Reduction of neurosis through immediate feedback

A recent study has found that persecutory delusions can be reduced by simulating fear-inducing situations in virtual reality.

patients who fully tested out their fears in virtual reality by lowering their defences showed very substantial reductions in their paranoid delusions. After the virtual reality therapy session, over 50% of these patients no longer had severe paranoia at the end of the testing day. (Oxford study finds virtual reality can help treat severe paranoia)

The crux of what happened is patients faced and “fully tested out their fears.”

The virtual reality environment allowed them to “lower their defenses” enough to see that their initial fears were wrong. That they were mistakes.

Few people suffer full-blown persecutory delusions on the scale of the patients in this experiment, but I would maintain that all people everywhere suffer from “mistaken interpretations” that manifest as neuroses or delusions.

The virtual reality in the Oxford study allows for patients to face their “mistakes” (their exaggerated fears) and this is what reduces their paranoia.

The technique works because patients receive immediate feedback in real-time.

As they perceive in real-time that their delusions are not justified, they are reduced dramatically.

In FIML practice, a similar result is achieved through the FIML query and response with a caring partner.

All people are riddled with “mistaken interpretations” that wrongly define their sense of who they are and what is going on around them.

A basic tenet of FIML is that immediate truthful feedback reduces and eventually extirpates these mistakes.

FIML allows people to “lower their defenses” by focusing on micro-units of communication as they arise in real-time.

The study is here: Virtual reality in the treatment of persecutory delusions: randomised controlled experimental study testing how to reduce delusional conviction.

I believe the findings of this study lend support to the theory of FIML practice:

FIML practice eliminates neuroses because it shows individuals, through real data, that their (neurotic) interpretation(s) of their partner are mistaken.

Psychological optimization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, you have to learn how to do FIML.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your psychology needs similar kinds of input.

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

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

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


Repost: Disruption of neurotic response in FIML practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foundations of psychology: what they should be

Human psychology should be separated into two basic categories:

  • biological
  • experiential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The client must remove them through a practice like FIML.

Our current understanding of human psychology is largely delusional

Human psychology is formed through interactions with other humans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brain in a box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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