Repost: 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.

Narcissism as a cognitive strategy

Narcissism can be understood as a cognitive strategy because it uses self-interest and a strong sense of self as central or unifying components of general cognition.

It is intellectually a fairly simple strategy as these central components are always close at hand and usually apparent to the narcissist.

Narcissism is often the choice of children and teens, though not always.

Many cultures are fundamentally narcissistic. In some ways, they all are though a non-narcissistic culture is possible.

In terms of FIML theory, narcissism is a dominant network of semiotics centered around self-interest and self-aggrandizement.

The value of seeing narcissism as a network of signals—both mental and emotional—is it allows us to quantify narcissism and view its smallest parts in detail.

Today, the only tool we have to do this is FIML practice, but I am confident that within the next 3-10 decades we will have instruments that are capable of measuring semiotic networks with enough detail and accuracy to replace FIML in many situations.

(See Researchers can identify you by your brain waves with 100 percent accuracy for more on this.)

In the case of narcissism, such measurements will be able to show where even very small signals are embedded in larger networks and how they function within those networks. They will also be able to show the size and outlines or architecture of those networks.

The defining feature of a narcissistic network is (it is) a reduced and magnified understanding of the self. It is reduced because too many cognitive signals are taken into it. It is magnified because almost everything is understood in those terms.

FIML practice is able to access narcissistic networks and open them up by working with lots of small signals over a medium-longish period of time.

The greater reliability of many FIML-corrected signals gradually overthrows the hegemony of the erroneous self-oriented network of narcissism.

Psychological optimization

Why settle for not being crazy when you could be going for psychological optimization?

A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a diagnosis of a behavioral or mental pattern that can cause suffering or a poor ability to function in ordinary life.

Why settle for being able to “function in ordinary life” when you could have an extraordinary life?

Why take pills to get by when you could be optimizing your brain?

Humans go for optimization whenever we can. We optimize technology, our diets, our medical treatments, our educations, even our friendships.

Optimization : an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.

Hell yeah. That’s what you want for your mind, your life. Why settle for less?

OK, that does read like a sales spiel, but I will deliver.

All you have to do is put time and thought into the process of optimizing your psychology. An optimized psychology is an optimized brain and life.

First, you have to learn how to do FIML.

This requires about as much time and effort as learning to play a musical instrument at a beginner’s level. About as much time as it takes to learn to drive a car. Or to learn to play pool well enough to enjoy it.

FIML takes less time to learn than a semester at school, whatever grade. Less time than most job-training courses. Less time than becoming a decent amateur cook. Less time than buying a house or redoing your kitchen.

The hardest part about FIML is learning the technique through reading. Start here: How to do FIML.

The second hardest part is having a friend or mate who is willing and able to do it with you. Sadly, this is a deal-breaker for too many people.

I hate saying this, but it is fairly normal for people world-wide not to have a friend who is close enough to do FIML with. This is the result of so many non-optimized psychologies in this world.

Many people have five or more “good friends” and a loving spouse, but not even one of them willing or able to do FIML.

Their excuses will be they can’t understand it, don’t want to bother, don’t want to be that honest, don’t want that kind of relationship, don’t have the time, etc.

The result is they and you will continue to languish in less than optimal mental states. Moods, alcohol, pills, arguments over nothing, ridiculous misunderstandings, ominous silences, severance of ties, and worse will rule your world(s).

For most, the best relief they will find are self-help books based on generalities, career books about “getting ahead” as defined by more generalities, nonsense about “loving yourself,” low levels of religious belief and practice, exercise programs, etc.

You didn’t learn to drive a car that way. Driving a car requires interaction, observation, the help of another person.

Your psychology needs similar kinds of input.

Once you have learned to do FIML with a trustworthy partner, the practice will tend to self-generate because the insights gained will be real and have real and deeply felt benefits for both partners.

Besides the “how to” and FAQ links at the top of this page, most posts on this site describe some aspect of FIML practice.

For psychologists, I honestly do not see how you can claim to be able to treat other people if you have not done at least a few years of FIML practice or the like. Human interactions without any technique for consistent meta-control and understanding (which FIML provides) are 100% guaranteed to be riddled with misunderstanding and wrong views.

 

Repost: Disruption of neurotic response in FIML practice

By analyzing minute emotional reactions in real-time during normal conversation, FIML practice disrupts the consolidation, or more often the reconsolidation, of “neurotic” responses.

In FIML, a neurotic response is defined as “an emotional response based on a misinterpretation.” The misinterpretation in question can be incipient (just starting) to long-seated (been a habit for years).

The response is disrupted by FIML practice and, thus, tends not to consolidate or reconsolidate, especially after several instances of learning that it is not valid.

A neurotic response is a response based on memory. The following study on fear memories supports the above explanation of FIML practice.

Memories become labile when recalled. In humans and rodents alike, reactivated fear memories can be attenuated by disrupting reconsolidation with extinction training. Using functional brain imaging, we found that, after a conditioned fear memory was formed, reactivation and reconsolidation left a memory trace in the basolateral amygdala that predicted subsequent fear expression and was tightly coupled to activity in the fear circuit of the brain. In contrast, reactivation followed by disrupted reconsolidation suppressed fear, abolished the memory trace, and attenuated fear-circuit connectivity. Thus, as previously demonstrated in rodents, fear memory suppression resulting from behavioral disruption of reconsolidation is amygdala-dependent also in humans, which supports an evolutionarily conserved memory-update mechanism. (Source: Disruption of Reconsolidation Erases a Fear Memory Trace in the Human Amygdala)

FIML practice works by partners consciously and cooperatively disrupting reconsolidation (and initial consolidation) of neurotic memory (and associated behaviors). FIML both extirpates habitual neurotic responses and also prevents the formation of new neurotic responses through conscious disruption of memory consolidation.

FIML probably works as well as it does because humans have “an evolutionarily conserved memory-update mechanism” that favors more truth. Obvious examples of this update mechanism can be seen in many simple mistakes. For instance, if you think the capital of New York State is New York City and someone shows that it is Albany, you will likely correct your mistake immediately with little or no fuss.

Since FIML focuses on small mistakes made between partners, corrections are rarely more difficult than the above example though they may be accompanied by a greater sense of relief. For example, if you thought that maybe your partner was mad at you but then find (through a FIML query) that they are not, your sense of relief may be considerable.

Foundations of psychology: what they should be

Human psychology should be separated into two basic categories:

  • biological
  • experiential

Biological psychology can be either good or bad. It includes the psychological effects of genes, brain health, health of perceptual and other organs, trauma or its absence, disease, extreme experiences that profoundly affect how the brain and body function at biological levels, etc.

Experiential psychology can also be either good or bad. It includes acculturation, training, childhood development, education, parenting, interpersonal experience, language use, and so on.

These two categories are often mixed together. This affects how we understand psychology and how we treat it or deal with it.

In this post, I am going to ignore biological psychology.

The foundation of experiential psychology should completely recognize and be based on the fact that virtually all human psychological interactions are fraught with error.

After years of studying and doing FIML, I am 100% convinced that human psychological communication is so fraught with error that the very foundation of human experiential psychology as it is recognized in the DSM, in academia, and in culture generally is rotten.

Another way to say that is we don’t even know what human psychology is because virtually all experiential psychology is a dysfunctional mess due to the presence of massive amounts of experiential error in virtually all people, including psychologists.

Our brains are working overtime with deeply erroneous psychological data, producing terrible results.

We cannot correctly understand the human body if all of our specimens are riddled with parasites and disease. Similarly, how can we study human psychology if the data being processed by the brain (and body) are riddled with error?

Even if you have never studied FIML, you should be able to see that humans in the privacy of their own minds are like little zoos filled with shadowy monsters that have arisen due to the plethora of error each and every individual has experienced.

Human responses to these shadowy monsters are varied—some act on them, some fear them, some hide them, some expose them.

But few escape them because you cannot escape them by yourself. Those monsters arise out of decades of communication error and they will not go away until the communication errors have been removed.

You cannot remove those errors in normal psychotherapy. A therapist can only show a client what they are and how they arise.

The client must remove them through a practice like FIML.

Our current understanding of human psychology is largely delusional

Human psychology is formed through interactions with other humans.

In both complex and simple interactions with others, we often are forced to imagine what is happening. This is especially true in complex interactions.

Since what we imagine is often wrong, or wrong often enough to matter, our sense of who we are and who others are is largely deluded.

Humans do well enough in simple interactions involving formal rules. These are our public interactions that rely on the rules of our professions, clubs, churches, workplaces, etc. Even still, we are often wrong about what is happening in these settings, what our roles are, what others are thinking.

Complex interactions—that is, complex psychological interactions—are even more fraught with error than simple interactions. Indeed, they so fraught with error we can say that their very basis is riddled with error. In this sense they can be defined as delusional.

Complex psychological interactions are the principal interactions that form human psychology and our understanding of it.

Very complex psychological interactions that involve a method like FIML can eliminate most error, though even FIML cannot remove all of it and even FIML requires years to achieve this end.

Complex psychological interactions (psychological interactions that do not use FIML or something similar) can only reduce error by pretending they are simple interactions (ones involving formal rules).

These interactions “pretend” they are simple for convenience or to avoid ambiguity and argumentation. No person can develop complex psychology without complex psychological interactions.

Since our current understanding of human psychology is based on simple and complex interactions (plus biology), its basis is fundamentally riddled with error and thus delusional.

Human psychological delusion must be removed (by FIML or similar) before we can even begin to understand human psychology. I would go so far as to say that no psychologist can possibly understand or competently treat another human being if they have not practiced complex and very complex psychological interaction for many years.

The lion’s share, if not all, psychological problems (if they are not biological) are caused by the aggregation of error that comes from psychological interactions that fall short of very complex interactions as described above.

Brain in a box

We put our brains in a box when we adopt a limited view of any subject.

Once we adopt a limited view, it tends to self-propagate, to attract secondary and tertiary views as if the box were a magnet.

This is why so many subjects—both public and private–are polarized. You have this religion, therefore… You have this political belief or personality, therefore…

Rather than converse about the many nuances of any view or topic, most people tend strongly to categorize people, ideas, beliefs, emotions, and so on. That is, put them in a box.

We all do this, but like anything we all do, we are also capable of seeing through it.

An excellent large-scale example of this principle was reported today: Japan very nearly lost Tokyo.

The whole article, which is not long, is super worth reading because of what it says about the Fukushima disaster and also because of what it says about our tendency to put reality in boxes and talk about them rather than reality itself.

From the article:

Dramatic CCTV footage from the plant showed a skeleton staff – the Fukushima 50 – struggling to read emergency manuals by torchlight and battling with contradictory, confusing instructions from their superiors at Tepco. Total disaster was averted when seawater was pumped into the reactors, but the plant manager, Masao Yoshida, later said he considered committing hara-kiri, ritual suicide.

If readers recall, at the time the two main boxes in currency were:

  • the politically-approved box: “it’s serious but not to worry” and “the alarmists are crazy and also anti-nuclear and thus anti-science.”
  • and the alarmist box: “could mean the evacuation of Tokyo” and “nuclear power can never be safe.”

Turns out the second box—the “alarmists”—were closer to the truth. And worse, the important information and discussion of what was in-between those boxes was largely neglected or kept out of sight.

Additionally, the linked article reveals that incompetent officials were in charge of the plant, and that as the disaster unfolded few had any idea what to do.

That’s another box or a symptom of boxes. You donated to me or supported me or are my friend, how about being Japan’s nuclear safety advisor? Sure why not?

This is why:

…”very shocked” by the performance of Nobuaki Terasaka, his government’s nuclear safety adviser.

“We asked him, ‘Do you know anything about nuclear issues?’

“And he said, ‘No, I majored in economics’.”

If you look around, you will see boxes everywhere. A box that was first applied to anyone who questioned the JFK assassination story—“conspiracy theorist”—is one of the most long-lived.

“Alarmist,” “tin-foil hat,” “nut-job,” “kook,” “anti-science,” “anti-religion,” “racist,” “anti-racist,” and so on are other examples.

We should have gotten all the facts about Fukushima at the time, just as we should have gotten all the facts about WMD in Iraq before that war, which may have been caused by acts of treason.

If you asked for the facts, though, you would have been put in a box, your voice silenced.

If you can see these kinds of boxes in large events, they should also be findable in the smaller boxes of your life.

The small boxes of interpersonal communication and individual psychology are things like set views on personalities (yours or theirs), using “signs” about what someone thinks or believes without actually asking them in-depth, being intolerant of nuanced views or not even being able to hear them, categorizing people based on generalities, having a complex view of yourself but simple ones of others, or the other way around, etc.

In many cases, we do need to use boxes. They allow us to function easily in many situations, but boxes only describe boxed reality and in that prevent complex communication and understanding.

 

Metacognitive clutter

Metacognitive clutter is stuff that makes higher mental states not work well.

An individual example might be holding a mistaken view of your role in some organization or activity. Your mistaken view causes much of what you are doing to be wrong and to detrimentally entangle other parts of your life.

A national or social example of metacognitive clutter might be the many dumb subjects and shallow statements required of American politicians. See the following for a more detailed analysis: Semiotics in politics and the totalitarianism of PC.

Another area where metacognitive clutter causes a lot of problems is interpersonal relations. If you cannot speak to your SO and/or closest friends from a metacognitive point of view, you sort of don’t really have an SO or close friends.

In this context, metacognition means being able to talk about how you understand each other and why you think, feel, and behave as you do.

Good interpersonal metacognitive communication produces better relationships, happier people, and healthier individual psychologies.

This happens because good communication removes metacognitive clutter, greatly reducing interpersonal mistakes and cognitive entanglements.

I, for one, do not believe you can do really good metacognitive communication without a prior agreement to do that and a technique that reliably works on small details. See this for information on such a technique: How to do FIML.

General discussions on beliefs, biographies, emotions, philosophies, religion, science, and so forth are helpful, even essential, for good metacognitive communication but they cannot by themselves remove the idiosyncratic clutter that has built up in the mind over many years.

Meso and macro level techniques cannot remove micro clutter, especially idiosyncratic micro clutter which we all have a lot of.

Self-deception

Self-deception begins within seconds of listening or speaking.

Once committed to an interpretation or tending toward one, the brain builds on it quickly.

Once an interpretation has been built upon, the brain remembers it as what truly happened even if that is false.

This is normal. The human brain has evolved to use self-deception.

This probably happened because truer forms of communication are complex and use a lot of time. They can also be confusing and difficult.

Confusion, difficulty, and complexity interfere with social cohesion and motivation.

Strong self-deception deceives others better than weak self-deception or no self-deception. In this way, it promotes social cohesion and motivation.

Self-deception can be observed and understood if it is caught quickly. The best way to catch it is through a technique like FIML.

Self-deception is a kind of neurosis, delusion, false cognition. Nevertheless, we are so used to it, we can feel lost without it.

If self-deception is discovered many times through FIML practice, it does not present as a philosophy or attitude or whole picture of the mind. Nor does it present as a neurosis, delusion, or false cognition.

Rather it presents as a composite of many pixels—many small instances—of observed and corrected mistakes.

Thus seen as an aggregation of many small instances, self-deception gradually is lessened.

Self-deception and communication, a hypothesis

The hypothesis:

If we accept that humans have evolved to use self-deception in communication

Then self-deception must work within (and through) normal human communication limits

And if this is so, then there must be “smallest units” of self-deception that are accessible to observation and understanding

I propose that one of these “smallest units” is tone of voice and that the other is memory fabrication

Memory fabrication could also be called “reality fabrication,” “insistence on a single interpretation,” or “false assertion” or even “false confession.”

Though false confessions are common, as a society, we are puzzled by them and even have a legal system that puts great weight on them.

The link just given will provide background on this aspect of “reality fabrication.” A strong or clever person can often cause someone to falsely confess even to a serious crime.

A narcissist could probably be defined as someone who is especially susceptible to false assumptions about themself and others. (Themself is a good word, dating back to the 14th century.)

Tone of voice is a communication element that typically produces almost instantaneous reactions in listeners.

When the human capacity for “reality fabrication” meets tone of voice in the moment, self-deception frequently arises.

For example, I cut my finger and speak in frustration to you when I drop the band-aide you handed me. Then you react to my tone of voice.

Most of us most of the time will stop at this point and recognize that any emotions that have been generated are based on a transient problem and are best ignored.

Sometimes, though, a situation like this can lead to further emotional confusion during which one or both parties will begin to self-deceive concerning whose “fault” it is, what happened, why, etc.

I am certain you will be able to find many more example of these small units in your own life if you pay close attention to the moment a discordant tone of voice arises either in yourself or in your partner.

I believe these are some of the smallest units of self-deception. By paying attention to them we can watch ourselves begin a process of more complex self-deception.

Self-deception is an important part of human psychology, but we do not have to allow ourselves to be led around by it. Just as I can control through understanding my instinctual desires for excitement and sexual stimulation, I can also control through understanding and observation my instinctual tendency to self-deceive.

When FIML partners are both able to do this, they will gain great insight into how and why they are the way they are. It will also be much more fun to talk together.

__________________

Here is some more relevant information: The way you sound affects your mood.

Repost: 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.

Repost: 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 on the same page.

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 makes 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.

The power of words and habit formation

How we use and hear words becomes a habit.

A recent study on personal space, reported in Personal Space Is a Fear Response, shows that this fear response can be stimulated by words alone.

When placed in an MRI—and told a person was standing over the machine—[people with normal amygdalae] showed heightened activity in their amygdala; when they were told the person was further away from the machine, the activity returned to normal. This shows, says the study’s leader, Ralph Adolphs, that the belief that someone is too close for comfort is enough to spark the same activity as if they actually are.

You could also say that hearing the words that “someone is too close for comfort is enough to spark the same activity as if they actually are.”

I doubt I need to illustrate this idea as most readers are surely aware that all people have many strong emotional responses to words, gestures, facial expressions, as well as personal space encroachments.

Another recent study, unsurprisingly, shows that forming a habit leaves a lasting mark on specific circuits in the brain. In more detail:

In the basal ganglia, two main types of paths carry opposing messages: One carries a ‘go’ signal which spurs an action, the other a ‘stop’ signal.

Experiments by Duke neurobiology graduate student Justin O’Hare found that the stop and go pathways were both more active in the sugar-habit mice. O’Hare said he didn’t expect to see the stop signal equally ramped up in the habit brains, because it has been traditionally viewed as the factor that helps prevent a behavior.

The team also discovered a change in the timing of activation in the two pathways. In mice that had formed a habit, the go pathway turned on before the stop pathway. In non-habit brains, the stop signal preceded the go.

These changes in the brain circuitry were so long-lasting and obvious that it was possible for the group to predict which mice had formed a habit just by looking at isolated pieces of their brains in a petri dish. (same link as just above)

The study on habits is about mice with sugar habits, but I think it is fair to hypothesize that something similar happens with humans in their use of communication cues.

Humans, in my view, habituate to semiotic stimuli in much the same way that mice habituate to sugar.

The Duke study shows that the stop pathway grew as much as the go pathway in the mice, the main difference being that the go pathway turned on before the stop pathway.

Since human language and its uses is more complex than mice habituated to too much sugar, there must be many more stop and go pathways within the language and communication networks of human beings.

Many of these pathways will be similar among people in the same culture, but many of them won’t. Each human being is a repository of a multitude of idiosyncratic emotional and semantic responses and outputs.

So how do you figure out what your pathways are? And how do you correct ones that aren’t working well? And similarly, how do you figure out your partner’s pathways?

FIML practice helps partners to both identify their idiosyncratic communication habits and correct ones that are not working well. FIML finds and corrects pathways through micro-analysis.

It seems very likely to me that a FIML-style analysis corrects mistaken communication pathways by bringing the stop pathway to the fore. When a particular mistaken response is stopped a few times and under analysis seen to be wrong, the go pathways for that response will tend to be extirpated.

By using words to analyze micro units of miscommunication, FIML partners tap into the power of words to change actual pathways of neurons in their brains, thus reorganizing the deep linguistic basis of habitual psychological responses, no matter how idiosyncratic.

Tone of voice as a transitory manifestation of psycho-physiology

A very important and often ignored dimension of tone of voice is that it frequently is a manifestation of the transitory psycho-physiological state of the speaker.

When this transitoriness of tone of voice with its many complex subjective dimensions is ignored or more commonly misinterpreted by the listener, communication can be seriously disrupted.

In simple language, to listen to someone speak is to be in a state of figuring out what they mean, emotionally and otherwise.

Tone of voice is mostly an emotional marker.

When we listen to someone speak, we determine the fullness of their meaning by guessing and anticipating what their point is; by comparing and remembering what they are saying now to what they said in the past; and by monitoring their tone of voice for cues about their emotional state, either toward us, toward their topic, or toward something else.

Since tone of voice involves emotions—both the speaker’s and the listener’s—it can have very subtle and complex ramifications. And this is especially true because so much tone of voice is nothing more than a transitory manifestation of the speaker’s psycho-physiological state.

This point is super important and is worth pausing to consider even if you are sure you know what I mean.

Spoken language moves quickly through a great many transitory states, including word choice, corrections, varying intentions, feedback from the listener, to say nothing of non-linguistic clues like gesture, facial expression, and so on.

Tone of voice is one of these. If we misunderstand it, big problems can result.

A simple example is this. Early this morning I was sleepily standing near my partner watching her cut some scallions. The moment was very pleasant. As I stood there, the microwave beeped. I ignored it and she said, “You can remove that stuff if you want.”

I said something I can’t recall exactly, to which she replied, “Are you irritated?”

(She said that because we are actively pursuing an investigation of tone of voice.)

I stopped and thought about it. Yes, maybe 15% of my psycho-physiological state—my ready and on communication state, fuzzy as it was—had a deep-seated bad feeling about statements like that one: “You can do whatever…”

After more thought, I realized that the 15% bad feeling was coming from an event that had happened years before. One of the rudest things someone ever said to me was “you can leave now.”

I won’t go into that event, but I can trace some of my my sense of that phrase back to that event. It has nothing to do with my mom or dad or Sigmund Freud. It was just something a rude person said and it made me feel bad and I have not forgotten it.

That event was not in my mind when my partner spoke in the kitchen this morning, but it had long ago colored my reaction to the phrase “you can…” and thus affected my transitory emotional state this morning. That state was fleeting but part of me was in it when I spoke and thus my partner heard a tinge of irritation in my voice.

If we were not FIML partners we would have ignored my tone of voice and moved on. I would have retained a small dose of irritation hormones and associations in my mind and my partner would have retained a small dose of her version of that as the person who heard me speak that way.

Since we do FIML, we were able to avoid all of that while at the same time upgrading our understanding of each other and how we communicate.

This is a good example of how wonderful and excellent it is to find a mistake through FIML practice.

My tone was a mistake. Discovering it helps me offload the bad associations I have with that phrase. Hearing my explanation of my mistake helps my partner dismiss whatever reaction she had to my tone. Furthermore, both of us are more deeply sensitized to how significant transitory emotions can be, how they can affect tone of voice and communication between us.

This example will now serve as a paradigm for future instances of misguided tones of voice between us.

Just as micro mistakes in communication can have long-lasting and outsized ramifications, so micro analyses through FIML practice can provide very large benefits to partners. Rather than muddle along with a stupid misunderstanding, partners improve their lives by figuring out what actually happened and using that to prevent further mistakes in the future.

Repost: Errors in listening, cogitating, and speaking

Interpersonal communication errors can occur for many reasons during the acts of listening, cogitating, and/or speaking.

For example, in a conversation involving two people (A & B), person A may mishear (listening error) what B said; and/or person A may misunderstand or miscogitate what they heard; and/or person A may misspeak.

Errors in any part of that communication process will cause some sort of confusion between A and B. Errors can be of many types. The speaker may mispronounce, misenunciate, use the wrong word, be inadvertently misleading, hit a wrong tone of voice, etc. In turn, the listener may mishear, be inattentive, be overly attentive to one aspect of what the speaker is saying, not know a word or a reference, etc. Next, even if the listener heard correctly, they may misunderstand or miscogitate by making wrong associations, drawing wrong conclusions, etc. Any unconscious error in hearing or cogitating will probably lead the listener to misspeak when it is their turn.

Errors of these sorts if not corrected will compound and cause the conversation to become unsatisfying or confusing.

It is the goal of FIML practice to catch these errors as soon after they arise as possible. FIML partners should strive to be perfect with each other in all three of these communication areas–listening, cogitating, and speaking. The best way to do this is to pay close attention to yourself. If you feel an emotional jangle, be sure to confirm with your partner (by doing a FIML query) that your jangle is justified. If it is not, you have discovered an error. Correct the error and continue.

One very simple and common jangle involves feeling irritated (even very, very slightly) at your partner because they did not understand what you said (probably not so clearly). Take it as a given that our uses of language are frequently less than perfect. You must expect that a good many of the things you say will not be stated as clearly as they could be; many more of them, though clear enough, will contain ambiguities or misleading word choices. If as a speaker you become irritated at your partner for something that is inevitable in your own speech, you are making a huge mistake.

Another common jangle involving cogitation is feeling stupid or inattentive when your partner makes an association that you did not get even though you heard all of their words correctly. This jangle could also involve thinking your partner is stupid or not making sense because you did not get what they said. Either way, it is crucial that both FIML partners know that these kinds of mistakes in cogitation are quite common. Identify them when they occur–as soon as you can–and correct them.

A third common jangle, this time involving hearing, is attributing a wrong emotion or intention to the speaker’s tone of voice. The human  speech apparatus is not that highly developed. To speak, we have had to re-purpose our teeth, lips, and tongues, which other animals use for eating, to make noises that convey sometimes sophisticated meaning to other people. How could things not go wrong with that? We also breathe, vomit, kiss, and do other stuff with that same oral cavity. FIML partners must recognize that we are working with a primitive “wind instrument” when we talk and that this instrument may blow too hard, get clogged with phlegm, or experience many other kinds of mishaps that can distort the sounds of our voices. A person with a high, soft voice can easily be misunderstood as being a light-weight, while a person with a deep voice and large lungs can easily be misheard as being aggressive when they are not. Each one of us should be aware of how our voices might be misunderstood and then apply this level of detail to understanding, at least, our partner’s voice.

Another common listening jangle/error that can occur, even if you clearly understand all of the above, is a speaker’s tone of voice can be seriously misunderstood if we think it refers to us when it is referring to the subject at hand. For example, you say something about the car needs fixing and your partner responds in an irritated tone of voice. If you hear that irritation as referring to you when your partner is just sick of the damn car, you will be making a serious mistake. If you say nothing, you may simmer with wrong bad feelings for some time, which often leads to yet more bad feelings. If you do say something, you may start an argument and/or otherwise greatly compound the original problem. All that actually had happened was your partner expressed a fairly primitive emotion (irritation at the damn car) which you misunderstood to mean irritation at you. Your partner used our crude speech apparatus to grunt irritation at a very common problem and you used your crude ears and listening abilities and crude tendency to think everything applies to you to make a big mistake, one that will only add to the original problem.

As you and your partner continue doing FIML practice, you will get better and better at finding and correcting these kinds of errors the moment they arise. It’s not always easy, but it is always very satisfying if you discuss the matter long enough for both of you to achieve a real resolution.