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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fitst posted

Micro-aggression or micro-aguessin’?

Do FIML practice successfully 25 times and you will understand how wrong the notion of micro-aggression is. Not only wrong but also destructive to self and other. Rather than have us probe own minds, micro-aggression asks us to assert a false interpretation of someone else’s mind. From a Buddhist point of view, micro-aggression turns us 180 degrees away from wisdom and enlightenment.

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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Indeterminacy of translation and FIML

I betray my poor education by admitting that I had never heard of W. V. Quine’s “indeterminacy of translation” until last week*. My ignorance is especially egregious as I have worked as a professional translator for many years.

Maybe I had heard about it but had forgotten. I am being self-reflective because FIML practice is deeply, fundamentally concerned with the “indeterminacy” of translating one person’s thoughts into another person’s head.

Quine’s thesis is not just about translating from one language to another, though there is that. It is much more about the fundamental impossibility of determining what anything means well enough to “translate” it into another context, a next sentence, into another person’s mind, or even “translating” your own speech from the past into the context of your mind today.

If I had known about Quine, I probably never would have thought of FIML because his ideas and the slews of papers written on “indeterminacy of translation” surely would have made me believe that the subject had been worked through.

As it was, I have plodded along in a delightful state of ignorance and, due to that, maybe added something practical to the subject.

In the first place, I wholeheartedly believe that speech is filled with indeterminacy, which I have generally called ambiguity or uncertainty. In the second place, I have confined my FIML-related investigations mainly to interpersonal speech between partners who care about each other. I see no solution to the more general problem of indeterminacy within groups, subcultures, or linguistic communities. Until brain scans get much better, large groups will be forced to resort to hierarchical “determinacy” to exist or function at all.

For individuals, though, there is much we can do. FIML practice does not remove all “indeterminacy.” Rather, it removes much more than most people are aware is possible, even remotely aware is possible. My guess is FIML communication provides a level of detail and resolution that is an order of magnitude or two better than non-FIML.

That is a huge improvement. It is life-changing on many levels and extremely satisfying.

FIML does not fix everything—and philosophical or “artistic” differences between partners are still possible—but it does fix a great deal. By clearing up interpersonal micro-indeterminacy again and again, FIML practice frees partners from the inevitable macro-problems that micro-ambiguity inevitably causes.

Moreover, this freedom, in turn, frees partners from a great deal of subconscious adhesion to the hierarchical “determinacy” of whichever culture they are part of. Rather than trapping themselves in a state of helpless acceptance of predefined hierarchical “meaning,” FIML partners have the capacity to sort through existential semiotics and make of them what they will with far less “indeterminacy,” or ambiguity, than had been possible without FIML practice.

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*that would not be over five years ago now

Culture is the context of the languages we speak

Stated more clearly: Culture is nothing more than the context of the languages we speak.

In this sense culture defines our words and phrases; and in this sense, our psychologies.

This means that if you think or feel something, you probably can find a way to speak about it unless you are trapped within the context of your language.

For example, just think of anything you are afraid or embarrassed to talk about.

For some of those topics, you may have a friend (or stranger) with whom you are able to speak. Very traumatic experiences can be exceptionally difficult to speak about because they tend to be unique or uniquely horrific; so normal language in almost all contexts won’t get you there. You will feel inhibited, tongue-tied, embarrassed, afraid, timid, mute, isolated.

Traumatic experiences are an extreme example of how culture/context is not able to overlay all of our experiences. This is a core reason we turn to professional listeners—therapists, clergy, etc—to deal with trauma, though often we are even afraid of them.

Artists also provide us with unique experiences set in unique contexts. If well-done, or more importantly well-publicized, art may change the culture/context for many speakers. In this area, goodness lives alongside propaganda and hype. Many speakers feed the frenzy and feed on it.

In Buddhism, speech is a vessel of delusion as well as enlightenment. Buddhism provides an excellent context for speech because it fully recognizes the meta-contexts of impermanence, emptiness, ignorance, delusion, and suffering.

If you have experienced trauma, as we all have (it’s relative), you are in a good place to understand that traumas can be very small yet agonizing. And they can repeat often, causing constant suffering, sleeplessness, helplessness.

If we can see that traumas, both small and large, are outliers from whatever culture we are in, then we can also see that the way forward is to make our culture into something that can speak about them.

When culture is as small as one person—you alone—you can be free in many ways but also will get stuck on your traumas. With no way to speak about them with others, they will distort your thinking, carry weight they should not have. Disturb everything you do.

When culture is as large as two people, great freedom is possible. Two people just need to realize this. If they do, it’s a small step to realize that profound cooperation solves their  cultural “prisoners’ dilemma” better any other solution.

I cannot escape my trauma if I lie to you because my context will instantly become inauthentic, stultified fully as badly as my trauma always has been. So, I won’t do that. And you, my partner, are as smart as me so you won’t either.

Cultures are contexts for languages because cultures have rules. A two-person culture also needs rules. Best to figure most of them out for yourselves but also best to start with some very important basics. And these are: meta-cognitive rules that allow for accurate meta-communication.

Here is a set of rules that can start you off on a new way to communicate: How to do FIML.

Jangles and triggers

I have just updated How to do FIML by adding the following paragraph:

I am using the word jangle rather than trigger because the word trigger normally places too much responsibility on the speaker. A jangle should be understood as an internal emotional or psychological trigger that the listener 100% owns until it has been queried about. In most cases, partners will find that their jangles largely or entirely belong to their own psychologies and not their partner’s.

 

A major unit of psycholinguistics that I have not seen described: convertations

When we consider psycholinguistics from the point of view of interpersonal communication (especially psychologically rich communication) we can identify a unit of communication that springs from the working memory as it indexes deeper and more extensive information stored elsewhere in the mind/brain.

This unit of communication is used to start a conversation and then maintain it.

For example, my partner recently had a performance review at her job. This morning I asked her about it. When I asked her, I intended to start a conversation. Along with my intention, I knew a few things:

  • that she would be interested in the topic
  • that she would have new information
  • that I knew a good deal about it but not as much as her
  • that we would almost certainly engage in a conversation that is of practical as well as psychological interest to both of us

In raising the subject, I held an amorphous notion in my working memory roughly described by the text just above. I embarked on the subject with a pointed yet open-ended question, “So how is the job review going…”

That question signaled in my mind, and it turns out in may partner’s as well, that I wanted to converse with her about her job review.

I want to call what I did there the initiation of a convertation,(which is the word conversation with a “t” in place of the “s”). I am using a special term because I want to isolate and describe it as a psycholinguistic unit of major importance to both speech and psychology.

I submit that a convertation, which the above is merely a single example of, is a major psycholinguistic unit; a major piece of psychology and language both together and separately.

A convertation springs from the working memory where it appears as an index of much more. Many convertations could be described as “gambits,” but gambits are only one type.

Loosely speaking, a convertation includes an intention, a purpose, somewhat defined content, and open-endedness. In the example above:

  • My intention was to converse with my partner, listen to her speak, enjoy the morning, have fun talking with her, and find out how her job review was going.
  • My purpose was to get new information and assess how the review was affecting her and if I had any role to play in it.
  • The content (once it began) of now our convertation was the job review and my partner’s psychological responses toward it. Less important but also significant were my psychological responses to hers.
  • The open-endedness could be anything sparked by the original premise of the convertation.

In the case above, everything went smoothly. My partner was not stressed by the review. It seemed to be going well. I felt some relief but was not surprised. At some point, we began a discussion of why her employer did the review the way they did. Lastly, I said our talking constituted a good example of what I mean by convertation.

Convertations can be fruitful and very pleasant as in the above example. Or they can be fraught with dangerous misunderstandings, misplaced emotions, psychological and linguistic harm.

Sometimes a convertation constitutes an entire conversation. Sometimes a convertation is a sub-unit of a larger conversation. If you isolate convertations and view them as units in themselves, sharper distinctions can be made about how and why people speak to each other.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: a discussion

Linked below is a thoughtful discussion of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).

Personally, I think we all have CPTSD for how can the basic needs of a child (acceptance and security) ever be fully met?

A core aspect of Buddhist mindfulness training is noticing disturbing psychological responses the moment they arise. The ways these responses are dealt with and cured is a major focus of Buddhist practice.

The discussion linked below explores mindfulness in CPTSD therapy. It also describes the therapeutic concept “co-regulation,” which entails two people mindfully regulating or curing unwanted stressors together. (FIML does that extremely well, btw.)

Here’s the discussion. It’s a good read.

-Behaviors serve a purpose and are maladaptive attempts to meet an unmet need and trauma survivors generally have maladaptive behaviors which came from shame and recreate shame. If you struggle with an eating disorder, substances, or other compulsive or destructive behaviors, honor the need you were trying to get met, the feeling you were trying to feel/not feel, and work on addressing that in a substantial way instead of focusing on controlling symptoms or shaming yourself for “bad” behavior

-our childhood relationship solutions are our adult relationship problems. Complex trauma is attachment trauma, so we are all impacted primarily in our ways of relating to ourselves and others. Be gentle with yourself for the childhood solutions (fawning, complying, running, clinging, manipulating, avoiding, etc) that are now causing adult relationship problems. Don’t label yourself as co dependent or rush yourself to not feel what you feel – you’ve been programmed this way and it takes conscious unlearning and practice to create new patterns

-there is nothing wrong with craving deep, meaningful, secure relationships. We are meant to be connected and healing takes place not just in our relationship with ourselves but our relationship with others. Often children with complex trauma will develop one of two attitudes to cope. A) if I’m good enough I’ll be lovable or B) fine I don’t need these people anyways. If you need love and the needs are unmet those needs become so painful we sometimes shut them down, which creates inner tension because the deep need for attachment and love never truly goes away, it’s just repressed. Unfortunately, some “recovery from co-dependency” can mimic this message of needing to be independent, self sufficient, and shut down the need for co-regulation and attachment.

-co dependency isn’t about your relationship with anyone else,‘ it’s about a lack of a relationship with yourself

-identifying and healing my nervous system and attachment patterns and rebuilding self trust are the two most important parts of my healing (The main things I’ve learned as a CPTSD survivor and trauma therapist so far)

Facial expressions: we often read them wrong and then make huge mistakes

Both emotions and facial expressions are ancient instincts.

Human language and cognition have grown well-beyond ancient instincts. Grown beyond but also still affected by.

We have become more complex.

Today, we not only read instincts, we also read instincts into other people’s cognition through what they say, how they say it, how it sounds, how their faces move.

Which micro-expression is the right one?

The truth is we don’t know. Our readings of facial expressions in real-time, real-world situations are often wrong, often tragically.

Our cognition has advanced beyond our instincts but generally speaking it has not advanced far enough for us to generally recognize this fact.

Cultures and social groups deal with the ambiguity of facial expressions by being formal, wearing masks, emphasizing “face” or “saving face,” promoting respect or strong egos that can sell themselves through assertion of meaning, Botox, makeup, boobs, etc.

I think it is arguable that many/most/all people take on and use religion or philosophy in order to provide themselves with a generalizable set of emotions and facial expressions that can be employed in many situations. In this we can see how the architecture of our cognition (our philosophy/religion) is connected to our emotions and facial expressions.

Obviously, our reading of other people’s faces and emotions is not always wrong. If it were we wouldn’t do it at all. But our readings are wrong often enough that tragic mistakes are frequently made.

It is a pity that these truths are not more widely recognized. Browse almost any psychological forum and you will find many comments concerning the anguish people feel at having a condition that is widely misunderstood or misread.

At least they know what is going on.

This morning I saw this article: NEVER trust a person’s face: Scientists say it is ‘completely baloney’ that you can read people’s emotions from their expressions.

And that led me to search for this paper: Emotional Expressions Reconsidered: Challenges to Inferring Emotion From Human Facial Movements.

I am sure most, if not all, psychologists recognize the basic problem of our poor abilities at reading emotions, tone of voice, gesture, and even what we mean at all when we speak and act.

Does anyone know what to do about it?

Global Workspace Theory and mistake awareness & 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.

Game theory and trust

The game linked below explains some basics of game theory and also some basics of why FIML practice works so well.

The game can be found at this link: The Evolution of Trust.

I highly recommend playing this game. It takes about thirty minutes to finish.

For the first part of it, I was only mildly interested though the game is reasonably engaging.

When it got a point where communication mistakes are factored in, I sat up and took notice.

The game is a very simple computer model of some very simple basic choices human beings make all the time. Without giving away too much, even this simple model shows something I bet most of us can already see.

And that is: zero-sum games do not give rise to trust. Win-win games do.

What was most interesting to me is the game also shows that communication mistakes foster trust if there are not too many of them.

Accepting mistakes in communication requires trust. Mistakes happen. When two people accept that in each other and in themselves, trust grows.

This is a very important point and a foundation of FIML practice.

In fact, I would say that mistakes foster trust even more in FIML than other communication games. This happens because in FIML mistakes are isolated in such a way that they can be fully recognized and understood for what they are.

This provides a method for solving immediate problems while also building a foundation for the inevitable occurrence of future ones. Moreover, the kinds of mistakes people make become less stupid.

In many respects, the game of FIML is largely one of recognizing communication mistakes or potential mistakes as soon as they arise, within seconds of their onset.

By doing that FIML shows us how our deep psychology is actually functioning in real-life. Multiple insights into this aspect of psychology are transformational.

Autocatalytic systems

An autocatalytic system is a system that can “catalyze its own production”. Autocatalytic systems are usually called “autocatalytic sets”, but for our purposes using the word system may make the concept clearer.

FIML is an autocatalytic system that allows partners to reestablish the terms of their relationship, their psychologies, and their comprehension of the world around them. Strictly speaking, FIML is a non-autonomous autocatalytic set because FIML uses an abundance of language and ideas that come from outside of itself.

FIML is a small set of precise behaviors that allow partners to communicate with great clarity and without interpersonal ambiguity. Interpersonal ambiguity is the cause of much suffering. FIML does not tell partners what to think or what to believe. It simply provides them with a set of tools that gives them the means to develop in ways that seem best to them.

FIML is primarily a communication technique, but the discoveries it leads to will cause partners to remake their understandings of who they are and how they understand themselves. Once partners have learned the system, they will find that it autocatalyzes, causing them to remake themselves with a freedom that had not been possible before.

FIML differs greatly from mainstream psychology because mainstream psychology is not autocatalytic. It is analytical, theoretical, or medical. The individual sufferer seeks a professional who diagnoses their “problem” based on a static standard and then prescribes medication or some kind of therapy that will also be provided by an expert. In contrast, FIML teaches partners how to communicate with sufficient clarity to comprehend themselves. As it autocatalyzes, FIML quite naturally leads partners to make beneficial changes in themselves as they discover new meanings in each other and the world around them.

I had been searching for a word like autocatalytic for some time. This morning I came across the following piece, which led to this post: The Single Theory That Could Explain Emergence, Organisation And The Origin of Life. The study on which that article is based can be found here: The Structure of Autocatalytic Sets: Evolvability, Enablement, and Emergence.

I am sure I have taken a few liberties with my application of this theory, but went ahead with these ideas anyway because one of the key features of FIML practice is it “auto-generates” or autocatalyzes itself. Once you get going and see how to do it, FIML practice almost runs by itself, allowing partners near infinite freedom to pursue whatever they want with it.

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first posted

Very small decisions and what they show about us

A very small decision I make on many mornings is which coffee cup is going to be mine and which goes to my partner.

The two cups we normally use are the same and I cannot tell one from the other. If I thought one was better than the other, I would give it to her.

What happens is at some point while I take the cups from the cupboard and set them on the counter, I incline toward deciding that one of them will be for me and one for her. This “decision” is so small I describe it as “incline toward deciding.”

As I continue preparing morning coffee, my very small decision about which cup is mine spends more time in my mind. By the time I pour the coffee, I am generally always mildly set on which one is going to be mine for the morning and which hers.

My initial “inclining toward deciding” has changed into my being “mildly set on” which cup is mine. I might even feel a bit possessive toward “my” cup as I pour the coffee.

The main point is that once we make even a very weak decision or incline toward a weak decision it requires energy to change that.

Of course, I do not really care which cup I get and yet I have inclined toward one or decided on one of them. At some point in this process you have to do that.

If I try to change my decision once the coffee is poured and give “my” cup to my partner, I am aware of expending a bit of energy.

The energy required to change which cup is mine is greater than the energy required to decide which cup is mine. I only fell into my initial decision but must climb out of it if I want to change it.

I bet you do this or something like it, too. Just watch yourself and observe it happening. Once you see it, try changing to the other cup or whatever it is you have chosen.

It’s not hard to change your decision but it decidedly requires a little bit of energy. That may be some of the smallest mental energy you will ever exert, but you will have to exert it.

I find I feel a bit awkward when I change my initial decision. It seems my mind is already set at some lower level so the meta-level that  changes that does not have the right networking or connections for the transition to be completely smooth. This is the opposite of the initial decision which seems to have required little or no energy. And has managed to grow bigger all on its own, outside of my awareness.

Notice also, if you are like me, you will happily give your partner the better cup if one of them is better. That decision, too, will require energy to change, maybe even more energy than if the cups are the same. This probably happens because if you change your decision to the better cup (for yourself), you will also feel a bit selfish in addition to the above considerations. This will happen even if your partner wants you to change cups.

So either way—changing between two cups that are the same or changing from the worse cup to the better one—you will need to expend a bit of energy, even though your initial decision probably required none at all.

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ISTB – “I Said This Before”

My partner and I made up this acronym because we like to revisit subjects often, a valuable practice.

When subjects are revisited, misunderstandings can be exposed and corrected, changes in opinion can be voiced, new evidence or insights introduced.

Saying “ISTB” cuts off the horrible default response: “You already told me that…” or the feeling that such a response could be appropriate.

ISTB signals that either new information is forthcoming or the speaker wants to ensure that something—possibly something very subtle—has been understood in the way intended.

It might also simply signal that the speaker feels like saying what will follow for no other reason than that.

We say ISTB by just voicing those four letters out loud.