasonably well.

In the far more important realm of intimate interpersonal communication, the odds that either party is making correct inferences go down significantly.

If we do not know someone’s mental state, we cannot know why they have communicated as they have. If our inferences about them are based on such questionable data, we are bound to make many more mistakes about them.

Repost: Fetishized semiotics

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?