There are two types of speech and one is being grossly ignored

The two types are public and private speech. Private speech is the one being grossly ignored.

Well-groomed Mike Pence is a metaphor for public speech. He signals conscientiousness, loyalty, and we hope honesty.

Anyone sitting in their kitchen in their underwear with their SO or best friend is a metaphor for private speech. Private speech is rich with emotion, subjectivity, psychological importance.

Public speech is also rich with those features but its richness is different. It is more formal, based on expected norms, and error-avoidant. Most of us work hard at getting public speech right because our place in the world is dependent on it. We try hard to learn the best rules for it.

Private speech in your underwear in your own kitchen seems to need no rules. Indeed, that’s the whole fun of it—no rules, no conventions, freedom to say what you want with the assurance that your words will not be misconstrued or be brought into the public realm.

The problem with private speech is it often is misconstrued and sometimes even aired in public. It is often misconstrued because we have no rules for it and aired in public for the same reason.

What rules do we need for private speech? Since above all private speech is psychologically rich, we need rules that will maximize this richness. Rules that will help us avoid misunderstanding what we are hearing or being misunderstood for what we are saying.

(Obviously, it is also necessary that private speech be kept private by both parties.)

Public speech issues from the persona, the formalistic face we present in public. Private speech does not need rules of this sort. Indeed, we actually want to refrain from bringing the persona into private speech.

Unfortunately, due to lack of rules for private speech, almost all people do bring their personas into private speech. This, in turn, greatly reduces the scope and power of private speech. And this, in turn, greatly diminishes overall personal and interpersonal psychological awareness and understanding.

FIML is rules for private speech. It is designed to optimize private communications for clarity, honesty, effectiveness, and interpersonal satisfaction.

By optimizing private speech, FIML also optimizes our psychologies. FIML has no content except its basic rules for how to capture and analyze speech as it is actually functioning in real-time, real-world situations. FIML does not tell you what to think, believe, or feel.

In the How to do FIML page, I describe the basic FIML query and show how it relieves a fundamental psychological problem. That is the main thing basic FIML does.

Beyond that, FIML can do much more. Once the basic FIML technique is understood and can be done correctly, a wide range of psychological and spiritual matters will become available for fruitful analysis and discussion.

By removing needless interpersonal error and by providing a greatly enhanced array of interpersonal subjects, FIML first cures us of experiential neuroticism and then optimizes our psychologies in whatever ways we choose.

Lies and self-deception

Most Buddhist practitioners will immediately understand and agree with the results of a recent study that shows that people feel better when they tell fewer lies. The study (Telling fewer lies linked to better health and relationships.*) is modest but worth considering.

Notice that the improvements found in the study come from refraining from lying.

“We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health,” says lead author Anita Kelly. (Same link as above.)

A good deal of Buddhist practice involves refraining from unwholesome thoughts and behaviors and ultimately eliminating them. Refraining from lying, or “false speech,” is the fourth of the Five Precepts, which are the basis of Buddhist morality. Lies cloud the mind and hinder clear thinking.

Buddhist mindfulness gets us to slow down and question how sure we are of our thoughts, feelings, and judgements. It helps us refrain from willfully lying, and it  can help us refrain from unconsciously lying if we have the help of a trusted partner.

Another term for unconscious lying is self-deception. Self-deception may make us feel good for awhile in some circumstances, but in the long-run it is much the same as any other kind of lying. It’s not true. It constitutes inner false speech and causes serious intellectual and emotional contradictions that will almost certainly lead to wrong thoughts, behaviors, and interpretations.

Michael S. Gazzaniga in a recent online essay has this to say:

The view in neuroscience today is that consciousness does not constitute a single, generalized process. It involves a multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes, the products of which are integrated by the interpreter module….Our conscious experience is assembled on the fly as our brains respond to constantly changing inputs, calculate potential courses of action, and execute responses like a streetwise kid. (Source)

It is our “interpreter module,” to use Gazzaniga’s words, that can and does unconsciously lie to us or allow us to engage in self-deception.

In the same essay, Gazzaniga also says:

In truth, when we set out to explain our actions, they are all post hoc explanations using post hoc observations with no access to nonconscious processing….The reality is, listening to people’s explanations of their actions is interesting—and in the case of politicians, entertaining—but often a waste of time. (Source: same as above)

FIML practice may not be capable of giving us access to “nonconscious processing,” but it will give us access to what is/was in our working memories while showing us that what we said or heard may have been vague, ambiguous, muddled, or wrong.

With the aid of a trusted partner, FIML helps us catch our minds on the fly. Partners are encouraged to refrain from long explanations and just stick to what they remember having been in their minds during the few seconds in question. This forestalls long, self-deceiving explanations.

Beginning FIML partners will likely be amazed at how often their interpretation of what their partner said is completely wrong.

FIML emphasizes using trivial incidents because partners will be much less likely to self-deceive when the incident is minor. A minor mistake is easier to change than a major one. If partners keep working with minor mistakes and clear them up as soon as they arise, how can major misunderstandings even develop?

In the future, we may have brain scans that can help us separate fact from fiction in our minds, but for now, I know of no better way to do it than with a trusted partner in FIML practice. Your partner will help you see the minutiae of your mind as it actually works and impacts them. This leads to a large reduction in lying and self-deception and an increase in feelings of well-being and mutual understanding.


*Sorry, could not find the actual study online.

This essay was first posted August 6, 2012

What is FIML?

At its most basic FIML is a way to ask your partner what they are or were just thinking, feeling, perceiving, or meaning when they said or did something that communicated something to you. And then it is a way to get a good answer from them, an answer that completely satisfies you both.

FIML works with data that is as immediate as possible. It works with our “working memories,” the stuff we actually have in our minds as we speak and listen  (not the stuff we can call up quickly from memory but that is not actually there during the speech event.)

People often speak more vaguely than they listen. Listening often is more precise in its details than what the speaker was saying. Listening focuses on less of the discourse, sometimes more clearly.

The act of speaking takes up space in working memory and thus can have an atmospheric feel; during speaking the working memory is robustly occupied with putting out words. Listening can be more sensitive, having sharp moments disturbed by confusion. An unknown group of people coming up an apartment stairwell is an example of a typical act of listening.

How working memory works and doesn’t work

A new study on working memory has some intriguing insights into how working memory works and how it doesn’t work.

It’s widely known that when working memory is overtaxed, confusion results, skills decline, while feeling of frustration and anger may arise. The reason for this seems to be:

Feedback (top-down) coupling broke down when the number of objects exceeded cognitive capacity. Thus, impaired behavioral performance coincided with a break-down of Prediction signals. This provides new insights into the neuronal underpinnings of cognitive capacity and how coupling in a distributed working memory network is affected by memory load. (Working Memory Load Modulates Neuronal Coupling)

A well-written article about this study contains the following diagram and explanation:

This article—Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync—also contains the following passages and quote from one of the study’s authors:

Miller thinks the brain is juggling the items being held in working memory one at a time, in alternation. “That means all the information has to fit into one brain wave,” he said. “When you exceed the capacity of that one brain wave, you’ve reached the limit on working memory.”

The prefrontal cortex seems to help construct an internal model of the world, sending so-called “top-down,” or feedback, signals that convey this model to lower-level brain areas. Meanwhile, the superficial frontal eye fields and lateral intraparietal area send raw sensory input to the deeper areas in the prefrontal cortex, in the form of bottom-up or feedforward signals. Differences between the top-down model and the bottom-up sensory information allow the brain to figure out what it’s experiencing, and to tweak its internal models accordingly. (Emphasis added)

Working memory works via connections between three brain regions that together form a coherent brain wave.

Notice that “an internal model of the world,” which is a “top-down signal” within the brain wave feedback loop, predicts or interprets “bottom-up” sensory input as it arrives in the brain.

I believe this “top-down signal” within working memory is the reason FIML practice has such enormous psychological value.

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

FIML optimizes human psychology by helping partners intervene directly into their working memories to access real-world top-down signals as they are happening in real-time. Doing this repeatedly reliably alters the brain’s repository of top-down interpretations, making them much more accurate and up-to-date.

The model of working memory proposed in this study also explains why FIML can be a bit difficult to do. Partners must learn to allow a FIML meta-perspective or “super top-down” signal to quickly commandeer their working memories so that analysis of whatever just happened can proceed rationally and objectively. It does take some time to learn this skill, but it is no harder than many other “automated” skills such bicycling, typing, or playing a musical instrument.

Uncertainty in human social interactions

All human interactions entail some uncertainty and most entail a lot.

To deal with uncertainty, humans use heuristics (“rules of thumb”) that generally are based on what they perceive to be normal or required in the situation at hand. These heuristics come from experience, from role models, from organizational structures, beliefs and so on.

A recent study—Uncertainty about social interactions leads to the evolution of social heuristics—explores:

…an evolutionary simulation model, showing that even intermediate uncertainty leads to the evolution of simple cooperation strategies that disregard information about the social interaction (‘social heuristics’).

This study uses simulations to tease out how social heuristics and social cooperation evolve in very simple game scenarios.

If social games have rules, we can change how much uncertainty they contain and how best to cooperate within them.

This is essentially what FIML practice does. FIML greatly reduces interpersonal uncertainty between partners while increasing cooperation by having a few fairly simple rules.

When uncertainty is lowered and cooperation increased between partners, psychological well-being and understanding is proportionally enhanced. This happens because social interaction and communication are basic to human psychology.

The study linked above employs simulations to show a sort mathematically forced evolutionary outcome arising from initial settings. I believe FIML is similar in this respect, though the FIML game involves complex humans rather than simple sims.

I often wonder why no one has discovered the rules of FIML before. So many great thinkers, but not one found these key rules for optimal communication and psychological understanding. I believe there are two basics reasons for this: 1) FIML requires developing dynamic metacognition during real-time real-life communication events and this takes practice; and 2) most great thinkers that we know about today and hence could learn from also had great status, and this prevented them from noticing the deep flaws in interpersonal communication that FIML corrects.

Interoception, proprioception, and perception of dynamic mental states

Interoception means our “perception or sense of internal body states,” including the states of our cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, and thermoregulatory systems among others.

Proprioception means “one’s own” or “ones’ individual” (Latin proprius) “perception.” We normally use this word to refer to our physical position in the world—whether we are standing or sitting, how we are moving, and how much energy we are using.

Both interoception and proprioception generally refer to physical states of the body though, of course, how we interpret those states may involve much more than immediate physical considerations.

Erroneous interoception or the misinterpretation of internal states is probably an important contributing factor to many psychological disorders, including anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and more.

Consider another level of interoception—our states of mind; our mental impressions of other people and of ourselves; our senses of our own psychologies.

This level of psychological reality is normally accessed through introspection, meditation, mindfulness, and psychotherapy. All of these methods are good, but each of them lacks ongoing, real-time input from another human being, thus missing the dynamic functioning of the human mind in real-life situations.

FIML corrects this problem by providing objective, dynamic access to real-time psychological functioning. FIML is a method or tool for optimizing human psychology by honing our perceptions of our mental states as they actually function in real-world situations.

Psychology is a self-generating, auto-catalytic system

Human psychology is self-generated in the sense that it takes ideas and energy from other people and then interprets and builds on that.

Our cognitive systems self-generate with what we learn from life and other humans—language, ideas, philosophies, behaviors, emotions, almost everything.

Auto-catalytic systems are systems that are able to catalyze their own production. You learn something, combine it with something else and then auto-catalyze that combination into something new, something that is unique to you.

The problem with being a self-generating, auto-catalytic system is you need a way to unify your system. It has to make sense to you, has to have meaning. Part of it is copy-paste from other people and part of it is DIY. It’s hard to do.

Human games make it easier. Games are things we do with our psychological systems. Many games unify our systems for a short period of time. Sports, cooking, reading, TV, etc. provide “meaning” or systemic focus long enough for most of us to experience a sense of contentment or purpose. Religions, careers, philosophies, etc. are meta-unifying games that provide unification or meaning at meta levels and for longer periods of time.

A big problem here is as self-generating systems we make mistakes, and many of them compound.

Conscious, self-generating auto-catalytic systems are complex and difficult to manage. They can induce terrible misery if they fail to bring unity and meaning to themselves.