Complex mind, simple thoughts

I strongly believe a major cause of neurotism, emotional agony, and mental illness is our minds are more complex than much of our thinking and most of our communication.

This causes us to be like prisoners trapped in small space when we are capable of much greater freedom.

A new study illustrates why this happens.

The study show how auditory hallucinations can be induced in people who are not otherwise prone to hearing them.

Pairing a stimulus in one modality (vision) with a stimulus in another (sound) can lead to task-induced hallucinations in healthy individuals. After many trials, people eventually report perceiving a nonexistent stimulus contingent on the presence of the previously paired stimulus. (Pavlovian conditioning–induced hallucinations result from overweighting of perceptual priors)

Since this effect can be induced fairly simply it shows that:

These data demonstrate the profound and sometimes pathological impact of top-down cognitive processes on perception… (from the study itself: Pavlovian conditioning–induced hallucinations result from overweighting of perceptual priors)

Note that these hallucinations “result from overweighing perceptual priors.”

A “perceptual prior” is, in these cases, a mistaken assumption about reality.

If our auditory and visual “realities” are susceptible to mistakes like these, how much more is our psychology?

Due to our generally very simple ways of interacting with other people, we are essentially forced to hallucinate who they are and at the same time who we are.

That is, our complex minds are essentially forced to see ourselves and others in simple, hallucinatory terms that cannot possibly be true.

I believe this is the cause of great mental and emotional distress for all people everywhere.

I also believe that this problem can be largely overcome by practicing FIML

FIML allows us to remove our psychological hallucinations about our FIML partner as they remove theirs about us.

FIML works because it allows partners to escape the simplicities and many hallucinatory traps of ordinary communication.

As far as I know, there is no other method for doing this. FIML is practical psychotherapy that will optimize your mind and psychology by providing the data you need to overcome hallucinating most of your life.

Consciousness as reality itself

In Buddhism the idea that consciousness is reality and reality is conscious is called “mind only” or Yogachara.

David Ray Griffin, a process theologian, has come to similar conclusions—that reality is fundamentally conscious.

As has Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine.

Hoffman came at this subject from a mathematical angle, but arrived at a similar conclusion to Yogachara Buddhism. Hoffman says:

As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. (The Case Against Reality)

I tend to reach similar conclusions when I think about everything in terms of signals.

The advantage of thinking in terms of signals is we get a good picture of “reality” without needing to say what is real beyond the signal itself.

This kind of thinking is helpful for metaphysics but it is also extremely practical when it comes to human psychology.

Rather than posit personality types and what goes wrong or right with them, we analyze how people send and receive signals instead.

In thinking along these lines, I have come to the conclusion that most psychology as most people understand it uses “arms-length” language, the language of meso and macro signals rather than the much more precise language of the micro signals that actually comprise our shared “realities.”

The difference can be illustrated in this way: Rather than explain your most recent signal (sent or received) in terms of personality, explain it by accessing the micro-signals of short-term memory to find its true antecedents.

If you do this again and again by using a game such as FIML, you will probably come to conclusions similar to the above—that there is no deeper substance to psychological reality than your consciousness of it.

Inventing your own communication system

If you know a system well and change parts of it to make it more efficient, that system will work better.

Evolution works this way “mindlessly” in the sense that we assume today that there is no plan behind evolutionary change. If something works better it tends to replace that which it works better than.

Another “mindless” example is AI systems that invent their own languages:

An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. The researchers shut the system down as it prompted concerns we could lose control of AI. (Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language)

The linked article mentions other AI system that have similarly invented their own communication systems. These systems work but humans are not able to understand them.

All of this shows that communication systems have their own logic and that they can be made more efficient by pursuing that logic.

This is what FIML does through the use of a few new rules for speaking and listening.

FIML emphasizes and provides techniques for:

  • analysis of real-time communication
  • much greater accuracy in real-time communication
  • much greater mutual understanding, efficiency, and satisfaction

By improving your communication system(s) and removing error from it, FIML greatly enhances psychological well-being.

FIML works with the communication system(s) you already have. FIML does not tell you what to think.

Psychological projection is a limited concept

Psychological projection is a well-known defense mechanism used by humans to:

defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities… by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

The concept has some value as an analytical guideline but can also be highly misleading by pointing analyses in wrong directions.

One wrong direction is confirmation bias where an assessment of projection can lead to cherry picking and/or ignoring counter-evidence.

Another wrong direction can arise due to the false consensus effect, which “tends to lead to the perception of a consensus that does not exist.

From a FIML point of view, psychological projection is a macro and meso level analysis which fundamentally ignores the importance of micro information. (See Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding.)

From a FIML point of view, a great deal of human psychology can only be understood by analyzing micro-level interactions in real-time.

This is so because only a FIML-type of analysis can access the actual micro-data that go into the formations of actual interpretations. In contrast, meso and macro level analyses arrive “fully loaded” with the biases endemic to those levels of communication and understanding.

Like the psychological concept personality, the concept of psychological projection has general descriptive value in some situations.

These concepts become counterproductive and limiting, however, when they are accepted off-the-shelf as important insights into specific situations or the behaviors of particular people.

I am very confident that micro data generally will not support most ready-made meso and macro analyses of human psychology or behavior.

How the brain processes new information

A new paper provides fascinating insight into how our brains amass information and organize and assess it in real-time.

The paper—Cliques of Neurons Bound into Cavities Provide a Missing Link between Structure and Function—proposes that “the brain processes stimuli by forming increasingly complex functional cliques and cavities.”

The full intro to the paper:

The lack of a formal link between neural network structure and its emergent function has hampered our understanding of how the brain processes information. We have now come closer to describing such a link by taking the direction of synaptic transmission into account, constructing graphs of a network that reflect the direction of information flow, and analyzing these directed graphs using algebraic topology. Applying this approach to a local network of neurons in the neocortex revealed a remarkably intricate and previously unseen topology of synaptic connectivity. The synaptic network contains an abundance of cliques of neurons bound into cavities that guide the emergence of correlated activity. In response to stimuli, correlated activity binds synaptically connected neurons into functional cliques and cavities that evolve in a stereotypical sequence toward peak complexity. We propose that the brain processes stimuli by forming increasingly complex functional cliques and cavities.

The cliques of neurons that grow and connect in real-time make up the transient “architecture” of awareness as it changes and responds to stimuli.

You can observe a process that seems to fit this description by simply turning your head and looking around. As your eye settles on something to consider in more detail, neuronic cliques will grow in your brain based on that stimulus.

Depending on the significance to you of what you are looking at, further associations drawn from memory and emotion will aggregate around it.

Interestingly, the concept of transient neuronal cliques that grow into larger structures fits very well with the Buddha’s Five Skandhas explanation of the path between perception and consciousness.

This paper also seems to explain why FIML practice works. FIML interrupts the (re)formation of habitual neuronal cliques in real-time, thus preventing the (re)association of established mental states with new perceptions.

By consciously interfering with habitual neuronal cliques, FIML eliminates the false and unwanted psychological structures that give rise to them.

FIML works because large psychological brain structures rely on reconsolidation through the continual processing of “new” information that falsely reconfirms them.

As such, human psychology to a large extent is an ongoing self-fulfilling prophesy.

Here is an article about the paper: Brain Architecture: Scientists Discover 11 Dimensional Structures That Could Help Us Understand How the Brain Works.

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are important factors in all forms of human communication.

They underlie and often dominate all individual psychology, all interpersonal communication, and all social arrangements, including economics, politics, science, media, societal norms, and so on.

We can see these three factors—error, ignorance, and disproportionality—in the recent revelation that the opioid addiction catastrophe was based on a single misconstrued sentence.

That single sentence was interpreted erroneously due to ignorance of its true context and then blown out of proportion.

Many thousands have lost their lives due to those mistakes.

Yes, science did eventually notice and will eventually correct this error, and that is good, but medical science also messed up prescriptions for dietary salt and fat based on even worse information.

For many years, and probably even still today, an obese person could go to a doctor’s office for a sore knee and be prescribed addictive opioids while also being advised to eat less fat and salt while increasing carbohydrate intake.

If even science can do this, how much more can it occur in politics, economics, and social norms?

When error, ignorance, or disproportionality happen outside of us, there is usually little we can do. Usually it is best to be stoical or Buddhist about it.

When error, ignorance, and disproportionality happen within interpersonal relations, there is much we can and should do. FIML can completely fix these problems when they arise between two people.

As mentioned, science eventually fixes its own problems. That is a foundational reason for the success of science and why humans admire it.

FIML is a kind of scientific inquiry into interpersonal psychology and functionality.

When people do not do science, they become even worse victims of error, ignorance, and disproportionality. When they don’t do FIML, the same bad things happen interpersonally and within individual psychology.

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are often exploited for financial or emotional gain. If you know anything that someone else does not know, you will probably be able to exploit that knowledge to your advantage and their disadvantage.

And if you don’t do that (thank you for your goodness), you can be certain that many of the people around you will.

That is the world we live in. You have to be philosophical to accept that and to change that.

Thought alone tells us that removing error, ignorance, and disproportionality when we can is a good thing to do. Thought alone also tells us that in many cases we will pay a price for doing that as our good will will often be misinterpreted or used against us.

I see much of this as what the First Noble Truth is all about. A lotus grows out of mud much as our minds grow out of and beyond these kinds of delusions.

The power of a single sign

Signs are units of thought.

A single sign is central to the ongoing opioid addiction catastrophe in the USA.

The single sign is a 40-year-old misquoted sentence taken out of context from a letter written to the New England Journal of Medicine by a graduate student.

Here is the sentence:

We conclude that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction. [emphasis added] (Source)

What was taken out of context is the letter was about patients who were being treated for pain while in hospitals.

On Wednesday, the journal published an editor’s note about the 1980 letter and an analysis from Canadian researchers of how often it has been cited — more than 600 times, often inaccurately. Most used it as evidence that addiction was rare, and most did not say it only concerned hospitalized patients, not outpatient or chronic pain situations such as bad backs and severe arthritis that opioids came to be used for. [emphasis added] (How a 1980 letter fueled the opioid epidemic)

The deep significance of this misinterpreted sentence shows the incredible power of signs and how even a single sign can influence an entire society for decades, even centuries.

That this massive mistake occurred within the medical community, which is science-based, shows that blind consensus can overrule reason even among the brightest and best trained among us.

Add similar mistaken consensuses within the medical community concerning dietary fats and salt and we have even more evidence of the human tendency to believe in and act on nonsense.

I mention this because it is interesting and also because it shows how irrational or non-rational we humans can be. All of us are susceptible to making mistakes of this type.

While most of us cannot do much about large-scale mistakes in medicine or politics, most of us can do a great deal about our own individual psychological mistakes that harm our ability to function. We can do this by practicing FIML.

Basic FIML practice corrects small mistakes (misinterpretations) in real-time. FIML focuses on how our minds are actually functioning in real-time.

If the entire medical community can make such a huge mistake based on so  little evidence it should be obvious that as individuals we are just as susceptible to error.

Consensus works only when it works. When it doesn’t it can be very dangerous.

I believe the lion’s share of “delusion” in Buddhism is stuff like the above—individuals or groups getting something terribly wrong and then acting on it with little or no self-reflection.