Poor precision in communication distorts motives

And distorted motives warp human interactions, which in turn degrade individual psychology.

There is no way around it—the ways almost all people communicate are much cruder than their brains are capable of.

And that is the cause of most of what we now call (non-biological) “mental health” problems.

Here is an example: I want to say something very complex to my primary care doctor. I can give her the gist in a minute or two but I do not want to have that go on my medical record.

So I ask her if I can start a discussion that she will promise to keep off my record.

She says, “I’ll think about it.”

A week later I get a letter from her nurse saying she is not willing to do what I asked.

No reason why was given. Do rules prevent her from doing that? I have heard of doctors allowing patients to keep some concerns off the record, but who knows what the reality is? Do you?

If I insist, will that go on my record? Did what I asked in the first place go on my record? My doctor is trapped within or is voluntarily following some guideline that is most decidedly not in my best interests.

This same sort of thing can happen interpersonally. If I raise a topic that is psychologically important to me with even a close friend, I have to wonder will they understand? Will they allow me to expand the subject over a few weeks or months or longer? Will my initial statements change our friendship?

The basic problem is how do you discuss complex psychological subjects with others?

One of my friends works in alternative health care. She knows what I want to bring up with my doctor and admits that even in her professional setting where patients have an hour to open up, there is not enough time.

Back to my primary care doctor. I saw her again a year later and she asked if I remembered her. I said, “Of course I remember you.” She said no more and neither of us raised the off-the-record topic. An intern was with her.

I wonder what she thinks of me. Did she interpret my slightly nervous behavior when I first asked as a “sign” of something? Does she think I am volatile or bipolar or just nuts? (I am not.)

I am 100% sure that she cannot possibly know what I wanted to bring up with her. In this case, I have all of the information and I want to give it to her but she cannot or will not allow that unless my initial fumblings toward a complex subject are made public.

Even a  close friend could find themselves in a similar position. And I wonder if I have done that myself to someone. Most people most of the time are not able to scale those walls that divide us.

On either side of the wall is a complex person capable of complex understanding, but one or both persons cannot scale the wall. My doctor is smart enough to have become an MD and yet I cannot tell her about a complex medical condition that is of great importance to me.

I know that I do not want to open the subject and risk a shallow public label (a common hindrance to many potential communications). I honestly do not know what my doctor is thinking. Maybe I will try again the next time I see her.

EDIT 12/16/2020: I didn’t try again. After much thought, I decided to switch doctors. And I will not bring this subject up with my new doctor. It’s a sad reality that trying at all ruined (in my mind) my relationship with my first doctor and convinced me that the topic is not one I can discuss with any medical professional in a professional setting and maybe in any setting.

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first posted OCTOBER 10, 2017

Error correction

While reading David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity, I came across the following sentence:

What is needed is a system that takes for granted that errors will occur, but corrects them once they do—a case of ‘problems are inevitable, but they are soluble’ at the lowest level of information-processing emergence. (p. 141)

This statement comes from the chapter “The Jump to Universality,” in which Deutsch argues that “error correction is essential in processes of potentially unlimited length.”

Error correction is fundamental to FIML practice. In fact, the nuts-and-bolts of FIML practice could be described as being little more than a method for correcting errors “at the lowest level of information-processing” during interpersonal communication. This level is “the lowest” because FIML deals primarily with very short segments of speech/communication. In many posts, we have called these segments “psychological morphemes” or the “smallest speech/communication error” we can reliably identify and agree upon with our partner.

If you try to tackle bigger errors—though this can be done sometimes—you frequently run into the problem of your subject becoming too vague or ill-defined to be rationally discussable.

I haven’t read enough of Deutsch’s book to be sure of what he means by “universality,” but I do think (at this point) that FIML is universal in the sense that it will clear up interpersonal communication errors between any two qualified partners. “Qualified” here means that partners care about each other, want to optimize their relationship, and have enough time to do FIML practice.

We all demand that our computers be error-free, that buildings and bridges be constructed without error, that science work with error-free data as much as possible. But when it comes to communication with the person we care about most, do we even talk about wanting a method of error correction, let alone actually using one?

You can’t correct big errors if you have no method for correcting errors that occur “at the lowest level of information-processing,” to use Deutsch’s phrase. Once you can correct errors at this level, you will find that you and your partner are much better able to tackle bigger questions/errors/complexes. This happens because having the ability to reliably do small error-correcting gives you the capacity to discuss bigger issues without getting lost in a thicket of small mistakes.

Your ability to talk to each other becomes “universal” in the sense that you can tackle any subject together and are not tethered to static ideas and assumptions about what either of you really “means.” As mentioned many times on these pages, FIML does not tell you how to think or what to believe. In this sense, it is a universal system that allows you and your partner to explore existence in any way you choose.

To use Deutsch’s words again, “error correction is essential in processes of potentially unlimited length.” Your relationship with your partner can and should be a “processes of potentially unlimited” growth, and error correction is essential to that process.

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first posted FEBRUARY 10, 2013

The psychological value of micro-feedback

Normally, we get very little detailed psychological micro-feedback.

This is especially true of psychological micro-feedback in real-time real-life situations. Psychologically, such situations are the most important for mental and emotional growth.

Real-life psychological micro-feedback (PMF) happens whenever someone reacts to one of our acts of communication.

Most PMF reactions are not detailed because an explanation rarely accompanies them and even if there is an explanation it is almost certainly not going to include the real details of the actual communication act itself.

Rather than provide detailed PMF, almost all humans almost all the time provide only opaque responses based on their own guesswork, or presuppositions.

If there is any detail in the feedback it is almost always of a general nature that completely excludes the actual act of communication itself.

This happens because humans almost always process and use language at the phrasal level and normally never provide PMF in real-time during real-life situations.

Real-time real-life is where human psychology really lives.

By always avoiding real-time real-life PMF and follow-up analysis, humans are forced to rely on general categories and ideas to understand themselves and others. It is not possible to do this and gain a deep understanding of human psychology.

When we ignore detail in any other area of human endeavor—musical and scientific instrumentation, microscopy, art, science, engineering, etc.—we get poor results that are almost always surpassed by results that are based on greater detail.

FIML practice corrects the problem of poor detail in the study of human psychology by emphasizing the use of real-time real-life PMF.

By doing this, FIML greatly improves communication while also upgrading the general psychology of participating partners.

One of the hardest aspects of doing FIML practice is overcoming the ubiquitous human habit of fundamentally never wanting real-time real-life PMF that is open to conscious analysis and correction.

This habit can be overcome by partners’ making an explicit prior agreement to do it.

FIML is like tuning a guitar, calibrating a scale, using a good compass, caring for a fine instrument.

We expect and demand very fine detail in almost all areas of our lives, save what we say and how we hear what others say.

I do not believe anyone can achieve a deep understanding of human psychology without having a way to perceive and analyze PMF in real-time real-life. To date, I know of no other way to do this but FIML.

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first posted MAY 13, 2016

FIML can’t do everything

FIML handles micro-analyses of real-time communication extremely well. In doing this it also reveals to partners how long-standing misinterpretations are affecting their perceptions of self and other(s).

FIML cannot catch everything though. Some misinterpretations begin in a small haze and may never be questioned again.

A concrete example of this type of misinterpretation happened a few days ago. My partner and I were talking about her past. At one point she mentioned that she had taken a prescribed drug for a few weeks to stop the condition we had been discussing.

I casually and almost without noticing it assumed that the drug she had taken was a “psych med” of some sort. After a few days, I noticed that I had formed a vague impression of her during the time she took the drug as being more seriously bothered by her (very minor) condition than she actually was.

So I asked her about it and she replied that it had not been a psych med and that she had never had emotional problems concerning her mild condition. I explained to her how I had come to my conclusion, which was vague but still something I actually had believed.

We discussed the matter for a few minutes and decided that it is a good example of a type of mistake that FIML cannot uncover the moment it arises. FIML works best at uncovering mistakes that are emotionally charged. Her psych med reference was not emotionally charged for me (or her) so my wrong assumption went under my FIML radar.

Mistakes of this type are not always going to be so concrete. If they concern emotions and/or a sense of what something was like for someone, this sort of mistake can be nebulous and dangerously elusive.

For example, if my partner’s story had been told differently and meds had not been part of it, I might easily have mistakenly concluded that she had been unhappy, anxious, or depressed during that period of time. Then that mistake might have gone on to affect how I understand her today. It may have made me think that she is more fragile than she is or that her past is more of a burden to her than it is. None of that would have been true.

FIML practice can help discover mistakes like this because FIML makes us understand with great clarity how dubious our impressions of others can be, even if we are very close to them. FIML also makes it easier to correct and discuss mistakes of this type as the mechanics of a FIML-type discussion provide many useful tools.

FIML can’t always catch everything though, so partners would do well to search their minds from time to time to see if they can find any false assumptions they may be holding about one another.

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first posted FEBRUARY 21, 2015

Bad communication leads to ulterior motives and pointless suffering

I believe most people in the world are all but forced to resort to ulterior motives when dealing with others or being dealt with by them.

Furthermore, I believe most people are in this position so often they don’t just resort to hidden motivations, they expect them, are habituated to them, rely on them, and even enjoy them even though they cause immense suffering.

This situation arises due to fundamentally bad communication and the mistrust and uncertainty that devolve from it.

If communication is fundamentally bad (ambiguous, misleading, can’t be cleared up), there is no one you can trust but yourself. No one else you can rely on.

You are all but forced to conceal what your really think, feel, or want because you probably won’t be understood if you try to explain yourself honestly. Worse, you  may get played.

Your interlocutor may genuinely misunderstand and cause you harm by that or they may feign interest and honesty when they are just gathering dirt to use against you.

Can anyone deny this happens very often? And that normal people have no recourse but to play that game?

An ulterior motive is one that is concealed. A motive that is different from what is being communicated. We all know what that means and how destructive it can be.

Ulterior motives arise because we do not use our communication systems (mainly speech and listening) at all well. Instead of communicating honestly, we try to “read” the other person while at the same time calculating to what extent or how they are “reading” us.

This is a disgusting situation for people to have put themselves in.

This problem can be fixed with one other person, so you can have at least one friend who does not do this to you and to whom you do not do it either. That makes two people who can escape the deadening, anti-life maze of ulterior motivation madness.

The way to do it is through FIML. I do not believe there is any other way.

If many people do FIML, eventually many of us will see the problems of bad communication clearly. Many of us will realize that virtually all people are trapped in a system that all but forces them to lie to others while suffocating themselves.

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Edit 10/07/17: Here is a pop culture analysis of how to tell if someone is lying: 9 WAYS TO SPOT A LIAR. Scroll down to the list and notice how crude and dubious these tells are, but this is what many people work with. It’s all we have. With a good partner, FIML can lead you to levels of truth far higher and deeper than this. In this world, we really have to develop FIML relationships to fully explore our own psychology and human psychology in general. Without FIML, you are permanently locked out of your own depths by being trapped in ordinary communication which is accurately characterized by the shallowness of the linked article.

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first posted OCTOBER 6, 2017

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.

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first posted APRIL 11, 2017

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-standing (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.

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First posted 10/28/2015

Next-level metacognitive control

Experienced FIML practitioners enjoy levels of metacognitive control ordinary humans cannot even dream of.

This control comes after years of diligent FIML practice. It happens because the skills acquired through FIML combined with its metacognitive results allow practitioners to practice FIML on themselves.

FIML practice gradually removes virtually all communication error between partners. This error-removal process is ongoing because all living systems must continually remove waste and error to function optimally.

Successful FIML results in two major achievements:

  • very clear, optimally functioning cognition and metacognition
  • the skill-set needed to attain the above

When these achievements have been realized, FIML practitioners will find they are able to rather easily apply them to their own introspection, their own subjective states while alone.

Ordinary people cannot do this because they have not experienced the metacognitive states brought about by FIML nor have they acquired the skills to quickly remove error from their thoughts.

The FIML skills of quickly removing error from our thoughts cannot be acquired overnight. It must be built upon diligent practice and experience. You cannot imagine it into being.

Once these skills and experiences have become established in the mind as reliable functions, they can be applied to mental states while alone.

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first posted DECEMBER 16, 2017

Public language has problems similar to private language

Private language—what we say to ourselves, how we cogitate while alone—is greatly dependent on public language, that which is readily understood by many.

In fact, private language is so dependent on public language, it can be argued that a private language completely divorced from public language cannot exist.

It is obvious that anyone wanting to influence or control large numbers of people will address them in public language.

It is less obvious, that those same people frequently will also seek to change the public language itself.

Sometimes this language changing is a good thing as that is how civilizations adapt and grow. It is probably best, or usually best, when civilizational changes arise organically from the whole society or from important parts of society that are behaving honestly.

Sometimes, however, the changing of public language is done dishonestly by small numbers of people who have seized positions of power, sometimes precisely for that purpose.

They change public language to further their positions, ideas, or programs; to seize control of public topics; to seize or secure power over the public.

It is not as easy to parse this as it may seem. Who is restricting honest organic input into public language? Or when is organic input into public language itself but a ruse to falsely commandeer that language?

After Lenin and Stalin seized control of the public languages of the Soviet Union, we can see a clear-cut example of bad actors creating a basis for indoctrination. Before they seized power, we can see an example of a dishonest “organic” group seeking to commandeer control of public language.

And how do we see that today, through the lens of “history”?

Firstly, whose history? The same problem with public language arises.

Secondly, maybe we can never know. Maybe only societal laws or rules of governance can help us determine what’s right or best. But then the same problem arises.

Whose laws, whose rules?

In this sense both public and private languages have enormous problems basing themselves on anything.

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first posted OCTOBER 11, 2019

Global Workspace Theory: mistake awareness (and correction)

Global workspace theory is a description of how our minds work. The word global refers to the whole mind or brain, not the world.

The central feature of this theory—the global workspace—is conscious working memory, or working memory that could be made conscious with minimal effort.

This global workspace is also what a great deal of Buddhist mindfulness attends to. If we focus our attention on what is coming in and out of our global workspace, we will gain many insights into how our minds operate.

The Buddha’s five skandha explanation of consciousness can be understood as a form (or percepta) entering the global workspace.

Consciousness is the fifth skandha in the chain of skandhas. It is very important to recognize that whatever we become conscious of is not necessarily right.

With this in mind, we can see that being mindful of what is entering and leaving our global workspace can help us forestall errors from forming and growing in our minds.

In the Buddhist tradition, ignorance (a kind of error) is the deep source of all delusion.

But how do I know if the percepta or bits of information entering my awareness are right or wrong?

Well, there is science and Bayesian thought processes to help us, and they are both very good, but is there anything else?

What about my actual mind? My psychology? My understanding of my being in the world? How do I become mindful and more right about these?

Besides science and Bayes, I can ask an honest friend who knows me well if the percepta I think I just received from them is right or wrong.

If my friend knows the game, they will be ready to answer me before my global workspace changes too much. If my friend confirms my interpretation of what they just did or said, I will know that my interpretation (or consciousness) is correct.

If they disconfirm, I will know that my interpretation was incorrect, a mistake.

This kind of information is wonderful!

We calibrate fine instruments to be sure we are getting accurate readings from them. Why not our own minds?

This kind of calibration can be done in a general way, but you will get a general answer in that case. If you want a precise reading, a mindfulness answer, you need to play the FIML communication game.

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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.

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Perfect communication is not possible (but greatly improved communication is)

Human beings cannot possibly expect to communicate with each other perfectly. Perfect communication would require complete transfers of information with no ambiguity.

This point is fundamental to understanding why we need a method to frequently correct or adjust interpersonal communication in real-time.

If we do not have a method to do that, mistakes will inevitably cause problems, some of which will inevitably snowball.

TBH, I don’t understand why no one before me has figured the method out. Many have seen the problem in one way or another, but none has provided a way to fix it as far as I know.

To simplify the problem a bit, let’s just stick with language.

Language is ambiguous in and of itself. And when it is used for interpersonal communication it is fraught with ongoing and very significant ambiguities.

These ambiguities are so serious, I believe I can safely maintain that they account for a major component of our personalities. They may even be the major component.

Why does this seem so obvious to me but not to many others I speak with? I really do not know. Why didn’t Plato or Buddha or Laozi or Kant or Dostoevsky deal with this? I don’t know.

It’s possible the Buddha did privately or that’s what the Pythagorean’s secret was. Buddhist monks traveled in pairs and may have had a method to deal with interpersonal ambiguity.

If they did, I doubt it would be very different from my method, which you can find fully explained, free of charge here: FIML.

Please consider the problem of ambiguity before you undertake FIML.

Give ambiguity some real thought. Contemplate how it has affected your life in many ways you already know about. Then consider how many more ways you do not know about.

How many mistakes in communication—just due to ambiguity and consequent misunderstandings alone—have affected your life?

Watch for it and you will see ambiguity happening very often. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes insignificant, sometimes it’s tragic. The more there is, the worse it is.

When just two humans clear up almost all ambiguity between them (a process that must be constant like any other maintenance chore), amazing things begin to happen to their psychologies.

For each pair, what happens will be different because FIML is only a method. It has no content itself. What could be better than that?

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Fourth wave cognitive behavior therapy

The third wave of cognitive behavior therapy is a general term for a group of psychotherapies that arose in the 1980s, inspired by acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

To me, third wave therapies seem more realistic than older therapies because they accept emotions as they are and pay close attention to how they function in the moment.

The link above is well-worth reading. The frames of these therapies are also well-worth considering.

FIML, which I am calling a “fourth wave cognitive behavior therapy,” differs from third wave therapies in that FIML does not use a professional therapist. Instead, partners become their own therapists.

Moreover, how FIML partners frame their psychologies or generalize their behaviors is entirely up to them. Similarly, their psychological goals and definitions are entirely in their own hands.

At its most basic, FIML “removes wrong interpretations of interpersonal signs and symbols from the brain’s semiotic networks.”

This process of removal, in turn, shows partners how their minds function in real-time real-world situations. And this in turn provides the tools and perspectives to reorganize their psychologies in whichever ways they like.

FIML is based on semiotics because semiotics are specific and with practice can be clearly identified and understood. They give partners “solid ground” to stand on. Words, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions are some of the major semiotics partners analyze.

Using real-world semiotics as an analytical basis frees FIML from predetermined frameworks about personality or what human psychology even is. With the FIML tool, partners are free to discover whatever they can about how their minds communicate interpersonally (and internally) and do whatever they like with that.

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