Engineering Illusions of The Science

Much of what most people believe is science, is not science. A lot of people might agree with that sentiment, but there is a more important corollary that will make some scientists flip their lids, which is that most of what scientists believe is science, is not science.

We really are that far down the road of misunderstanding or totalitarianism or something.

The story I’m about to tell begins with a warm and fuzzy documentary, but spirals into threats made to a highly respected scientist who took his family into hiding. The tale begins with an essay I wrote many years ago (you can skip it…this is the better essay) that I believe displays something like the infection of science with a virus. This was a story for which I was particularly well suited to examine for reasons you will come to understand if you don’t know me already. Upon digging into this story, what I found was quite troubling as it points to the subtle presence of hard-to-identify corruption that is therefore likely more the norm in “The Science”™ than an outlier.

link

This morning my FIML partner told me an essay by Mathew Crawford (linked above) says exactly what I always say about FIML practice—that it just takes practice and that almost anyone can do it with not even that much effort. I am 100% certain Mathew could learn basic FIML in a few hours if he has a suitable partner or a good teacher. In fact, I hereby volunteer to teach him the “tricks” for free. You do not need to be really smart to do FIML. You do have to be willing to practice. Sadly, the hardest part of learning FIML is finding an honest partner who also wants to learn. While math tricks can get attention, FIML can open your mind to levels of conscious understanding you cannot even imagine today. I guarantee it. ABN

Our brains take time to update unless we are shown the update

A clever experiment has shown how our brains ignore change or incorporate it into our perceptions only slowly through a “continuity field,” as described below:

Like our social media feeds, our brains are constantly uploading rich, visual stimuli. But instead of seeing the latest image in real time, we actually see earlier versions because our brain’s refresh time is about 15 seconds, according to new UC Berkeley research.

The findings, appearing today, Jan. 12, in the journal Science Advances, add to a growing body of research about the mechanism behind the “continuity field,” a function of perception in which our brain merges what we see on a constant basis to give us a sense of visual stability.

“If our brains were always updating in real time, the world would be a jittery place with constant fluctuations in shadow, light and movement, and we’d feel like we were hallucinating all the time,” said study senior author David Whitney, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology, neuroscience and vision science.

link

The study itself—Illusion of visual stability through active perceptual serial dependence—focus more on the illusion of visual stability:

Despite a noisy and ever-changing visual world, our perceptual experience seems remarkably stable over time. How does our visual system achieve this apparent stability? Here, we introduce a previously unknown visual illusion that shows direct evidence for an online mechanism continuously smoothing our percepts over time. As a result, a continuously seen physically changing object can be misperceived as unchanging.

If you watch the videos in the first link above, you can notice two things: 1) the slowness and blurriness of our perceptual change as we watch the video, and 2) that we can and do accept that change the moment it is shown to us in comparative stills.

I believe it is fair for me to extrapolate from this that our psychologies or, more precisely, our psychological memories do something similar on both points. Though the medium of memory is vastly less crisp than that of visual perception in real-time, a fruitful comparison can be made.

Many old movies are based on the two points mentioned above. The protagonist thinks someone is either bad or good and acts accordingly and then at the climax is shown indisputable proof that the opposite has been true all along. This plot is very common in movies predating WW2 but is still an undercurrent in many movies since then.

Humans like this plot and resolution because it mirrors real life in an ideal way. If only we could resolve similar problems in our own lives so quickly and easily!

This can be done in FIML practice. In fact this is the goal of FIML practice—to update our psychologies or psychological memories (almost the same thing) quickly and in real-time. In FIML practice “real-time” means analysis should begin quickly while the initiating percept is remembered by both partners. Rather than allowing us to proceed with our normal “continuously smoothing our percepts over time,” FIML stops us and forces the update immediately.

I was intrigued to see that the authors of the study notice the time-span of 15 seconds:

We find that online object appearance is captured by past visual experience up to 15 seconds ago. 

This is roughly the “speed” of our working memories. FIML works most of all with the working memory because when we correct a mistake in our working memory or upgrade the data of our working memory while it is still present, we are able to make large changes in our psychologies almost effortlessly. FIML leverages the working memory to make large changes in our whole brain memories. It works well because changing your working memory to fit the obvious reality staring you in the face is easy.

In contrast changing whole brain memories and psychologies through rumination and recollection only entrenches them further and deeper.

While it is very easy to see how this happens visually as in the linked materials; and while it is also easy to see that many old movie plots exploit this feature of our consciousness, it can be hard to see how to do this in real time with our complex psychologies as they are functioning in real-life.

FIML completely solves this problem and yet is still hard for many to see how and why.

The why is psychologically analogous to correcting the illusions produced by our brains “continuously smoothing our percepts over time.” This “continuously smoothing over time” causes most of our psychological problems, often making our lives dingy self-fulfilling prophesies or uninterrupted narcissistic fantasies.

The how is done by pausing real-life in real-time so you can compare your own mind’s percept with your partner’s percept of the same thing and make corrections as warranted. Easy-peasy, right? Actually it is once you see the point.

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.

first posted  

Working memory is key to deep psychological transformation, Part 2

Part 1

Part 3

In science, working memory is generally thought of as either:

  • …the sketchpad of your mind; it’s the contents of your conscious thoughts.”   (Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory)
  • Or “…a core component of higher cognitive functions like planning or language or intelligence.”   (Christos Constantinidis, a professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine) [Source for both]

Obviously, both versions are valuable and probably both are roughly true. Some “contents” of working memory are indeed sketchpad-like—a crack in the sidewalk or a passing bird—while others clearly are “core components of higher cognitive functions” and, I would add, long-term memory including all psychological factors.

Our psychology—be it “natured” or nurtured—functions in real-life in real-time because we remember it. It bears on us because it is in our minds, because it colors our minds, shades our thoughts and actions.

Working memory is key to understanding human psychology because it shows us how we really are functioning, thinking, acting, feeling in real-time.

Working memory is also fleeting. If you want to use working memory to understand your real-life psychology, you have to be able to analyze it in real-time. This means you have to capture its contents and examine them as near to their appearance in working memory as possible.

You can do this alone with good effect, but when you do it alone you are prone to self-referential bias and other mistakes. When you do it with another person, they can help you avoid self-referential mistakes as well as other less serious ones.

This is how FIML practice works and why it is done the way it is. FIML analyzes data discovered in the working memory.

So how do you do that? You do that by immediately noticing when something significant about the other person’s speech or behavior enters in your mind or arises in your working memory. Generally, that something will have psychological impact on you, though you might just be curious or notice it for other reasons.

Whether working memory is an independent sketchpad or a component of higher functions, analyzing whatever you feel like analyzing in it is valuable. Sometimes even very little things can have great psychological import.

Analyses of working memory through FIML practice are most productive when they entail what I have called “psychological morphemes.”

Psychological morphemes are the smallest units of human psychology. Metaphorically, they are a word or a letter as compared to a phrase, a paragraph, or even a book. They are the building blocks of larger psychological structures and also may occur as unique isolates.

Whenever a psychological morpheme appears in working memory, it is always interesting. Psychological morphemes almost always signal the onset of a larger psychological interpretation, one either stored in long-term memory or one arising just now.

By working with any and all psychological morphemes as they appear in your and your partner’s working memories and by working with them repeatedly, both partners will come to understand that some of these psychological morphemes have deep roots in their cognitive systems while others do not.

For example, a fleeting expression or tone you observe in your partner may cause you to feel jealous or disrespected. Do FIML immediately and find out what it was.

It’s either true or false or in-between. If you have a good and honest relationship with your partner, most of the time you will find a negative psychological morpheme that appeared in your working memory was false and that it is part of a psychological habit of yours that has deep roots in other cognitive functions.

A great benefit of FIML is repeated analyses of mistaken psychological morphemes leads to their extirpation, sometimes quickly sometimes more gradually. A second benefit of FIML is it makes all communications between partners much clearer and more satisfying. A third advantage is most of these gains lead to better understanding and competency with all people.

Part 3

first posted NOVEMBER 14, 2018

FIML as a “loose” method of control for chaos in interpersonal communication systems

Interpersonal communication systems can become chaotic when there are misunderstandings. And they can become wildly chaotic when the misunderstandings are serious and/or involve emotional responses.

Normally, in virtually all cultures, out-of-control interpersonal communications are settled by authoritarian decree, by reverting to pre-established roles, by fighting until one side tires, or by ending communication all together.

It is nothing short of tragic when this happens in close relationships during significant or profound communication acts.

FIML is designed to fix communication problems that occur during communications between two (or more) people who care about each other.

FIML is a “loose” method of control in that FIML largely does not have any content. It is a technique that allows partners to discover their own content and their own ways to fix their problems.

As with so many potentially chaotic systems, interpersonal misunderstandings can become wildly unstable for even very small reasons. A single misheard word or a single misinterpreted expression can lead to destructive chaos within the system, no matter how dedicated the communicants may be to each other.

Evidence that supports the use of a “loose” method of control like FIML can be found in this paper: Stalling chaos control accelerates convergence.

To paraphrase from the abstract of that paper and apply their conclusions to FIML, we can say that FIML works “…by stalling the control, thereby taking advantage of the stable directions of the uncontrolled chaotic” system.

By not having a set outcome in mind, by not allowing static interpersonal roles to control the outcome, FIML can succeed in fixing even very serious contretemps between caring partners. FIML accomplishes this by providing partners with a means of achieving a meta-view of their contretemps and from that point of view gently nudging their analysis toward mutual agreement, mutual transformation for both parties based on a complete and completely shared understanding of the unique conditions that generated the problem.

In this, FIML takes “advantage of the stable directions of the uncontrolled chaotic” system. The stable direction is the complete and mutually agreed upon resolution of all aspects of the contretemps. It is a “return” to the stable state of caring that preceded the problem, but a “return” with a significant upgrade because the new stable state will now include the experience of repairing the chaotic state that just passed.

The pleasure in a full FIML resolution can be very great because the semiotic systems of both partners minds will also achieve an upgraded level of stability and awareness. This kind of resolution, clearly, strengthens and resonates with the core of conscious beings who live in the midst of and use (often not so well) semiotics to understand themselves and others.

An article on the study linked above describes the “loose” control method as an “approach that cleverly exploits the natural behaviour of the system.” (See: Control is good, freedom is better)

FIML exploits the natural behavior of two people who seek mutual caring and mutual positive transformation by providing a method that allows them to intelligently deal with the chaos that is 100% bound to arise during some of their acts of communication. Rather than flee from communication due to the fear of chaos, FIML partners have a reliable method of controlling it and reestablishing harmony on a higher, better level.

first posted OCTOBER 2, 2013

Advanced FIML

It is of paramount importance that FIML partners learn to use the basic FIML technique described here: How to do FIML.

Even very advanced partners should be using the basic technique most of the time.

This is because most mix-ups are fundamentally simple and/or are based on something quite simple. And this happens because of how humans use and process language. Basically, our limbic system is too closely connected to our neocortex. Our emotional reactions have a strong tendency to overwhelm our capacities for good listening and rational analysis.

Mix-ups are 100% completely guaranteed for all people because all of us have learned to speak non-FIML languages. And even after we are able to do FIML, we will still readily slip back into non-FIML reactions.

It’s no one’s fault. We are primitive beings with poor control of both language and our emotional reactions to it.

That said, advanced FIML partners will find themselves regularly engaging in FIML discussions that may be continued for days and that will refer to factors that lie outside of the basic data described in the basic technique.

As partners progress, they will come to better understand the complexity of their interactions while noticing that some dynamic features between them tend to repeat. It’s good to keep a record in your minds of those features or routines that tend to recur. These are the idiosyncratic dynamics of your Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistic reality.

Yes, some of these dynamic features can and will be generalizable to other couples, but the mixture of all of them together will largely be unique to the two of you.

FIML is not about telling you what to think or believe. It is, rather, a technique that will help you and your partner achieve optimum communication and mutual understanding with each other.

FIML partners must learn the basic technique and they must use it frequently because all other discussions will require it. That said, advanced FIML partners should also expect to engage in FIML discussions that go well beyond the basic technique in length, complexity, and the factors considered.

first posted DECEMBER 24, 2011

Random notes on FIML

Sometimes things become clearer when we have just a bit of information, or several small bits. A single detail can sometimes make us perceive the whole in ways we had not before; we may notice connections we had not noticed or recall pertinent memories that had been submerged. I hope the following short notes will be helpful in this way.

  • When we speak to someone, we speak to what we think is in their mind. FIML practice helps us know with much greater accuracy what is in the mind of the person we are speaking to.
  • FIML helps us avoid the worry of wondering if our partner is bothered by something we said (or did) because we know that if they are, they will bring it up.
  • FIML allows far more leeway in how we speak to our partner. It allows us to speak creatively and exploratorily with our partner. We can speak tentatively without the need for strongly expressed conclusions. We can share doubt, wonder, uncertainty with our partner.
  • Our minds are dynamic processes. FIML helps us access the dynamism of our minds in the moment with our partner. We can share and communicate dynamic states without clinging to static interpretations.
  • Interpretations of what others say or of what we think they are saying are all too often static interpretations based on things that happened in the past. With FIML practice, by simply asking, we avoid making harmful or mistaken interpretations. There is no need to guess at what our partner means, and every reason not to.
  • If you wonder what your partner means but don’t ask, you will still make some sort of interpretation. If you don’t ask them because you think it might feel awkward, you are still making an interpretation and limiting your understanding of yourself and your partner.
  • Neuroses (ongoing mistaken interpretations) are fed in the moment. Conversations move quickly and are dynamic. If we withhold a FIML query from our partner, we will almost certainly feed one of our ongoing mistaken interpretations of them, we will strengthen our own neurosis and miss a chance for mutual liberation from it.
  • When we speak or listen, we all tend to be self-centered, in a neutral sense of the term. I don’t mean selfish here, but simply self-centered. When we listen, we tend to listen first of all to how our partner’s speech impacts us. Did I do something wrong? Did I do something right? Will that cost me energy or money? Does that refer to me somehow? Our fundamental self-centeredness  is based on being in a body and having a mental autobiography. There is nothing wrong with that unless we use it mistakenly as an integral part of our interpretation of what our partner is saying. If you are wondering if their comments are being directed, subtly or not, at you, just ask them. If you don’t ask, you will either come to a conclusion based on insufficient information or you will continue to wonder about what they said. In either case you will be wasting both your own energy and your partner’s. It’s always “cheaper” (more energy efficient, more truth efficient) to do a FIML query than to avoid it.
  • It’s always “cheaper” (more energy efficient, more truth efficient) to do a FIML query than to avoid it.
first posted NOVEMBER 16, 2011

The elephant in the room of human communication

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 …if a manager at work is grimacing because they are sitting in an uncomfortable chair, a person with increased oxytocin levels may think the manager is negatively reacting to what they are saying instead, which may potentially cause issues in the workplace.

Recent research at Concordia University in Canada has concluded that giving oxytocin to “healthy young adults” may not work. See High oxytocin levels ‘trigger oversensitivity to emotions of others’ for more as well as for the source of the quote above.

I don’t particularly doubt these research findings, but do believe that a much deeper problem—the elephant in the room—is lying right next to them.

And that problem is everyone is frequently faced with puzzles like the one cited above and no one has sufficient “emotional intelligence” or “social reasoning skills” to figure many of them out. All people frequently make mistakes in situations like these.

True, some do better than others and we probably can abstract a bell curve for this via some sort of test.

How do we define “oversensitivity?” Why would emotional sensitivity be a bad thing?

In the example linked above, it is true that most employees will never have an opportunity to ask their bosses why they are looking one way or another. But if they don’t even notice the possibility that their boss is reacting negatively, they are limiting their understanding of the world around them.

Language, facial expressions, and tone of voice in real-world communications are crude tools. There is no way around this fact. There is no “right sensitivity” or “right understanding” of any of these communicative signs that is out there somewhere. There is no stable standard for communication except in highly defined settings and contexts.

I tend to be against taking drugs for emotional “problems,” so I am not advocating supplementing your diet with oxytocin. My concern is how do you deal with communicative ambiguity? I guarantee that ambiguity is common in virtually all communicative acts.

If the ambiguity, such as the one cited above, occurs in an employment situation, should you be judged “emotionally sensitive” and in-touch with your “innate social reasoning skills” if you don’t notice it? Are you supposed to comprehend on the fly that your manager is sitting in an uncomfortable chair? How would you know that?

How could you possibly know for sure what your manager is thinking or feeling? It’s less likely but not inconceivable that your manager  is a nut who intends to attack you after work or fire you next week. There is no standard by which you can judge and be certain of what they feel or are thinking.

In intimate personal relations you can achieve certainty, or close to it, by practicing FIML with your partner.

If you and your partner do not do FIML or something like it, you will be more or less forced to cleave to some sort of “normal standard” for communication. But a “normal standard” for all communicative acts is not just elusive, it doesn’t exist.

This is the even bigger elephant in the room of psychological studies; indeed of all cultures everywhere. No standard for intimate communication exists outside of the one(s) you make for yourselves. If you leave too much to vague notions like “emotional sensitivity” or “emotional intelligence” without having the tools to actually comprehend communicative acts, you will consign yourself to many pointless misunderstandings, any one of which has the potential to snowball and disrupt your relationship.

first posted JANUARY 23, 2014

Why FIML queries need to be asked quickly

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A fascinating Swedish study claims to show that:

…the sense of agency for speech has a strong inferential component, and that auditory feedback of one’s own voice acts as a pathway for semantic monitoring, potentially overriding other feedback loops.

The source of that quote can be found here: Speakers’ Acceptance of Real-Time Speech Exchange Indicates That We Use Auditory Feedback to Specify the Meaning of What We Say.

In an article about the study above—People Rely on What They Hear to Know What They’re Saying—lead author Andreas Lind says that he is aware that the conditions of their research did not allow for anything resembling real conversational dynamics and that he hopes to study “…situations that are more social and spontaneous — investigating, for example, how exchanged words might influence the way a… conversation develops.”

FIML partners will surely recognize that without the monitoring of their FIML practice many conversations would veer off into mutually discordant interpretations and that many of these veerings-off are due to nothing more than sloppy or ambiguous speech or listening.

If speakers have to listen to themselves to monitor what they are saying and still misspeak with surprising frequency, then instances of listeners mishearing must be even more frequent since listeners (normally) do not have any way to check what they are hearing or how they are interpreting it in real-time.

That is, listeners who do not do FIML. FIML practice is designed to correct mistakes of both speaking and listening in real-time. FIML queries must be asked quickly because speakers can only accurately remember what was in their mind when they spoke for a short period of time, usually just a few seconds.

The Swedish study showed that in a great many cases words that speakers had not spoken “were experienced as self-produced.” That is speakers can be fooled into thinking they said something they had not said. How much more does our intention for speaking get lost in the rickety dynamics of real conversation?

This study is small but I believe it is showing what happens when we speak (and listen). Most of the time, and even when we are being careful, we make a good many mistakes and base our interpretations of ourselves and others on those mistakes. I do not see another way to correct this very common problem except by doing FIML or something very much like it.

In future, I hope there will be brain scan technology that will be accurate enough to let us see how poorly our perceptions of what we are saying or hearing match reality and/or what others think we are saying or hearing.

It is amazing to me that human history has gone on for so many centuries with no one having offered a way to fix this problem which leads to so many disasters.

first posted APRIL 30, 2014

Retroactive Revision

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Retroactive revision means changing what you said. Anyone can do it but retroactive revision is especially designed for FIML partners. Partners can use it whenever they feel a statement they have made has boxed them into a corner or is making the conversation take a turn they had wanted to avoid.

For example, you say “I like XYZ cars the best.” What you actually meant is I very much like XYZ cars. Your partner starts talking as if you really mean you like them the best. This is a very simple example, but sometimes it can be difficult to keep things on track even with a simple mix-up like this.

If you feel your partner is wasting time talking about the good points of other cars to show you that XYZ may not be the best, just say you want to retroactively revise what you first said. Say: “I want to retroactively revise what I said. I want to change my initial statement to I very much like XYZ cars. I didn’t actually mean I like them the best of all cars; I was exaggerating, I guess.” Your partner will understand that you were using words loosely and that they need not take your original statement literally. They will change their tack and your conversation will become more in keeping with what you really think and feel.

Once learned, that technique will give both partners a lot of freedom. It’s relaxing to know you can easily change what you have said to be more in line with the thinking that has evolved in your mind since you made your initial statement.

As with most FIML techniques, FIML partners should do retroactive revisions the moment they feel a jangle that their partner may have misunderstood them. If it turns out your partner did not misunderstand, there is still a major benefit for both partners because the mistaken impression you had about your partner will not cause any further confusion for either of you.

first posted MARCH 29, 2012

Pre-emptying

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Pre-emptying means excluding something from consideration during a conversation. Anyone can use this term/technique, but it is especially useful for FIML partners who have come to realize that they are spending a lot of time trying to control how they are being understood. Whether they are indeed being misunderstood in subtle ways or not does not matter all that much because, as we know, if one partner even thinks they are being misunderstood, it is definitely best to do something about it.

Pre-emptying is used when one partner does not feel the need to do a full-on FIML query because they do not see anything serious happening. They are not very much concerned about any potential misunderstanding and do not feel a serious neurosis is involved. All they want to do is avoid some kinds of interpretations from occurring in their partner’s mind. They want to prevent the conversation from going in a wrong direction.

For example, you want to say something about a hot political topic but do not want to discuss that topic at length. You just want to point out that, say, so-and-so said exactly the same thing two years ago. To do that you say: I want to pre-empty my next topic of all political argumentation or further analysis. I just want to point something out and use that example to say something else. Your partner will understand that this is not the time to bring up other things about that subject. They will understand that you are going to say something with a special purpose.

Yesterday, we had a post about retroactive revision. Retroactive revision can be used in conjunction with pre-emptying to deeply rework a conversation so that it can conform more closely to your current understanding and not be held back by discarded ideas or the need to keep making small distinctions. An example of how to do this with a topic that has included material from your own life is this–just say: I want to retroactively revise what we have been saying about topic QRX and pre-empty that subject of all of the autobiographical examples I have used so far. I no longer think they apply and may be seriously misleading. So from now on, this topic does not contain any reference to the autobiographical statements I have made and statements that were made are now retroactively pre-emptied from it.

This may sound like a lot of verbiage, but it just takes a few sentences to say. The special terms will alert your partner that you are using a meta-control technique to reconfigure your conversation. With a little practice, you will both see that using this method saves a great deal of time and makes conversations much more interesting since neither of you has to waste time explaining and re-explaining the same things. The more meta-control you can gain over your conversations, the better.

On this site we have frequently emphasized the importance of catching small mistakes and identifying them as the first germs of a new neurosis or as a micro-instance of an ongoing neurosis. That is all still true, but experienced FIML partners will eventually come realize that some of their mix-ups are occurring simply because that is how language works. This meta-understanding arises from having successfully resolved enough FIML discussions that both partners can see the same sort of thing happening and neither partner feels any (or hardly any) emotional jangling regarding it.

For example, if I start to talk about a difficult relative and introduce the topic in a vague sort of way (which is very common/normal), my partner may mistake my intentions (which may be only vague in my own mind) and start talking about some aspect of that relative’s problems that will lead away from what I really wanted to say (which is coming into clearer focus for me only now). My partner’s misunderstanding of my vague conversational gambits are not neurotic. They might become neurotic if either of us fails to understand how they have arisen, but at this point in a new conversation, they are nothing more than normal potential associations on what I first said.

To forestall neurotic development and make everything much more pleasant and interesting, at this point, I need only say that I want to pre-empty the topic of anything that may lead away from what I was aiming at. In most cases, your partner will be quite willing to do that. If they see something else to say about it, there is no problem; just discuss it with them.

Pre-emptying, as with all FIML techniques, requires high levels of honesty and integrity from both partners. Partners who are in a stable relationship should not find it all that difficult to treat each other with honesty and integrity. To be clear, no FIML technique should be used to deceive or take advantage. Watch yourself carefully because the ego is biased and it is natural for all speakers and listeners to act from a self-centered position. Properly done, FIML can easily deal with those very normal aspects of being human.

Note: The term pre-emptying recalls the English word “preempt” and the Buddhist term “empty”. We are using a new term because we are doing something different from preempting or realizing the emptiness of something. At the same time, pre-emptying is sort of close to both of those concepts.

first posted MARCH 30, 2012

The agony of speaking

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My SO and I are doing some painting. Mostly it’s fun, but as we discuss colors and color combinations, it has become glaringly obvious that it can be extremely difficult to talk about what we want but easy to convey our ideas by showing an example of what we want.

I wanted to do something in brown. Words flew all over the room but got us no closer to mutual understanding, let alone agreement. We looked at color charts on the computer but couldn’t agree on what we meant by saturation, muted, lighter, or darker.

My SO, who is much better with color than I am, thought the meanings of those terms were obvious. “You’re overthinking this! You must know what lighter and darker mean!”

“Not when I consider luminescence or saturation, I don’t. I really don’t.”

Is a red-brown lighter or darker than a blue-brown? More or less saturated? I honestly was lost in the terminology and was driving my poor SO crazy.

After several days of this, at some point I noticed my wallet lying on the table. “This is what I mean,” I said. “I want a color like this.” The wallet was a well-worn, dark, leathery brown.

She immediately knew what I was talking about now. “What you want is a really dark brown… that’s almost a black.”

Excited, we went back to the color chart (which has 3,500 color variations) and looked into a different classification of browns. Low and behold, the darkest one available—Tarpley Brown—is exactly what I wanted.

So,  I had something in my mind’s eye but failed repeatedly to convey it to my SO through the use of language. She tried to figure out what I meant but kept searching for a more woody sort of brown while becoming increasingly confused by my groping attempts at description.

From this, we can see how difficult it is to understand other people or even ourselves. Many important aspects of being human simply do not have clear examples in the world around us and are much more difficult to put into words than a color.

first posted JULY 15, 2020

Our psychologies are unnecessarily confined within narrow ranges of meaning and understanding

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Human psychology is greatly affected by human language. Since humans normally use language rather crudely and almost always are confined within meanings already established in language, their psychologies are fundamentally both crude and unnecessarily confined within narrow ranges of meaning and understanding.

This causes emotionality, discord, dependence, frustration, anger, and violence. Our normal uses of language often stimulate basic instincts that we either have to control or be controlled by.

I usually discuss this problem as it occurs during interpersonal conversation, where it is generally most serious and where our “personalities” are generally formed. But it also exists in texting, emails, news stories, and even scientific peer reviewed papers.

The basic underlying problem is we do not communicate well, almost no one does. Even very articulate, well-educated, intelligent people with good upbringings and admirable personalities have this problem. In fact, they often have it even worse than everyone else because their considerable skills have trapped them even worse.

The trap is using established meaning or interpretation to override mistakes in interpersonal communication. The established meaning can be learned from others or self-generated. Either way, when it is used to override mistakes in communication (and this happens often) the person is trapped in a labyrinth of false references: the lived and learned matrix of their personality; the neuronal structures of idiosyncratic memories and behaviors that constantly misguide the sufferer through a tautological existence.

When data is bad the output will be bad. When interpersonal data is bad, and far too much of it is, the output in speech, listening, and cogitating will be bad. When everyone is like this, the output will be horrendous. Look around you at our world as it becomes less truthful and more absurd daily. The root cause is massive amounts of uncorrected bad data at all levels of society.

My contribution toward fixing this mess is FIML, which deals “only” with the enormous problems of close or intimate interpersonal communication.

When two people do FIML conscientiously, all of their problems born of long histories of many mistakes can be cleared up. If you want to do this, if you want to optimize your being; find a good partner and do FIML. As of today, there is no other way. If you can see the problem, you will understand why FIML works. If you do FIML even without fully understanding it, you will still fix the problem and will eventually come to see how it’s not just your problem: all people everywhere have it and have always had it. I do not know why I am the first person to provide a solution to it.

The problem is very obvious but it is so big and widespread, people either do not see it or believe it cannot be fixed.

Metacognition and real-time communication

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Metacognition means “awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes,” or “cognition about cognition,” or “being able to think about how you think.”

To me, metacognition is a premier human ability. How can it not be a good thing to be aware of how you are aware and how you think and respond to what is around you?

In more detail:

The term “metacognition” is most often associated with John Flavell, (1979). According to Flavell (1979, 1987), metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences or regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired knowledge about cognitive processes, knowledge that can be used to control cognitive processes. Flavell further divides metacognitive knowledge into three categories: knowledge of person variables, task variables and strategy variables. (Source)

Most people do metacognition and are aware of doing it. We do it when we plan, make decisions, decide how to get from one place to another, how to relate to one person differently from another, and so on.

Where we don’t do metacognition is in real-time communication in real life, where it matters most. This is not because we are not able to do it. It is because very few of us have the right technique, Flavell’s “acquired knowledge” that allows us to do it.

If we have the right technique, we will be able to gain a great deal of knowledge about real-time cognitive process while also learning how to control them.

FIML practice is a metacognitive practice based on, to quote the above source, “acquired knowledge about cognitive processes… that can be used to control cognitive processes.”

In the case of FIML, the “acquired knowledge” is the FIML technique which allows us to gain conscious “control over cognitive processes” of real-time interpersonal communication.

FIML is different from other analytical communication techniques in that FIML provides a method to gain control over very short or small units of communication in real-time. This is important as it is these very short real-time units that are most often ignored or not dealt with in most analyses of human communication.

If you know how to catch small mistakes, they become sources of insight and humor. If you don’t know how to catch them, they often snowball into destructive misunderstandings.

FIML is fairly easy to do if you understand the importance of correcting the minor misinterpretations that inevitably arise between people when they speak and communicate. By using the FIML metacognitive method, partners gain control over the most elusive kinds of interpersonal error which all too often lead to serious interpersonal discord.

FIML can and does do more than catch small mistakes, but first things first. If you cannot correct small errors in real-time communication, you are not doing anything even resembling thorough metacognitive communication.

first posted JUNE 11, 2015

Study supports FIML practice

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This study—Neural Correlates of People’s Hypercorrection of Their False Beliefs—supports the contention that FIML practice can produce deep, wide-ranging, and enduring changes within the brain/mind of practitioners.

The basic finding of the study is:

Despite the intuition that strongly held beliefs are particularly difficult to change, the data on error correction indicate that general information errors that people commit with a high degree of belief are especially easy to correct. (Emphasis added.)

According to the study, this happens due to:

…enhanced attention and encoding that results from a metacognitive mismatch between the person’s confidence in their responses and the true answer.

This is exactly what happens when a FIML query shows the questioner that his/her assumptions about what their partner’s thoughts or intentions were were wrong.

Initially, FIML partners may experience some embarrassment or disbelief at being wrong. But since FIML queries are generally based on negative impressions, after some practice being shown to be wrong will typically produce feelings of relief and even delight.

A FIML query will generally arise out of a state of “enhanced attention” and usually further increase it by being spoken about. Incidentally, this is probably the most difficult aspect of FIML practice—controlling the emotions that accompany enhanced attention, especially when that attention concerns our own emotional reactions.

With continued practice of FIML, however, even strongly held erroneous interpersonal beliefs will be fairly easily corrected whenever they are discovered during a FIML discussion. Correcting core false beliefs (mistaken interpretations) has a wide-ranging, beneficial effect on all aspects of a person’s life.

Since the hypercorrection effect discussed in the linked study only occurs during moments of enhanced attention, the FIML technique of focusing quickly on good data agreed upon by both partners can be seen as a way of inducing states of enhanced attention that will lead to deep changes in both partners. This technique (using good data) also turns the discussion from one about feelings to one about “information,” which the study finds makes errors “especially easy to correct.”

Furthermore, since FIML practice tends to deal with very small incidents, the enhanced attention FIML induces works like a laser that quickly and painlessly excises erroneous thoughts and feelings while they are still small and have not been allowed to grow into full-blown emotional reactions.

first posted OCTOBER 31, 2015