Reason is signal organization

If we view the universe as being made up of signals rather than matter, what we call “reason” looks very much like a method for organizing signals.

We can visualize this and from our visualization imagine other ways signals organize.

We say something is reasonable when we cannot find elements that do not seem to be in place among elements that do seem to be in place.

In this respect, the term “aesthetic reasoning”—musical, visual, poetic, etc.—makes good sense. It explains how the elements of an artwork are put together, how they are organized.

Engineers generally reason in more utilitarian ways then artists, but there is a great deal of overlap between these pursuits.

Not all reason works only with tangibles and how to organize them. We also fit things  together in our minds by what we normally think of as reasoning, inference, intuition, purpose, and so on.

In many cases, it is simpler and easier to think of signals than matter.

Signals organize into networks that signal other networks and receive signals from them.

A more “reasonable” network organization will work better than a less reasonable one. This type of network will tend to evolve.

first posted MARCH 8, 2017

Edit 12/26/23: We can also see how our fractured world today, divided but not yet conquered, cannot come together. From almost every angle it is unreasonable or simply savage. Signals do not align, we do not even know who is in control or what they want. ABN

Hierarchies evolve to reduce connections (and confusion)

Large social systems, especially those with many members who do not know each other, evolve into hierarchies because the number of connections is reduced.

When the number of connections that hold a group together is reduced, it is less costly to maintain the group and thus such groups are more likely to survive.

Military organizations, companies, religious organizations and schools are usually organized into hierarchical structures. Creative, independent modules can relieve some of the formalism of hierarchy but these modules will still fit into the hierarchical structure somewhere.

Hierarchies are (always?) organized around a purpose—money for corporations, winning for militaries, belief and organizational systems for religions, food for animals and so on.

You can even see the hierarchical principle in plant structures.

A research project on this topic as it applies to artificial intelligence demonstrates that biological networks evolve into hierarchies:

…because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. (Research showing why hierarchy exists will aid the development of artificial intelligence)

If we accept this principle behind the development of hierarchies, I would submit that we can also apply it to how language has developed as a hierarchy in and of itself and also as a support system for the social hierarchy within which it is used.

Language and culture are held together by a system of hierarchical categories.

These categories are what we think of as beliefs, values, codes, stories, political systems, who’s who in the group, and so on.

Hierarchical systems based on general categories of that type typically also exist between individuals within any society. Indeed, we can find the same sort of hierarchical system within the individual.

This is an efficient and very reasonable way to maintain a society and a language.

Problems arise in this system, however, when the individual does not know any other way of organizing themself or of communicating with others.

An individual who exists and communicates only within a hierarchical structure will be alienated from the great mass of idiosyncratic perceptions, responses, thoughts, and emotions that exist within them and others. I think that this causes a great deal of psychological suffering and is a major part of what the Buddha meant by delusion.

FIML is designed to fix this problem between individuals.

first posted

FIML and ‘sins of omission’

By “sin of omission” I mean refraining from doing a FIML query because you feel it will be too much trouble, seem contentious, take too long, expose a failing or weakness in yourself, hurt your partner’s feelings, and so on.

Some time ago we came up with the slogan: “It is always cheaper to do a FIML query than not do one.” This slogan is meant to help us guard against “sins of omission.”

If you refrain from saying something because you are afraid it will cause one of the problems mentioned above, you are right there causing a worse kind of problem in that you are assuming something about your partner that may not be (probably isn’t) true.

Even worse, you are refraining from informing your partner that you have concluded that some kinds of speech acts are not safe or pleasant to engage in with them.

It would be far, far cheaper for both you and your partner to deal with whatever you think the problem is the moment it arises.

This is so because small matters are much easier for us to understand and deal with than large matters. When we deal with small matters as they arise in normal conversation,we are doing at least two very important things: 1) we are dealing with the matter and its ramifications and 2) we are learning something very important about how we speak.

FIML changes the way we think not just what we think. If we fully understand that our understandings of each other can be very far off and if we fully understand how serious these misunderstandings can become, we no longer will see discussing minor mix-ups as a waste of time or something to be avoided.

I saw a post the other day by a beginning Buddhist who was confused about his mindfulness practice. He asked: “Every time I try to be mindful, my mind seems to fill with thoughts, words, and feelings. How do I stop that?”

Mindfulness is about being clear about what your mind is really doing. It’s not about pretending you have an ideal mind, or acting as if you do. If that Buddhist has a partner and if they both do FIML, they will experience the value of mindfulness in a very direct and beneficial way.

Human languages have evolved within violent hierarchical social systems that exploit our normally poor abilities to understand each other.

FIML practice allows us to be mindful of these limitations and go beyond them to achieve real understanding with our partner. The deep reward of FIML practice lies in that and in the profound feeling of resolution you will reach with your partner each and every time you carry a FIML discussion through to a mutually satisfying resolution.

first posted JUNE 15, 2012

Philosophical psychology

Are your thought patterns valid? Are your premises true? Is your mind sound?

Buddhism further asks are your mental states wholesome? Are they conducive to enlightenment, wisdom, freedom from delusion?

There are many things we can do while alone to clean up our thought processes. And there are some things we can only do with the help of another person.

Only another person can tell us if our premises, thoughts, and conclusions (however tentative) about them are true, valid, and sound.

Buddhism has a concept of a “spiritual friend,” a “good friend,” a noble friend,” or an “admirable friend.” All of these terms are translations of the Pali Kalyāṇa-mittatā, which is well-explained at that link. (Chinese 善知識). That link is well-worth reading in full.

From the link above and from many years of working with Buddhist literature and people, my sense is that a Buddhist “good friend” is someone who is to be admired and emulated. They are similar to what we mean today by mentors or “good role models.”

I deeply respect the concept of a Buddhist good friend, but find it lacks what I consider the preeminent virtue of philosophical psychology—real-time honesty based on a teachable technique.

Indeed, I cannot find anything anywhere in world philosophy, religion, or literature that provides a teachable technique for attaining real-time honesty with another person.

I also do not quite understand how this could be.

For many centuries human beings have thought about life but no one has come up with a technique like FIML?

How can that be?

I do not see a technique like FIML anywhere in the history of human philosophy nor anywhere in modern psychology.

The importance of a “good friend” who does FIML with you cannot be overemphasized because it is only through such a friend that you can discover where your premises about them are right or wrong, where your thoughts about them are valid or not, and through those discoveries where your mind itself is arranged soundly or not.

first posted MAY 30, 2017

UPDATE 12/14/23: Buddhists can and should make Buddhist practice their own, update or improve the practice with new ideas that are sound, valid, and true. This is a very positive and excellent side of Buddhism, which is not written in stone. Buddhism is preeminently a mind-to-mind teaching. It does not depend on ancient texts or the absolute interpretation of words. It depends on fulsome understanding of the deep truths at the core of all Buddhist thinking—impermanence, emptiness, and nirvana. Anything that is consonant with those three truths and conforms to Buddhist morals is good Buddhism. Anything that contradicts those three truths and/or Buddhist morals is not Buddhism.

The Buddha encouraged teaching the Dharma in people’s native languages. He discouraged writing his teachings down because he did not want them to become sacred texts that people worshipped rather than understood. FIML practice is an efficient, detailed, sound, and accurate way for “good friends” to deeply share mind-to-mind communion/communication with each other. In this sense, it is excellent Buddhist practice. FIML has no other teaching than how to communicate really well with a good friend. FIML does not tell you what to think or believe. Anyone can do it. ABN

FIML and Symbolic Interaction Theory

Symbolic Interaction Theory, also called symbolic interactionism, provides the best large-scale framework I have found so far for explaining FIML practice.

Three basic premises of symbolic interactionism are:

  • “Humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things.”
  • “The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society.”
  • “These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters.”

These basic premises have been taken from the Wikipedia article linked above. I tend to agree with most of the general framework, as I understand it, of symbolic interactionism and believe that FIML practice can reasonably be understood as a method that can fit fairly comfortably within that framework.

FIML differs from symbolic interactionism in that FIML is much more a form of interpersonal psychotherapy than a sociological theory. FIML is a communication technique that focuses on meaning as it arises and is apprehended during short periods of time. FIML’s focus on very small units of interpersonal communication is what allows partners to understand how their sense of meaning intertwines with their emotional responses.

From a FIML point of view, society does not appear very well structured in many of its contexts, especially interpersonal contexts involving emotions, friendship, and intimate bonding. From this point of view, a great deal of social structure appears to be a substitute for authentic interaction between individual minds.

FIML seems also to show that a great deal of human suffering arises from the paucity of meaning that can be exchanged between individuals in most social contexts. Indeed, even in intimate contexts, most individuals, if not all of them, have great difficulty in attaining profound mutual understanding. This happens because our perceptions of our selves and others—due to how we use language and semiotics—are too crude and vague to allow for communicative complexity equal to the complexity of our minds/brains.

FIML corrects this problem by focusing on the details of interpersonal communication. Incidentally, FIML theory/practice can be falsified by having many couples do FIML practice and measuring the results. A criticism of symbolic interactionism is that it is not falsifiable. FIML differs from symbolic interactionism in that it is a practical technique that uses objective data (agreed upon by both partners) to optimize communication and improve psychological well-being.

I am pretty sure I will have more to say about symbolic interactionism in the days to come. A friend just sent me the article linked above, so I put down a few thoughts after one reading. FIML partners may find that symbolic interactionism helps with a general understanding of FIML practice.

first posted JUNE 26, 2014

UPDATE 01/13/22: The Wikipedia page has been updated since the excerpt above. I found this update interesting:

[Symbolic interactionism] is a framework that helps understand how society is preserved and created through repeated interactions between individuals. The interpretation process that occurs between interactions helps create and recreate meaning. It is the shared understanding and interpretations of meaning that affect the interaction between individuals. Individuals act on the premise of a shared understanding of meaning within their social context. Thus, interaction and behavior is framed through the shared meaning that objects and concepts have attached to them. From this view, people live in both natural and symbolic environments.

I agree with this and would add that the the shared understanding and interpretations of meaning that affect the interaction between individuals occurs all-importantly and very profoundly on the level of intimate interpersonal relationships. What FIML does is discover, foster, and create a much more accurate shared understanding and interpretations of meaning between FIML partners. The benefit of this is enormous since it has an extremely profound effect on individual psychology and all other shared understanding and interpretations of meaning encountered in society everywhere. ABN

Big mistake: We often own what we didn’t mean

A fascinating study from Sweden confirms something that FIML practice has shown us to be a fairly common occurrence and a potential source of serious interpersonal problems.

In FIML terms, the mistake is that we own something we didn’t mean. Or we take on an attitude, mood, or belief that we did not hold after we have been misheard or misunderstood.

In the study from Lund University in Sweden—How to confuse a moral compass—researchers found that:

People can be tricked into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions…

I was not surprised at all to read that because FIML practice has clearly shown my partner and me that it is really easy to fall into the trap of owning what your partner erroneously thinks you meant.

Continue reading “Big mistake: We often own what we didn’t mean”

Fabula and semiotics

Fabula are “the raw material of a story or narrative.”

I want to borrow this term to denote the raw material of a purposive conversation. For example, if I say to my partner that I want to have a salad for dinner, the notion or idea of that salad is a fabula that we can now discuss.

Our discussion of this as yet non-existent salad, this salad fabula, will include particular items, acts, and visualizations. For example, I may want sliced tomatoes in the salad, my partner may mention some olives in the refrigerator. We may both visualize our salad bowl and kitchen while we decide who does what.

Before the salad is made it is a fabula. The particular elements that go into getting the salad made while they are still only in our minds are semiotic elements.

In this sense, semiotics can be defined as the units or parts of a conversational fabula. We use these semiotics to discuss how to make what kind of salad.

We do the same thing with virtually all other conversational subjects. That is, we declare or grope toward determining what our fabula is and use semiotics to further clarify our vision of it. While doing this, ideally, we will remain open to real-time alterations and misunderstandings about both the fabula and the semiotics.

In these terms, most reasonable (and many unreasonable) conversations can be understood as two (or more) people negotiating* the “meanings” of their imperfectly shared fabula and semiotics. The fabula is a sort of context that defines the semiotics used in the discussion of it.

When the conversation is about salads, much of the process of going from a salad fabula to a real salad is straightforward and unproblematical.

When a conversation is about matters that are more ambiguous, subjective, emotional, or existential, there may be more problems because the fabula often will not be as clear as a salad to both parties. Or if it is, it may lead parties to quickly cleave to cliches or obvious explanations, thus limiting fresh responses or creative insights.

FIML practice can fix these problems by getting partners to clarify their fabula while also allowing them to alter it, or even change it entirely, as their discussion progresses.

The same is true at a different level for the semiotics they employ in their discussion. With FIML practice these semiotics often can be adjusted and clarified as soon as diverging understanding is noticed in either person’s mind.

Even if diverging understandings persist for some time, experienced FIML partners will be better prepared notice them when the opportunity arises.

A more complex example of this is an ongoing discussion my partner and I have had for several years. The basic discussion involves a strong reaction I sometimes have to cosmetic surgery. I admit that my reaction can be irrational and I can’t quite explain it. My partner frequently makes the point that I do like cosmetic surgery as long as I don’t notice it and/or like the results. We have gone back and forth on this quite a few times without ever getting a really good resolution, until a few days ago. The core problem had been that I do dislike the idea of cosmetic surgery, period. And also, I do recognize that it can be necessary and that if I like the results, I may be able to accept it even when it is not necessary.

We had never been involved in a simple dichotomy—like versus don’t like—but we both had been speaking as if we were. This was mostly my fault as I sometimes expressed revulsion at some forms of cosmetic surgery, but it was also not true that I actually liked the surgery if I liked the results or didn’t notice it.


*I mean the word negotiating not so much as making a deal but more as negotiating a narrow foot bride across a stream or negotiating a turn in an automobile. Negotiation in this sense is an effort between two or more people to make many small adjustments to arrive at a mutually satisfying result, the “meaning” of which is understood in roughly the same way by all parties.

first posted JANUARY 8, 2014

UPDATE 12/12/23: Wow, did I have a huge misunderstanding of a conversational fabula last night. I had trouble falling asleep over it and woke up ruminating on it. My partner is a genius and all I did was bring it up and describe exactly what I had thought and within minutes, everything was cleared up. I can’t go into it because it is too complex. But I can say that this kind of mistake is what causes neurosis, emotional agony, even mental illness. This is the kind of mistake FIML was designed to correct. Usually, FIML mistakes are small and involve semiotics but a huge fabula mistake is always possible, as I saw very clearly over the past 12 hours. I cannot thank my partner enough for having such deep understanding of me, herself, and what we had been talking about and how we generally talk. FIML is a profound training exercise. If you have ever gotten anything from this site (or not), please try FIML. It is by far the best unique thing I have to offer. ABN

Signals and subliminal signal associations

Signals sent between people are almost never simple, single entities devoid of ambiguity.

Indeed, even very clear communicative signals, especially in interpersonal communication, are often fraught with subliminal associations. These “extra” associations are a primary cause of interpersonal error and ambiguity, and deriving from that, of individual, personal discomfort or neurosis.

We have mentioned this general problem many times and claimed that FIML practice is probably the only way to successfully remove the bulk of dangerous ambiguity and misunderstanding that inevitably accrues in almost all interpersonal relationships.

A study on visual perception from the University of Arizona—Your brain sees things you don’t—reasonably confirms these statements for visual perception. I would argue that many other brain functions work in similar ways, including listening, speaking, and our overall perceptions of human behavior and what it “means.” (Study: The Ground Side of an Object: Perceived as Shapeless yet Processed for Semantics)

The study found that participants subconsciously perceive “meaning” in visual images flashed quickly before them. It took about 400 milliseconds for this perception of “meaning” to show on an fMRI machine.

Continue reading “Signals and subliminal signal associations”

Psychophysics gains a new law of sensory perception that also sheds light on subjective perception

First we have to understand Weber’s Law:

Weber’s law, also called Weber-Fechner law, historically important psychological law quantifying the perception of change in a given stimulus. The law states that the change in a stimulus that will be just noticeable is a constant ratio of the original stimulus. It has been shown not to hold for extremes of stimulation. (Weber’s Law)

Hang in with this, it’s interesting.

About 200 years ago, the German physician Ernst Heinrich Weber made a seemingly innocuous observation which led to the birth of the discipline of Psychophysics – the science relating physical stimuli in the world and the sensations they evoke in the mind of a subject. Weber asked subjects to say which of two slightly different weights was heavier. From these experiments , he discovered that the probability that a subject will make the right choice only depends on the ratio between the weights.

For instance, if a subject is correct 75% of the time when comparing a weight of 1 Kg and a weight of 1.1 Kg, then she will also be correct 75% of the time when comparing two weights of 2 and 2.2 Kg – or, in general, any pair of weights where one is 10% heavier than the other. This simple but precise rule opened the door to the quantification of behavior in terms of mathematical ‘laws’. (NEUROSCIENTISTS MAKE MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH IN 200-YEAR-OLD PUZZLE)

What’s new today is Time–Intensity Equivalence in Discrimination (TIED):

We investigated Weber’s law by training rats to discriminate the relative intensity of sounds at the two ears at various absolute levels. These experiments revealed the existence of a psychophysical regularity, which we term time–intensity equivalence in discrimination (TIED), describing how reaction times change as a function of absolute level. (The mechanistic foundation of Weber’s law)

Simply stated TIED says that the intensity of the stimulus determines the time it takes to “just notice” a change in it and that that scales linearaly as intensity changes up or down. For example, changes in louder sounds are noticed quicker than proportionally equal changes in quieter sounds and this can be scaled mathematically.

TIED is a new theory and needs more research, but whether it works out perfectly or not, I think it shows something very important about our individual and shared subjective perceptions of words, gestures, meanings, intentions, implications, and so on including all semiotics.

At present, we do not have machines that can measure our subjective perceptions, but we can surely feel them. And with training, we can also decently calibrate them.

Most of us can already vaguely talk about our subjective perceptions of each other, but few of us know how to do that with the precision of Weber’s Law or TIED. This is because we are all unique and we all react uniquely to each other. On top of that, few are able to employ language efficiently enough to capture significant detail when describing subjective responses or impressions.

FIML provides a very useful method for isolating and calibrating individual, idiosyncratic subjective perceptions.

Consistent, repeated use of FIML gradually recalibrates and reorganizes the entire psychologies of both partners.

FIML has virtually no content.. FIML is a method, and as such it allows partners to gradually identify, isolate, measure, and reorganize their entire body of psychological data, however they construe it.

first posted AUGUST 13, 2019

TWITTER & FBI did mind-control; and so did all the rest

direct link

This is mind-control. Control a national story, and virtually all information will be automatically slotted into government approved categories by people who believe the story. This illustrates the high-level of semiotic control a narrative, a story, or a generally accepted explanation can have over language use. MSM has still not even covered the Twitter files and most Americans still do not understand the deep story is the government was doing this. Or stated more accurately, the gang(s) of parasites who have infiltrated our government are doing this. ABN

Idiolects and idiotics

An idiolect is the “dialect” of one person. It is unique to that person. We all speak an idiolect unique to us. No one else speaks in exactly the same way as you do. In fact, the varieties of idolects among speakers of even the same dialect can be quite pronounced, to say nothing of speakers who have been acculturated to different dialects.

Virtually, the same thing is true for our use and understanding of semiotics. Each one of us has a unique tangle of semiotics even if we share the same culture. Even if two people were born and raised in the same very strict cult, they will have different takes on their “shared” semiotics; they will see thier semiotics in individual and unique ways.

The term “idiolect” is a blend of the prefix idio, which means “own, personal, distinct to the individual” and the suffix lect, which is taken from the word “dialect.”

In that spirit, I want to coin the term “idiotics” to mean “the semiotics unique to one person.” Each and every one of us has a very complex idiotics.

It is profoundly important to know this and to understand it deeply.

We can talk at length about the generalities of our idiotics and profit from discussions like that. But we will never fully grasp what our idiotics do, how they function, and when they come into play unless we tackle them the moment they arise.

This is so because idiotics are very complex, with many parts bonded and tangled together in unique ways. The only time we can really get anything approaching an objective view of them is when they arise as small bits within real-life conversations. We can only see them when they function in the moment, when they touch our emotions in the moment, when they determine how we hear, speak, or respond in the moment.

General discussions lead away from idiotics because general discussion by their very natures (being general) are not unique to the individual. By definition, generalities are not idiotics.

This is one reason it is possible (indeed, common, I believe) for individuals to feel horribly lonely while in the company of other people. Or to feel horribly lonely when trying to explain yourself as you get more and more lost in generalities.

If you are never able to deal with, contend with, analyze, or remark upon you or your partner’s idiotics, you will have a bad time.

FIML practice works because it works with idiotics. Ironically, working with your own and your partner’s idiotics will make you much smarter.

first posted APRIL 14, 2013

We do not experience our world continuously but in discrete snapshots, a Buddhist therapeutic interpretation

This report — Brain oscillations reveal that our senses do not experience the world continuously — supports the core activity of FIML practice, which entails noticing the first instant(s) of the arising of an emotional sensation (that is typically tied to a much more involved “mistaken interpretation” within the brain). By interfering with the first instant(s) of arising, FIML practice forestalls the habitual wave of neurotic interpretation that normally follows. Instead, new information — better data obtained from the FIML partner — is used to replace the cue that led to the initial sensation, thus redefining that cue.

Professor Gregor Thut of the University of Glasgow, where the study was conducted, says of its results: “For perception, this means that despite experiencing the world as a continuum, we do not sample our world continuously but in discrete snapshots determined by the cycles of brain rhythms.”

I would further hypothesize that the same holds true for our “perceptions” of inner emotional states. In this context, recall the five skandhas of Buddhism — form, sensation, perception, activity, consciousness. A form can arise in the mind or outside of the mind. This form gives rise to a sensation (which is the first initiation of a FIML query), which gives rise to perception, followed by activity (mental or physical), and lastly consciousness.

In Buddhist teachings, the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly. They are not a continuous stream but rather a series of “discrete snapshots,” to use Thut’s words. In FIML practice, partners want to interfere with what has become a habitual “firing” of their five skandhas based on (neurotic) learned cues. FIML practice strives to prevent full-blown neurotic consciousness (the fifth skandha) from taking control of the mind by replacing the source of that consciousness with a more realistic interpretation of the neurotic cue. The cue corresponds to form in the five skandhas explanation while our emotional reaction to it begins with the second skandha, sensation. The more realistic interpretation of that cue is based on the true words of the partner.

The five skandhas can also help us understand how FIML is different from more or less normal psychological analysis. In normal, or traditional, analysis we use theories and schema to understand ourselves. In FIML we use a specific technique to interfere with habitual neurotic “firings” of the five skandhas. FIML partners are encouraged to theorize and speak about themselves in any way they like, and it is very helpful to do this, but the core FIML activity cannot be replaced by just theorizing or telling stories.

Here is a link to the study itself: Sounds Reset Rhythms of Visual Cortex and Corresponding Human Visual Perception.

slightly edited, first posted MAY 14, 2012

Please discuss mimesis as a psycholinguistic phenomenon

[I posed this query to ChatGPT after asking a basic question about mimesis. The reply below was returned almost instantly and has not been edited in any way. We learn almost everything we know through mimesis. Language and culture are built on it and by it, but mimesis can also trap us in gloomy enclaves of inescapable conformity, such as the pseudoscience of covid or a communist dictatorship or celebrity worship. It can also trap us inside our own personality constructs, leaving almost no way to escape. FIML practice works with real time mimesis during interpersonal communication. In this context, FIML can be understood as a way to fully understand our own idiosyncratic mimesis as well as our partner’s. And then to lead us away from what is harmful in mimesis toward what is good. Mimesis is a key to delusion and enlightenment both. It is very good for Buddhists and others to pay attention to it, to be fully mindful of its processes. ABN]

Mimesis can also be understood as a psychological and linguistic phenomenon, in which people imitate or mimic the words, actions, and behaviors of others in order to understand and communicate with them. This kind of mimesis is often referred to as “mirroring” or “echoing,” and it is a natural and important part of human social interaction.

In the early stages of language acquisition, children learn to imitate the sounds and words of their caregivers in order to communicate with them. This process of imitation is essential for language learning and development, as it allows children to learn the conventions and rules of their language.

Mimesis also plays a role in the way that people interact with one another in social settings. For example, people may mimic the body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions of their conversation partner in order to show agreement, empathy, or solidarity. This kind of mimicry can facilitate communication and social bonding, as it helps to establish a sense of connection and understanding between people.

Mimesis can also be observed in the way that people use language to convey meaning. For example, people may use figurative language or rhetorical devices such as metaphors, similes, and rhetorical questions in order to create a more vivid or persuasive image or argument. These forms of language use rely on the reader or listener’s ability to understand and imitate the speaker’s intended meaning in order to fully appreciate the message being conveyed.

Overall, mimesis is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that plays a central role in human communication and social interaction. It is an important aspect of language learning and use, and it helps people to understand and connect with one another in a meaningful way.

How delusions are formed

Delusions must start somewhere.

A recent study (Emoticons in mind: An event-related potential study) convincingly demonstrates that our responses to emoticons as simple as a colon next to a parenthesis :) are similar to our responses to real human faces.

Clearly, this response has been learned. No infant is born with that response and no one anywhere had it just a few decades ago.

Our tendency to respond to :) as a face arose with its use in email and texting. This response is now a well-established “public” response to a “public” semiotic. In this context, public means “understood and shared by many people.”

A public semiotic is a sign with wide currency. It is a unit of culture and often of language itself. We can see in the case of the emoticon :) that a new sign can arise due to unique circumstances and that that sign can come to have a deep meaning for many people.

The sign :) seems quite beautiful to me because it is very simple, very easily produced, and very telling about how our minds work. If the elements of the sign are reversed (: people no longer respond to it as a face, though of course we could learn to do that if the reversed sign were used that way more frequently.

I remember the first time I saw a derivative sign ;) and wondered briefly what it meant. If you had a similar experience, you may be able to remember how such a simple sign can bloom in your mind and go from something that is unknown to something of considerable significance in just a few seconds.

That is an example of the birth of a sign, the birth of a semiotic in your mind.

When the semiotic is public, we strive to learn what other people mean by it. When it is private—that is, with a meaning known only to us—there will be other, often very significant, implications.

What would a “private sign” be like? A straightforward example might be a code we use in a diary. Such a code would have at least one visual sign whose meaning is known only to us.

Another kind of private visual sign might be a facial expression that we have come to interpret differently from other people. My guess is everyone has a good many of these. That is to say, the “idiolect” of facial expressions we each use to understand other people is at least as various as different idiolects within a spoken language.

Now add tone of voice, posture, accent, word choice, topic choice, and so on to this mix. Each of those areas of communication uses signs that can and always will be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, including private ones.

Now, consider how an individual may get lost in all this. If someone ever smiled at you as they hurt you, you may have learned to be suspicious in your interpretation of human smiles. Or you may employ your own smile in ambiguous ways.

Now consider all the signs of communication and how many possible interpretations there are. Then consider the study linked above which shows how deep our responses can be to something as trivial as the sign :).

One way we form delusions occurs when our interpretations of communicative signs become too private and/or do not correspond well with the interpretations employed by other people. The other way we form delusions occurs when our interpretations of signs does correspond well with the interpretations employed by other people, but those other people are wrong.

In “public” situations—professional, commercial, business, school, etc.—it is fairly easy to communicate well enough based on established norms. But in interpersonal communication, you can only take “established norms” so far. At some point, you will have to understand your partner and be understood by them in much greater detail than “established norms,” or public semiotics.

Here is a newspaper article on the study linked above:  Happy days: Human brain now registers smiley face emoticon as real facial expression.

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A theory of FIML

FIML is both a practice and a theory. The practice  is roughly described here and in other posts on this website.

The theory states (also roughly) that successful practice of FIML will:

  • Greatly improve communication between participating partners
  • Greatly reduce or eliminate mistaken interpretations (neuroses) between partners
  • Give partners insights into the dynamic structures of their personalities
  • Lead to much greater appreciation of the dynamic linguistic/communicative nature of the personality

These results are achieved because:

  • FIML practice is based on real data agreed upon by both partners
  • FIML practice stops neurotic responses before they get out of control
  • FIML practice allows both partners to understand each other’s neuroses while eliminating them
  • FIML practice establishes a shared objective standard between partners
  • This standard can be checked, confirmed, changed, or upgraded as often as is needed

FIML practice will also:

  • Show partners how their personalities function while alone and together
  • Lead to a much greater appreciation of how mistaken interpretations that occur at discreet times can and often do lead to (or reveal) ongoing mistaken interpretations (neuroses)

FIML practice eliminates neuroses because it shows individuals, through real data, that their (neurotic) interpretation(s) of their partner are mistaken. This reduction of neurosis between partners probably will be generalizable to other situations and people, thus resulting a less neurotic individual overall.

Neurosis is defined here to mean a mistaken interpretation or an ongoing mistaken interpretation.

The theory of FIML can be falsified or shown to be wrong by having a reasonably large number of suitable people learn FIML practice, do it and fail to gain the aforementioned results.

FIML practice will not be suitable for everyone. It requires that partners have a strong interest in each other; a strong sense of caring for each other; an interest in language and communication; the ability to see themselves objectively; the ability to view their use of language objectively; fairly good self-control; enough time to do the practice regularly.

first posted DECEMBER 15, 2011