Cultures and psychologies as fixed ideas and how to escape

A major contention of FIML practice is that “cultures” all tend toward holding many fixed ideas and so does individual psychology.

The subjective psychology of the individual can be understood as a kind of interior “culture” that often is as rigid and shallow as the lowest-common-denominator culture to which that individual belongs.

In this respect, psychology and culture are much the same thing. They range across a spectrum that grades from the idiosyncrasies of the individual to the values and beliefs of their group/culture.

Consider the predominance of leftist views held by majorities in academia and the news media.

Anyone who draws close to academia will know that some values and beliefs may not be questioned. To do so is to risk ostracism, bad grades, not going to grad school, not getting published, not getting tenure, job loss, and more.

Another example is the behavior of the EU, which to this day continues to deny the problems caused by mass migration as well as the statistics of that mass migration or what they mean. (Two graphs on EU asylum seekers)

The tendency of all cultures to shun people who violate deep values or beliefs is mirrored in individual psychology.

When, as individuals, we believe that another individual has violated some aspect of our interior “culture,” our idiosyncratic mixture of ideas and emotions, we will tend to avoid that person or at least step back from them.

This response seems to be innate, instinctive, existing in virtually all people everywhere.

Reasonable people can usually discuss culture and cultural differences if there is a forum for this or some kind of prior agreement.

If you just bring up the bad side of someone’s culture without prior agreement to discuss it, they generally will not like it or you.

Something similar can be said about individual psychology. If you bring up a fault in your friend without warning, they generally will not like it. If you introduce your thought deferentially, though, most people will accept it and maybe even thank you for it. But you cannot keep doing this even with the most tolerant of individuals.

This is a weak point in all of us. We need input from others but cannot stand getting it except sometimes. By the time we become adults, most of us will not tolerate or receive even slight input from others. Once or twice a year is probably an average limit.

This is how cultures get so many fixed ideas. At the most basic level of culture, individual-to-individual, we cannot bear to be questioned enough.

Thus we ossify as individuals and as groups.

This is where FIML can do a lot of good.

FIML works with very small bits of real-time communication using a technique that partners agree on.

Because there is prior agreement and because the bits of information being worked on are very small, there is much less emotional charge than if general “traits” or “habits” are being discussed.

The low emotional charge of FIML material makes it much easier for individuals to accept results that show them to have been wrong. Indeed, FIML practitioners soon learn that correcting these small mistakes leads almost immediately to greater happiness and well-being because a mistake once removed frees brain-space for better stuff. Makes you smarter because you will stop being stuck on whatever it was.

FIML also works well and efficiently because it uses real-time bits of real communication that are agreed upon by both partners. This aspect prevents pointless “discussions” during which partners are talking about different things or vaguely defined things.

People are not very smart. You can see this in the ways that both cultures and individual psychologies tend to become rigid, settling on fixed ideas, beliefs, values.

As semiotic entities, we are still beginners. We are at the stage where we are able to see and think about how we communicate, but it is still very hard for us to apply this information or gain much from it. For the most part, insights into communication/psychology are only used to manipulate others, not to speak honestly to them.

FIML and Symbolic Interaction Theory

Symbolic Interaction Theory, also called symbolic interactionism, provides the best large-scale framework I have found so far for explaining FIML practice.

Three basic premises of symbolic interactionism are:

  • “Humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things.”
  • “The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society.”
  • “These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters.”

These basic premises have been taken from the Wikipedia article linked above. I tend to agree with most of the general framework, as I understand it, of symbolic interactionism and believe that FIML practice can reasonably be understood as a method that can fit fairly comfortably within that framework.

FIML differs from symbolic interactionism in that FIML is much more a form of interpersonal psychotherapy than a sociological theory. FIML is a communication technique that focuses on meaning as it arises and is apprehended during short periods of time. FIML’s focus on very small units of interpersonal communication is what allows partners to understand how their sense of meaning intertwines with their emotional responses.

From a FIML point of view, society does not appear very well structured in many of its contexts, especially interpersonal contexts involving emotions, friendship, and intimate bonding. From this point of view, a great deal of social structure appears to be a substitute for authentic interaction between individual minds.

FIML seems also to show that a great deal of human suffering arises from the paucity of meaning that can be exchanged between individuals in most social contexts. Indeed, even in intimate contexts, most individuals, if not all of them, have great difficulty in attaining profound mutual understanding. This happens because our perceptions of our selves and others—due to how we use language and semiotics—are too crude and vague to allow for communicative complexity equal to the complexity of our minds/brains.

FIML corrects this problem by focusing on the details of interpersonal communication. Incidentally, FIML theory/practice can be falsified by having many couples do FIML practice and measuring the results. A criticism of symbolic interactionism is that it is not falsifiable. FIML differs from symbolic interactionism in that it is a practical technique that uses objective data (agreed upon by both partners) to optimize communication and improve psychological well-being.

The importance of seeing the small in the large and the large in the small: repost

When the subject is human behavior and we see the small in the large and the large in the small, we will be much better able to appreciate the spectrum of thought, feeling, and behavior that underlies whatever is in question.

For example, the self-centeredness of individuals scales from the individual (small) to society (large) and everything in between. Two friends can be self-centered together as can larger groups and entire societies comprising millions of people.

Similarly, when we see self in other and other in self, we are more likely to grasp the spectrums of thought, feeling, and behavior that underlie the actions of all individuals.

For example, alcoholics often make false accusations against others as their conditions worsen. They take the seed of unreasonable defensiveness that resides in all of us and expand it into malicious attacks against “adversaries” that do not even exist.

In FIML practice, partners will discover many kinds of small mistakes in themselves. Usually, it is easy to see how these small mistakes, if left uncorrected, can lead to much more serious misunderstandings and bad (because it is based on a mistake) behavior.

For example, the alcoholic who falsely attacks a friend is almost certainly magnifying some little misunderstanding into something huge, something  worrisome or insulting that demands revenge.

Nations can behave like children and all good people have at least the seeds of a malicious drunk in them.

FIML discussions can be greatly enhanced by seeing almost everything as part of spectrums that underlie all people and societies.

Microaggression as a crude measure of interpersonal ambiguity

I do not doubt that microaggression exists in human communication.

The problem is ambiguity exists in all the same places, so you can never be sure what is aggressive, wary, weirdly friendly, just weird, or nothing at all.

A recent paper on microaggression has this to say:

The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. (Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence)

I think we can assume that intercultural interactions will often involve many prejudices and assumptions founded on cultural norms and that microaggression will sometimes be one of these. But that is very hard to study, quantify, and identify.

In public situations—jobs, organizations, many private settings—just follow public norms and forget about microaggression. Your looking for it will itself constitute a kind of microaggression.

In private, you can and should do something about all kinds of interpersonal micro ambiguities.

The way to do this is FIML practice.

I found the study cited above in this essay, Micro-aggression and Hyper-sensitivity, which discusses the study.

Here are a couple of relevant posts on ABN on this topic: Triggers and microaggression and Microaggression and FIML.

Psychological optimization through analysis of communication in real-time

The best way to analyze how you communicate in real time is:

Get an honest partner who cares about you.

Together and separately observe the small units of your thoughts and communication.

Use only units of communication small enough to be held in your short-term memory(s). This means the five to seven things you are able to hold in your short-term memory.

Discuss what you find in yourself with your partner.

Then discuss these units as they arise during communication with your partner.

If both partners understand what comprises a small unit (the 5-7 things in short-term memory), you are ready to share this information in real-time (that is, very close in time to when the small unit arose).

This small unit could be a gesture, a word, an expression, a tone of voice. Anything small enough that communicates to you and that seems to be coming from your partner.

The unit should be small and agreed upon by both partners.

Then analyze it as it functioned during the moment(s) it arose.

Example: the small unit might be a fleeting gesture—your partner drops their hand. You feel something and juust start to think maybe it is a dismissive gesture.

Stop the flow of communication immediately at that point (as you first perceive a reaction arising in yourself).

Then ask your partner what was in their mind when their hand dropped (or what was in their mind “just a moment before,” without identifying the hand drop).

(Your partner must previously have agreed to welcome this sort of intervention.)

Listen to what they say and compare that to what you were beginning to think.

If it was dismissive, find out why.

If it was not, examine yourself and how your psychology was actually functioning in real-time.

You can also do this with units based on positive emotions or unemotional states of mind.

It’s good to practice this technique on neutral states of mind.

What you will find.

You will find that a significant number of your real-time impressions of your partner are mistaken, either slightly or very much.

If both partners keep correcting these mistakes, you will come to have fewer and fewer of them (though they will always continue to arise due to inherent ambiguities in communication).

As both partners clear up communications between them, both will also clear up many cloudy parts of their own psychologies.

This is because our psychologies are based on communication. (Bad data in = bad conclusions both inside you and what you do with them outside you.)

I have used the above technique for many years and guarantee it works wonders.

The hardest parts of this are getting a good partner, getting them to agree to do it, then doing it your first few times.

It is hard at first because it goes against basic cultural instincts.

To overcome this, remember the units are very small and you agreed to do it.

This technique doesn’t hurt at all but will make you feel wonderful.

It doesn’t hurt because the units are so small.

It makes you feel wonderful because each mistaken unit you remove clears up mental space for something better.

When you observe and remove more and more small (micro) units of the same type, you will tend to eliminate the meso and macro (mistaken) psychological frames that support them.

Some frames can be eliminated after 1-5 micro units have been observed. Some take longer.

Semiotic proprioception in dreams and waking

Proprioception means “one’s own” or “ones’ individual” (Latin proprius) “perception.”

We normally use this word to refer to our physical position in the world—whether we are standing or sitting, how we are moving, and how much energy we are using.

When we dream, our capacity for physical movement, with rare exceptions, is paralyzed. But we still do a sort of proprioception in dreams—a semiotic proprioception, or proprioception within the semiology of the dream.

In dreams, we grope through semiotic associations and respond, gropingly, to them. People and things often look smaller in dreams, or distorted, because we do not have either the need or the capacity to calibrate our physical proprioception as we do in waking life.

Dreams move from one semiotic proprioception to another via our individual four-dimensional (3D plus time) groping/associative function. In one short segment of a dream we are at home, then we go through a door only to find ourselves on a boat in the ocean. Our 4D semiotic proprioception within dreams readily accepts groping, associative shifts like this.

Much of what we perceive when we are awake is memory. We glance at a room we know well and call up our memory of it rather than actually look closely at the room.

I am fairly sure that the memories we call up to aid perception while we are awake are much the same as the groping proprioception we experience in dreams. A major difference is when we are awake we can and do check our waking proprioception with the people and objects around us, while in dreams the associative function has a much freer range.

Notice how dreams move from scene to scene rather slowly. Things can go quickly, but normally dreams grope somewhat slowly along the 4D path of semiotic proprioception.

In waking life, our dreamy use of memory and association to aid perception of the world happens constantly.

When we speak with another person, we use this function to make groping associations concerning what we think they are saying. We grope and respond to them as in a dream while at the same time searching for clues that indicate we are both in the same dream.

These clues that two people may sort of “agree on” while speaking are normally standard public semiotics that belong to whatever culture(s) they share. By “agreeing” on them, we form a sort of agreeable camaraderie with whomever we are speaking, and this can be satisfying, but if we only get this, it can also become deeply unsatisfying.

The four dimensional groping/dreamy function of our mind is far richer than any standard collection of public semiotics. In our public lives—professional, commercial, based on organizations, etc.—we have, at present, little recourse but to accept normal public semiotics, to agree with them and manifest agreement.

We can express some deviation from them and sometimes make jokes about them, but we are generally fairly bound to the semiotics of the culture or organization that generates the context of our speaking. Consider how people in the same church or school are bound by the semiotics of those institutions.

In our intimate relations, however, we do have recourse to investigate and understand how our groping, 4D semiotic proprioception works. This is what FIML does. It allows partners to observe, analyze, and understand the semiotic proprioceptions of their minds as they are actually functioning during interpersonal communication.

If you constantly avoid FIML types of investigations, you will be stuck with a mix of dimly shared public/private semiotics that will tend to become highly ambiguous, even volatile, or very shallow.

Dynamic patterns that change over time

Signal networks should be conceived of as dynamic patterns that change over time.

A psychological example of this might be a short exchange between two people during which one person interprets a small signal coming from the other.

The signal might be a fleeting expression. The person who sees this signal is likely to interpret it and remember (weakly or strongly, for some period of time) what that interpretation is.

As something held in memory—short or long term—that interpretation of the fleeting expression has become both itself a signal and part of a signal network that is changing over time, changing in part due to that new signal.

Of great importance psychologically for both persons described above is the fact that neither knows how the other interpreted the fleeting expression or if it was interpreted or sent or received. Or remembered or for how long. And almost never do they know how to get that information.

This is a micro example of human communication as it happens in time.

If this micro signaling network is held in the mind and analyzed correctly by the two persons described above, much will be revealed to both of them about how their psychologies actually function in real life and real-time.

FIML practice is designed to get them to that point.