the fundamental underlying problem of problems is the chaos of interpersonal ambiguity

320 words

race, racism, identity politics, the majority of psychological diagnoses and personality types, all culture, all religions, all sects, all regionalism, nationalism, styles, gangs, gender identities, fads, etc.; all of it grows out of the boiling cauldron of ineluctable interpersonal ambiguity
cast your eyes across the world and its histories, no matter how big or small, no matter which corner of the globe; all of it grows or has grown out of the boiling cauldron of ineluctable interpersonal ambiguity

individual humans, with rare exception, need the external signs and symbols of “culture” (semiologies) to provide the unifying markers and coordinates that (appear) to save them from the fear and angst and madness of being naked in the boiling cauldron of ineluctable interpersonal ambiguity
that’s just how it is. period. no exceptions


the only other option different from all of the above, the only option that will actually save you from the boiling cauldron is FIML practice. did you expect more signs and symbols at this point? more abstract ideas? political solutions? new identities? not gonna happen because none of that works
FIML is a dynamic method that must be used to bear fruit. if you are smart you probably can figure out how to do it from reading enough posts on this website


it does bother me that there is no other way out, no other real hope. yet I am also heartened to know that FIML is not very hard to do once you understand it. if enough people do it, more will follow because the results are extremely good. and from that the fundamental problem of problems will gradually clear up and go away

a note to Buddhists: FIML is perfectly compatible with all Buddhist teachings. you could think of FIML as an addon that catalyzes traditional methods and makes them work faster. FIML sharpens mindfulness and provides profound insight into the deep meaning of non-attachment, no-self, and karma

“This thing they say about me – and it could be not that – but the paranoia lingers…”

The crux of all identity and social problems is right there: “it could be not that, but the paranoia lingers.” This statement lives at the individual level and is something we all face all the time with no exceptions.

The discussion in the video below lives at the general level, filled with abstractions that cannot solve the complex individual problem of constant insecurity caused by constant interpersonal ambiguity. Not knowing what people really mean or think or are intending to do; why they want to be with you or not.

Brittany says it is fundamentally a “trust problem,” which it is but you cannot fully trust what you do not know. And the paranoia always lingers. Political abstractions cannot fix this problem.

Readers who practice FIML will understand that a major cause of all social and psychological problems is individual uncertainty in the face of constant interpersonal ambiguity. This problem can be fixed between a couple of individuals but that’s all, at least for now.

When it is not fixed within a society—and no society has ever fixed it—individual passions rule: violence, psychopathy, dark personality disorders, greed, ignorance, pride, suspicion.

UPDATE: Bret offers some intellectual kumbaya but none of that will deeply change anything. I am not trying to be mean, just stating the truth. The same assessment applies just as well to Jordan Peterson and the entire “intellectual dark web.” It also applies to BLM, Antifa, wokism, identity politics, and much more. The fundamental issue is stated very clearly by Brittany: “…the paranoia lingers.” She also says that this is “annoying.” Yes, it is. In fact, that paranoia is much worse than annoying. It is driving all of us crazy. See this for more: the fundamental underlying problem of problems is the chaos of interpersonal ambiguity.

Games as semiotic focus

Define a game as “a set of rules that focuses and directs thought, feeling, intention.”

Most human games are overwhelmingly involved with human semiotics. Human feeling, thought, and intention overwhelmingly operate within and are defined by human semiotics.

Humans are semiotic animals who live within semiologies as much or more than their natural environments. Few of us can even comprehend our natural environments save through a semiotic system.

A semiology is a signal system, a system of signals. Humans need and want their signal systems to be organized; from this arises culture and psychology.

From this arises the many games of human semiotic organization. Humans crave meaning—a synonym for semiotic organization and focus—and thus play games (as defined above) with their intentions, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, instincts, perceptions, desires, and so on. Without meaning, focus, purposive semiotic organization, life is dismal and many humans destroy themselves and others for this alone.

Human semiotic organization can be beneficially reorganized in two basic ways:

  • Through general thought, which mainly changes how we focus and what we focus on. This region of organization includes all culture and science, including mainstream psychology and its treatments.
  • Through analysis of the most basic elements of semiotic organization, individual semiotics and semiologies. To do this at the individual level, two individuals are needed because you cannot successfully analyze your own semiotics by yourself. This is so because a great number of human semiotics are fundamental to both psychology and communication. They do not exist independently.

The goal of reorganizing individual semiologies is to optimize them. As individual semiologies optimize, individual psychologies inevitably optimize apace. Much is possible at this level that is not possible at the general level of psychological theory.

Reorganization at this level is done through individual semiotics, the actual signals of individual communication and psychology alike. To play this game—the game of semio-psychological reorganization and optimization—you have to have rules. Here they are.

first posted APRIL 12, 2018

Deception (or truth elision) in communication

To communicate, we often must ignore the truth or falsity of a statement, our own or someone else’s.

I believe it is an instinct to do this; that it is part of our instinct to communicate at all. Communication requires cooperation, an agreement to be agreeable enough to get the message through.

We might call ignoring truth or falsity in communication “truth elision” or “psychological elision.” Elision means to omit something. Psychological elision would mean omitting or not mentioning psychological truths.

We do a lot of truth elision to save time. In professional or group settings it is hard to communicate any other way because there is not enough time to be perfectly truthful and most people will not care. They just want to socialize and/or get the job done, not search for truth.

Most communication is like that. Most messages are not even superficially analyzed. Semiotics glide through our minds without any thought to their deep origins or interpretations. Truth and falsity are frequently elided.

Like all instincts, our instinct to cooperate by ignoring the truth or falsity of many statements can be misused to consciously deceive.

Indeed, we frequently deceive even ourselves by accepting our own statements as true when analysis would show they are not. One way we succeed in doing this to ourselves is by simply avoiding the analysis—analysis elision.

This is where a simple instinct starts to go bad. A basic need to cooperate on the signs and symbols of communication gets twisted into tricking people, deceiving them, even deceiving ourselves.

The way to see this most clearly and to stop doing it with at least one other person is FIML practice. One of my main goals for this website is to show how and why communication goes bad and how and why it harms us. At the same time, I present a practical way to fix the problem described—FIML.

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first posted DECEMBER 5, 2018

Microaggression and FIML

I have been seeing a lot of stuff about microaggression recently.

The term interests me because FIML is all about micro impressions.

When done with a caring partner, FIML is designed to correct mistaken impressions or interpretations that often derive from micro impressions and/or manifest as micro expressions.

Anyone who has done FIML for more than a few months surely must be aware that we create wrong impressions of even our most trusted partners frequently.

A wrong impression often snowballs, leading to a wrong interpretation that after festering can be much harder to correct than the original micro impression.

So between friends, and especially FIML partners, the perception of micro aggression can and should be noticed and dealt with immediately or as soon as possible. It is basic to FIML practice that even a single uncorrected wrong impression can lead to serious divisions between people.

In this sense, I heartily accept the idea of microaggression being a thing. In fact, I believe it is such a thing that it happens all the time, especially if you mean micro mis-impressions and not just microaggression.

But the term microaggression means something different from the above, though the central concepts are related. Wikipedia has this short definition of microaggression:

…the use of known social norms of behavior and/or expression that, while without conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.

The main difference is “without conscious choice of the user.” FIML is all about being conscious. Both parties being conscious.

If I perceive something in your speech, demeanor, or behavior that makes me think that maybe you are disrespecting me or mad at me or or suspicious of me or something like that, then if you are my FIML partner I am basically required to ask you about it if there is time.

In FIML, the asking is done without prejudgement. I simply ask “what was in your mind when you made that expression or said those words or did that thing.” Your answer must be honest. If you don’t trust your partner to be honest, you can’t do FIML (though you can start trying and see if either or both of you changes).

If your partner answers honestly and you do not perceive an iota of what you thought was in their mind, that part of the event is finished. If when the person spoke or acted they had no nothing about doing what you thought they might be doing, you are done with it. You no longer have any right to further impute your thing onto them.

You can if you want, and this is encouraged, continue to discuss the matter. For example, you might say: “From your response, I can tell that you were not disrespecting me and I am delighted to find that out. That’s a huge relief for me because I have spent much of my life reacting to people who do that as if they were disrespecting me. It’s weird to hear that I am wrong in this case and it makes me wonder if I have been wrong in other cases.”

Then the two of you can discuss that. I know one person who frequently reacts to educated northeast American accents as being “imperious” or “arrogant” when they are not. (Don’t get me started on all the many phrases and attitudes in culture that wrongly limit speech and thus culture itself—“condescending,” “know-it-all,” “argumentative,” “imperious,” etc.)

So, if two friends are having problems between themselves with microaggression, they are prime candidates for FIML practice. Of course, any two friends who are having any problems with micro impressions (all friends all the time) are prime candidates for FIML. (You cannot but have these problems.)

But microaggression as the word is being used today is not something FIML can deal with directly because it is

…the use of known social norms of behavior and/or expression that, while without conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.

The important words here are “known social norms,” “without conscious choice” leading to “discrimination.”

I don’t know how to unpack that. From a FIML point of view, my guess is behaviors that could potentially be identified as “microaggression” according to that definition would be in the range of dozens per day per every person in the world. Maybe more.

An example many readers will remember is Michelle Obama reacting to a customer in Target asking her to hand them something they could not reach.

I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf.

If even the president’s wife can get something so ordinary so wrong, you can see the scope of the problem. In the same interview, the president himself mentioned being “mistaken for a waiter.”

Both later downplayed their comments because they had to. Microaggression is an inherently super-ambiguous term open to a multitude of interpretations every time it is used.

In FIML, we find that micro-mistakes are real and dangerous. They are not ignored but addressed immediately because they can be so serious. Relevantly, in my experience with FIML a great many micro-impressions that I form are simply dead wrong. Most of them are wrong. I can’t enter that as evidence because the world does not have enough FIML practitioners for me to do a study on it. However, I do suspect that a great many micro-impressions of or impressions of microaggression are wrong.

Many of us laughed or thought it was ridiculous for Michelle Obama to bristle at having a short person ask her for help because we all have been on one side or the other of an exchange like that and thought nothing of it. I have been mistaken for a store employee or construction worker more than once and never thought anything of it, except maybe to feel slightly flattered that someone thought I looked like I knew what I was doing.

Another problem with the notion of politicizing microaggression (because that is what the term is about) is whose microaggression against whom?

I have strabismus, lazy eye. Even though the condition has been surgically corrected, I still cannot maintain a direct friendly gaze for long periods of time. This means that many people are led to misinterpreting my micro expressions (I start to look down) as me being bored, tired, or not friendly when all that is happening is my eye is so tired it starts to blur and needs to look away.

I know this from years of experience and because some people tell me what they are thinking. One in twenty or twenty-five people have strabismus. Add in other eye conditions with similar problems and you will get much higher percentages. Add hearing problems, attention-deficit problems, autism problems, and so on and you can include most people in the world having difficulties with micro-expressions and how they are being interpreted by others.

If someone from a different culture or race or neighborhood interprets my strabismus as microaggression (boredom with them or condescension toward them rather than simple fatigue), they will get it all wrong. And there is little or nothing I can do about it.

I even tell people about strabismus sometimes. I explain what it does. They say they understand, but very few of them really do. Only very close friends or people who have similar eye problems understand well enough that it stops being an issue with them.

Moreover, strabismus and other eye problems can lead to problems with facial recognition. So the person in the store that asked Michelle Obama for help may have also had facial recognition problems. I have that problem, too, and I seriously doubt that I would recognize Michelle Obama if I saw her in Target.

So, sorry, I don’t have any really good answer to how to understand microaggression or deal with it. On a personal level with friends or FIML partners, micro-impressions are what we want to work with as much as we can. On a societal level, you can hardly do anything about it. A super-smart person might be able to become aware of a good many of the difficulties faced by people in the world, but even that person will miss many of them or misinterpret what they perceive even if they “know” the right thing to do.

At the abstract heart of the problem there is probably a measurement or resolution problem. Simply stated, no person can ever possibly do perfect microanalyses all the time in all situations with all people. Far from it. Thus, it is a sort of “reverse microaggression” to demand or expect that they can or will or should.

I suppose we can and should become more aware of how complex people are and how difficult it is to know even one other person well, or even to know yourself well. But nothing that I can think of will ever relieve us of the difficulty of dealing with the immense number of micro-impressions we all give and receive every minute of every day.

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first posted APRIL 8, 2015

UPDATE 3/24/21: Since I first posted this, the notion of reacting strongly to “systemic microaggression” has gained in popularity. Guys, that is a downward spiral into Hell. Misunderstanding micro impressions that way is to turn almost everything into “fighting words.”

Do we have an inner child or an inner dog?

Inner child is a widely recognized term that implies the presence in adults of unresolved problems or underdeveloped traits rooted in childhood.

Inner child further implies that full development of the adult requires “reparenting” or “retraining” the inner child as a way of resolving juvenile problems and advancing to full adulthood.

My FIML partner has been studying dog training and last night told me how much she thought effective dog training resembled FIML practice.

In a nutshell, FIML practice trains your inner dog, not your inner child.

For example, to stop bad behavior in a dog—say, barking at cars going by—its human trainer has to know how to intervene as quickly and as calmly as possible the moment that behavior arises. Quick intervention ensures that the dog knows what the trainer wants them to do. If you wait too long (as little as a few seconds), the dog won’t know what you want them to do. They will have forgotten the precise source of their behavior and thus any corrections they try to make will not address the root problem, which is they have interpreted a signal in the world (cars going by) as something they must react to.

When the trainer is calm and friendly as well as quick to intervene, they will prevent the dog from reacting to their (the trainer’s) excessive emotion, be it anger, panic, or an unskilled flustered state of mind.

The same sort of thing happens in FIML practice. When one FIML partner queries the other, the first thing they are doing is stopping their (own) inner dog before it starts behaving badly. They are intervening as soon as they feel their inner dog stir and start to rise from the floor (but before it starts barking).

The second thing they are doing is calmly asking their FIML partner a question about a very specific and precisely identified moment. They are gathering good data on that moment from their partner and will compare it to what their inner dog thought it saw or heard.

A FIML partner is in essence asking, should I be reacting right now as my inner dog is telling me or has my inner dog misinterpreted a signal coming from you?

The dog for much of its life has barked at cars going by, while the person for much of their life has reacted with sadness or anger to their interpretation of certain signs or signals (semiotics) coming from other people.

When you query your FIML partner about a sign that you have been reacting to for much of your life and discover that the sign you received was not the sign they sent, you will be like the dog who comes to understand that there is no reason to bark at cars going by, no reason to rise from the floor at all.

People are semiotic animals more than dogs, so we react very strongly to social semiotics. But we are just like dogs in that most of our reactions to semiotics can be changed without much effort as long as we arrest those reactions quickly and replace them with a more reasonable response.

My partner remarked last night especially on how easily a great deal of bad dog behavior can be corrected if the intervention of the trainer is quick and the dog is shown a more appropriate response. Oftentimes, just a few good interventions will correct the bad behavior.

What are some classic mistakes bad dog trainers make? They try to comfort or calm the barking dog by holding it and telling it everything is OK. That is, they treat it like a child. But all that actually does is reward the dog for the behavior they want to stop.

So if you reward yourself (your inner child) by indulging in childish feelings of abandonment when you misinterpret or over-interpret a sign of rejection, you are actually rewarding yourself for being wrong, for having an erroneous (or neurotic) interpretation of communicative signs.

It is better to treat your rapid and unthinking “limbic” responsivity like a dog than like a child. And rather than reparent your inner child, it is better to use good dog training techniques to retrain the actual semiotic responses that are the real roots of unwanted behaviors.

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first posted May 3, 2014

James Lindsay on pseudo-reality & totalitarianism

If you can understand what Lindsay is saying you will be able to understand what FIML practice is an why it is that way. What it does and roughly how it works.

Lindsay is basically describing the meso and macro levels of FIML practice. Basic FIML is the micro level of what he is saying. Core FIML practice informs and clarifies the meso and macro levels Lindsay refers to. (See Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding for more on this.)

At the level of the individual, Lindsay's term paralogic is analogous to idiolect mixed with idiosyncratic psychology. These are general concepts that apply to individuals. Lindsay's paramorality is analogous to idiosyncratic semiotics and idiosyncratic perception and the reasoning that arises therefrom.

(Malignant) narcissism is the individual level of totalitarianism; it and all other non-biological "personality disorders" spring from incommunicable idiosyncratic sensibilities in one way or another. FIML fixes the incommunicable part of that, thereby also fixing the disorder.

FIML is difficult because most people are deeply rooted in meso and macro "realities" at the expense of very legitimate and very real idiosyncratic sensibilities. The idiosyncratic individual is bound to or trapped within unsatisfying meso and macro "realities" (or worse, a Lindsayan pseudo-reality) because no one has shown them a better way and that causes suffering.

A lot of the "intellectual dark web" hovers at meso and macro levels around the individual, micro core that they do not know how to access.

Jordan Peterson does a lot of that. James Lindsay states it very clearly for meso and macro levels of totalitarianism.

The definition of anti-FIML

This is how our fights almost ALWAYS end: he won’t let go of the fight until I “ADMIT” that I am “lying” and/or an a-hole, or both.

He’ll go on endlessly trying to *force* me into “admitting” to being a “liar” simply because I don’t agree with his perception/perspective of what he *thinks* MY thoughts are. He assumes the worst of me in arguments always. He always thinks I’m conniving/manipulating/intentionally trying to hurt him. He wants to force ME to deny the very reality of MY OWN thinking and ideas. Because he THINKS he can read my mind/know exactly what I’m thinking/what my intentions are, IF I disagree with him (say that my intention/thought WASN’T ___) THEN, I am a LIAR. He says that I’m either not “self-aware” or a lying jerk if I refuse to back down on what my thinking/intentions are. Only I know my thoughts but the argument + verbal attacks won’t stop until I verbally deny my actual thoughts.

My (28F) BF demands I agree with HIS perception of MY thoughts/intentions/beliefs

This is a vivid description of what FIML protects against. Few people are as lost in their own mad world as the boyfriend described above yet all of us do stuff like that sometimes.

A brief outline of the FIML method

The most basic part of the FIML method is thinking about, talking about, and analyzing judgements as they form in the working memory or as they arise in the working memory from established memory structures already in the mind.

The most basic FIML skill is noticing judgements as they first appear in the working memory during real-life, real world situations. Then the paragraph above.

After a few weeks or months of doing FIML, your mind will operate differently and better than before. Your understanding of what your mind is will be much more realistic, based on real data gathered with the help of your partner.

A major extra benefit of FIML practice is you and your partner will develop deep trust with each other; a trust deeper than vows or emotion alone because it is grounded in an ongoing process that is existentially as factual and objective as you can make it.

This is an extra benefit that also is fundamental to FIML practice. It is “extra” because its development does not depend on anything but doing FIML regularly. The practice itself will reveal the importance of trusting each other and provide you with the means to do that very well.

FIML is one hundred percent win-win. Everybody happy.

Science discovers we don’t know how to end conversations well

…When participants guessed at when their partner had wanted to stop talking, they were off by about 64 percent of the total conversation length.

That people fail so completely in judging when a conversation partner wishes to wrap things up “is an astounding and important finding,” says Thalia Wheatley, a social psychologist at Dartmouth College.

People Literally Don’t Know When to Shut Up—or Keep Talking, Science Confirms

I don’t mind saying that for FIML partners, this sort of thing is child’s play. Not only that, the self-reported accounts of when people wanted to end a conversation, are weak data points similar to self-reported food consumption.

In FIML, conversations rarely “end.” Like all topics, they remain open because conversations are themselves important topics of conversation. FIML partners are rarely stuck with wondering if they said too much or didn’t say enough or understood correctly or missed making a significant point because they can easily revisit any conversation and clear up any and all lingering thoughts about anything.

FIML proves to partners that the real meat of their interactions is the interactions themselves at whatever level is important to them; be that micro, meso, or macro levels.

Besides myself, few if any psychologists have studied live, dynamic interactive interpersonal material because like all people psychologists themselves have been trapped at an abstract level of understanding human psychology.

Most past research about conversations has been conducted by linguists or sociologists. Psychologists who have studied conversations, on the other hand, have mostly used the research as a means of addressing other things, such as how people use words to persuade. A few studies have explored what phrases individuals say at the ends of conversations, but the focus has not been on when people choose to say them. “Psychology is just now waking up to the fact that this is a really interesting and fundamental social behavior,” Mastroianni says.

Lemme tell you guys, there is way more material in this area than when or how to stop talking. In fact, there is so much material, in many ways doing studies on isolated aspects of how people talk actually obscures the subject. This can happen because studies are conducted at a level of abstraction that is different from and much more simplistic than the real-world, real-time reality of dynamic interactions themselves.

We see this kind of mistake again and again in psychology: grand theories of the mind, taxonomies of personality disorders, cognitive reframing, and so forth. Experts peering at human psychology from above or through the abstract lens of scientific studies; when actual human psychology itself can best—and really only—be accessed by individual persons themselves working with a willing and similarly self-aware partner during real-world situations.

I am very much in favor of studies like the one above because they do provide general markers that most people can learn from. That said, the people who really must own the subject of psychology are people themselves. You do not need to wait for more studies to do FIML. You can start today and be well on your way in a few weeks. Plus it’s free and you don’t need a therapist.

Here’s an idea for Mastroianni or any other academic in a position to conduct psychological studies. Study FIML. Contact me for help or figure out how to do FIML on your own. Then teach it to, say, 20 couples and assess their progress over a year or more. Use whatever you like as a control group.

Years ago, I remember getting into lucid dreaming and lucid sleep well before these practices were widely known. I thought it was marvelous to be able to become lucid during sleep. I still do think that and also I am delighted that at some point lucidity became so common teenagers were doing it. I hope something similar will happen with FIML.

The basic FIML technique will become much easier when more people do it and understand how fundamental it is to good speaking and actualizing human potential. Once you understand what FIML is, you will see that you can’t really have a really good relationship with your SO without it.

As for ending conversations: from a FIML point of view it’s a little messy and rarely clearly determinable because all real exchanges are happening live and we almost never know exactly where we are, where we are going, or when our talk is over. From a FIML point of view, this is subject matter for active speech. Easy to handle and fun to play with a few times. There are thousands of reason one may want to end a conversation or take it up again. Or start a new one. A large benefit of FIML is far fewer afterthoughts and almost no feeling of being “stuck in some endless conversation that [you do] not want with no way to politely extricate [yourself].”

Notice how being “polite” is used in that phrase. Consider how much profound psychology lies just beneath that word.

The Diamond Sutra and modern thought

Modern thought is characterized by physicalism and atheism.

The forerunner of physicalism was materialism. Basing everything on matter doesn’t make good sense so materialism became physicalism. Physicalism, very simply, means that everything obeys the laws of physics, and thus physicalism has an open-ended definition because the laws we understand today will surely be different in the future.

Criticisms of physicalism claim it is vague since, as of today, we can’t say what the ultimate laws are and we are unlikely to ever be able to for how do you know when you know all there is to know?

I have no problem with physicalism and would be happy to call myself a physicalist. I think physicalism fits well with Buddhism and if you push at it a bit it can easily include many aspects of religion and the “supernatural,” which just means that which has not yet been explained by the laws of physics. See The invented God argument for more on this angle.

Another interesting way to connect modern thought with Buddhism is to look more closely and with different eyes at the Diamond Sutra or any other major wisdom teaching within the Buddhist tradition.

The Diamond Sutra is a long answer to a single question: “…when good men and good women commit themselves to complete, unsurpassed enlightenment, on what should they base themselves, and how should they subdue their minds?”

The Buddha’s answer is that they should be generous and not base their generosity on anything. That is, no phenomenal thing, nothing material, nothing conditioned. To say it another way, they should be generous but not base their generosity on any transient thing or material calculation.

Doesn’t that sound like the Buddha is indicating a higher level of understanding not unlike the laws of physics? Consider some questions: Where are the laws of physics? What holds them together? Do the inhere in matter, do they spring from matter, or do they “reside” at some other level?

I don’t know what it would mean for them to inhere in matter or spring from matter. Are the laws “out there?” Are they  more fundamental than matter? Higher than matter? We don’t have the answers to these questions yet, but there is nothing wrong with the questions.

The Buddha’s answer to Subhuti also contains this: “This means that he should not base his generosity on form, and he should not base his generosity on sound, smell, taste, touch, or thought.”

In Buddhist thought, our senses are sight (form), sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. These, of course, can be expanded to include proprioception, balance, and much more. The important point here is that the Buddha uses the six senses mentioned to categorically exclude all phenomenal input including thought.

It takes time if you are coming from a modern language to see thought as being a sense. But look at how materialism has transformed into physicalism and how we can’t be sure even today which of our thoughts is really good and will be viable in a hundred years and which of them will look outdated in ten years. Psychoanalysis and materialism, to name just two thoughts, have suffered complete falls from grace over very short time-spans.

Consider again the six senses of Buddhism. Sight depends on light, something outside the body system. And so does sound, smell, taste, and touch. We see and perceive via our senses because those things are “out there.” Birds fly because air supports them. Fish swim because the water allows this. The fish are adapted to water and have evolved within it.

But what about thought? Is thought material? An epiphenomenon of matter? Since materialism is a weak philosophy, we should ask instead is thought physical? Does it obey the laws of physics?

One answer is reductionism, which goes down deeply into matter to find what we may already know. But another answer is that thought is “out there.” It exists independent of our bodies and brains. Just as the laws of physics do not inhere in matter, so also does thought not inhere in the body. As a bird’s wings are supported by the air, so our thoughts are supported by a reality that is different than the material world and probably superior to it.

If that is so, our capacity for thought is shaped by the laws of physics as much as our bodies are shaped by matter. Birds crash, make mistakes and die due to their mistakes. So also, we humans make mistakes in our thoughts and crash and die due to those mistakes. To glimpse a higher source for thought and being is not to say that our thoughts cannot be horribly mistaken.

Glimpsing a level of reality, profound physicalism, that is “superior” to the reality apprehended by our senses is not to say that we are enlightened or that we have reached the end of the road. We have, rather, caught sight of a way of understanding our lives that is fuller and probably truer than anything on the current spectrum that lies between materialism and spiritualism.

Is this what the Diamond Sutra is indicating when the Buddha adds generosity to the emptiness of the self? As sentient beings, we are capable of being generous. But we also tend to want to have our actions confirmed by our lower senses, our material senses, thus reducing them in much the same way that materialism can reduce higher sensibilities by binding them to a lower calculus.

Is this why the Buddha makes his point so explicitly? He says, “This means that he should not base his generosity on form, and he should not base his generosity on sound, smell, taste, touch, or thought.”

Profound wisdom (prajna) means being generous without basing that consciousness on anything material or any understanding we have (so far) of physicalism. Now, does this mean that generosity is itself an element of the deepest laws of physics? Do we perceive unconditional generosity because it is already “out there?” Is the universe as we know it generous or is it cold, as so many materialists claim?

The Buddhist answer is that the universe is generous. We know it is vast, abundant, and creative. We k now it “obeys” the laws of physics such as we know them. We know birds fly due to there being air. Is the Buddha saying we can grok profound, unconditioned generosity because it is already “out there?” It’s part of what an enlightened being knows?

In this respect, can we say we have made some progress in analyzing whether maths are “out there” or are mere constructs of our minds? The answer would be both, with an emphasis on maths being “out there.” Surely some of them are wrong, and some are not deep enough, but like the laws of physics or the generosity of a Buddha, maths are also very importantly “out there” and that is why we can find them.

Similar things can be said about other uses of the mind that rise above materialism—music, in this respect, is far more than mere “pleasing sounds,” art more than pretty pictures, poetry more than good sounding words.

Another way to look at this is consider what you mean by your “self,” your “personality,” “ego,” “autobiography,” etc. Can your personality, such that it is, handle detailed analysis of active communication as in FIML practice? I am all but certain it can’t. So what good is it if it cannot even analyze its own listening and speaking while they are happening?

In Buddhism, the self, the personality, the ego are fictions. They obscure reality rather than reveal it. If your personality or self is a touchy little thing inside your head that loses control of its emotions every time it hears anything out of the ordinary, how can it be true? Why would you want it? Why do we organize our senses and beings around such bankrupt concepts as self or personality?

The small answer is we don’t know any better and everyone else does it so we can’t be different. The big answer is the Buddha’s answer. The self is a narrow organizing principle that relies on base sensory calculations to maintain itself and as such is subject to the selfish delusions of greed, pride, anger, and ignorance, to name just a few.

The answer the Buddha gives in the Diamond Sutra to Subhuti’s question is a supreme “physicalist” answer which indicates that just as birds can fly humans can soar.

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first posted SEPTEMBER 25, 2014

Modern psychology is almost entirely the theory and treatment of the “self of the gaps”

The “self of the gaps” is the self that fills in the many gaps of understanding that occur during interpersonal communication.

These gaps can be small or large, but they are always there and there are many of them. Almost all people everywhere build their personalities on their need to fill these gaps.

They have been with you since you became conscious, You were raised on them. You can will yourself through them. Or theorize yourself over them. You can be confused by them or you can use them to confuse and control others. Malignant egos and narcissists thrive on gaps of understanding. Kinder people can be and often are devastated by them.

No one is free of them. Gaps arise frequently and can perdure for decades, whole lifetimes.

Communication gaps are filled with assumptions, illusions, wishful thinking, paranoia, emotionality, habit. When people visit a psychologist, a root cause is always going to be many painful gaps that have been internalized, reified, filled with wrong assumptions, make-believe.

The only way to correct a “self of the gaps” is FIML practice. Only FIML focuses precisely on real-time, real-world communication gaps and fixes them several orders of magnitude better than what they were.

I am in the weird position of knowing something really wonderful while also lacking a large enough public voice to share it widely. I do my best with this blog and hope more than a few people have learned and benefit from FIML, but it would be good if more would understand.

FIML or something similar has never been discovered before because it comes very close to violating a fundamental language instinct; the instinct to recoil at being questioned personally and quickly. Almost all people feel threatened, insulted, attacked when questioned quickly, especially if the question involves something we just said. More precisely: especially if the question involves “personal” contents of the working memory, out of which we just spoke. Doesn’t have to be anything bad in the working memory; it’s just that that information is close to home and almost never shared for itself.

FIML “comes close to violating” this instinct but it most assuredly does not actually do that. Instead, it assuages our tendency to fear being questioned. FIML is never a gotcha question. It is always a question that arises out of an explicit previously made agreement. Any FIML question can be truthfully answered, “I would rather not say.”

By doing FIML, malignant old gaps are gradually filled with truthful data while new gaps are much less likely to form or grow. FIML can be difficult to understand because it entails an entirely new way of looking at human psychology. By focusing on small segments of conversation (psychological morphemes) FIML enables partners to see and understand how their minds are actually working in real time.

This replaces the need to rely on external theories of psychology by just examining what is actually there.

PS: My SO and FIML partner came up with the term “self of the gaps” this morning.

An overview of the philosophy of Frank Ramsey

…Ramsey’s idea was that a given belief is to be understood in terms of its causes and effects, the ways in which it’s formed and the role it plays in behaviour, in conjunction with other beliefs, desires and mental states. This idea, now called functionalism in the philosophy of mind, is considered by many the most promising way to make sense of mental representation.

The Ramsey Effect

A philosophy of psychology must contend with similar problems as a philosophy of mind, and vice versa.

So how to understand any given belief pertaining to any psychological matter having to do with self or other? All psychological belief is based on this.

In addition to what is stated in the quotation above, psychological “belief” (or, better, analysis) must contend with real-world, real-time events as they happen. Understanding must be based on real-world, real-time events. That is precisely what FIML does or what FIML allows us to do. That is what FIML is for.

FIML can be understood as a philosophical process or method of thinking that is constant, continuous, and never stops. FIML situates the mind’s understanding of itself and other in an ongoing psycho-philosophical inquiry that is stabilized by being an agreed upon method that partners can use and refer to whenever they want.

In this, FIML reflects, embraces, and participates in the conscious development or evolution of thought, mind, spirit, belief, awareness. FIML is actively in the world while also providing a psychologically stable place from which to observe the world, self, and other.

UPDATE: In many respects for humans, there is nothing more basic or important than consciousness. Since FIML consciously works with consciousness as it shifts and adapts to another consciousness in real-time, it is arguably the most basic and objective thing there is.

Language cannot be divorced from communication with other. Theories of language and mind must account for this. Since communication with other is an activity (that always affects each), a philosophy of mind/belief/language must be based on an active method of ongoing communication analysis.

Just as you cannot learn to swim without getting into the water, you cannot have a philosophy of mind that does not actively analyze and influence communication in real-time.

Games as semiotic focus

Define a game as “a set of rules that focuses and directs thought, feeling, intention.”

Most human games are overwhelmingly involved with human semiotics. Human feeling, thought, and intention overwhelmingly operate within and are defined by human semiotics.

Humans are semiotic animals who live within semiologies as much or more than their natural environments. Few of us can even comprehend our natural environments save through a semiotic system.

A semiology is a signal system, a system of signals. Humans need and want their signal systems to be organized; from this arises culture and psychology.

From this arises the many games of human semiotic organization. Humans crave meaning—a synonym for semiotic organization and focus—and thus play games (as defined above) with their intentions, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, instincts, perceptions, desires, and so on. Without meaning, focus, purposive semiotic organization, life is dismal and many humans destroy themselves and others for this alone.

Human semiotic organization can be beneficially reorganized in two basic ways:

  • Through general thought, which mainly changes how we focus and what we focus on. This region of organization includes all culture and science, including mainstream psychology and its treatments.
  • Through analysis of the most basic elements of semiotic organization, individual semiotics and semiologies. To do this at the individual level, two individuals are needed because you cannot successfully analyze your own semiotics by yourself. This is so because a great number of human semiotics are fundamental to both psychology and communication. They do not exist independently.

The goal of reorganizing individual semiologies is to optimize them. As individual semiologies optimize, individual psychologies inevitably optimize apace. Much is possible at this level that is not possible at the general level of psychological theory.

Reorganization at this level is done through individual semiotics, the actual signals of individual communication and psychology alike. To play this game—the game of semio-psychological reorganization and optimization—you have to have rules. Here they are.

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first posted APRIL 12, 2018

Buddhism and ethical signaling

Buddhism is very much a system of ethics. Buddhist practice is founded on the Five Precepts of refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the irresponsible use of alcohol.

In most Buddhist traditions, these precepts are taught as if they are fundamental to the workings of the universe. But how can morality be fundamental to the workings of the universe? How does it really even matter to human beings?

If we think of a human being as a signaling system, we may be able to show that ethical thoughts and behavior are of fundamental importance to the system itself.

Human signaling systems signal internally, within themselves, and externally, toward other people. Our most important signaling system is the one we share with that person who is most important to us, our mate or best friend. Let’s confine our discussion to this sort of primary signaling system.

If I lie to my partner or cheat her, I may gain something outside of our shared signaling system, but that signaling system will suffer. And when that shared system suffers, my own internal signaling system will also suffer because it will contain errors. It will no longer be in its optimal state. Similarly, if she lies to me or cheats me, our mutual signaling system will become less than optimal as will both of our individual, or internal, signaling systems.

My own signaling system cannot grow or become optimal without my partner treating me with the best ethical behavior she can muster. And the same is true for her with respect to me. And we both know this.

We would be good to each other anyway, but it is helpful to see that our being good to each other has a very practical foundation—it assures us optimal performance of our mutual and internal signaling systems.

FIML practice is designed to provide partners with a clear and reasonably objective means to communicate honestly with each other. FIML practice will gradually optimize communication between partners by making it much clearer and more honest. In doing this, it will also optimize the operations of their mutual and individual signaling systems.

To my knowledge, there is nothing like FIML in any Buddhist tradition. But if I try to read FIML into the tradition, I may be able to find something similar in the way monks traveled together in pairs for much of the year. I don’t know what instructions the Buddha may have given them or how they spoke to each other, but it may be that they did a practice with each other similar to FIML practice.

In any case, if we view human being as a signaling system, we may be able to claim that clear signaling—that is, ethical signaling—is fundamental to the optimization of that system.

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first posted FEBRUARY 3, 2013