There are two story types and one of them is being vastly overplayed

The one being overplayed is decently represented by the Hollywood plot, a sixty-scene, ninety-minute story based on primary emotions with a twist or two.

This kind of story also relies heavily on archetypes of human behavior.

In life, this story type is the personal ego or persona. In psychology it is theories about the personal ego or persona, including most therapies, most of the DSM, and much of the way psychometrics are used (tautologically).

The story type that is underplayed are the real stories of real minds and spirits. These are almost never simple archetypal, Hollywood plot-like stories.

Hollywood plots work as communication packages, semiotic bundles that almost anyone can unwrap and enjoy with little or no effort. Archetypal stories can be carried around. They can be easily held in the working memory, easily told to others.

This is why they communicate so well and also why they can only communicate so much. They are limited by a formula based on how many people can understand the story and how many will be able to keep it in working memory.

Stylistically, they are tautologies much like psychometrics. We measure what plot techniques lots of people like and are able to understand and then discover that these plot techniques are indeed what lots of people like and understand.

What archetypal stories leave out is what most of real life is.

Real life rarely turns up Hollywood plots. They can and do happen, but even when they do the Hollywood side of the story is typically a simple interpretation of an event which in reality is much more complex.

In Buddhism, thusness is the real thing, the irreducible uniqueness of each moment, each life, each karmic path. Thusness is a story that is much harder to tell precisely because it is true, unique, one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated, authentic real-life.

Archetypes, psychological theories and classifications, Big Fives or Sixes, and all editions of the DSM added together cannot give you thusness. Instead, they will cover it over. They will cover it over because they are too easy to communicate.

So how do you access and communicate your story(s) with someone else? You have to have a technique like this. You really have to work at not doing archetypal stories about yourself and others.

Archetypes and Hollywood plots are population-wide measurements like BMI or psychometrics. They have value when describing or communication with whole populations. This is why we are exposed to them almost exclusively in public media. The real story of you is not there.

Using truthful statements to lie

A recent paper explored the effects of using truthful statements to deceive others.

The authors of the paper call this behavior paltering and define it as “the active use of truthful statements to convey a misleading impression.”

The paper, Artful Paltering: The Risks and Rewards of Using Truthful Statements to Mislead Others, says:

…we identify paltering as a distinct form of deception. Paltering differs from lying by omission (the passive omission of relevant information) and lying by commission (the active use of false statements). Our findings reveal that paltering is common in negotiations and that many negotiators prefer to palter than to lie by commission.

The paper tests the effects of paltering during business negotiations, but paltering can happen in many other contexts. Examples of paltering by public figures can be found in the news every day.

The concept of paltering is also interesting psychologically. I am going to speculate that individuals often palter to themselves concerning their own internalized autobiographies and reasons for doing many actions.

If we use our inner voices to palter to ourselves—that is use the best “truthful” description of our actions that also just happens to place those actions in their best light—then we are not living with full integrity even in the privacy of our own thoughts.

At the same time, we have to be careful about how we assess our own paltering. We might be right to use the best version of events because that really is the correct version.

The problem is there is no good standard for an individual alone to decide what is objectively right or wrong.

For example, if someone smokes pot in a state where it is illegal are they paltering by telling themselves the law is stupid so why follow  it?

FIML partners will want to avoid paltering at all times but especially in the midst of a FIML query. Properly done, FIML can help with internalized paltering because this sort of subject matter lends itself well to FIML discussions.

As with all moral questions, where we draw the line is not always easy. The more tools we have the better. Awareness of paltering and its effects on others is good tool to have.


First published 12/16/16

1956: Brainwashing from a Psychological Viewpoint

From PDF: Brainwashing from a Psychological Viewpoint


Edit: Contrast this more recent recent finding: Reducing trait anxiety by implanting false positive memories.

(Study: On the advantage of autobiographical memory pliability: implantation of positive self-defining memories reduces trait anxiety)

The 1956 doc above shows how harmful control of an individual (severe gaslighting) causes fear, defeat, surrender, and lastly identification with a brainwashed state.

The study linked just above in this edited section produces fundamentally opposite results, though it also manipulates the mind. Both brainwashing and “implanting positive memories” work with deep personal semiological clusters of meaning and memory. One techniques debases the person and pushes them to identify with their abusers’ wishes. The other helps the person redefine painful memories and feelings to improve anxiety responses.

The important thing to see here is the deep personal semiological clusters of meaning, memory, and emotion. These clusters can be identified, manipulated and changed as both of the above techniques show.

How can we do this to ourselves in a beneficial way? How can we investigate our deep personal semiological clusters? How can we change them?

The answer is we have to identify them as they are actively functioning in real-world, real-time situations. Then we have to analyze them.

Once any particular cluster has been viewed and analyzed enough times, its strength will decrease. And as it decreases, it can be replaced by more realistic or positive features. Most people only have a few major deep personal semiological clusters that bring discomfort or harm.

The way to do this is with FIML practice. FIML neither brainwashes nor implants false memories. Rather, by working with semiological clusters, FIML upgrades them. FIML is like an editing program for the “grammar” of deep personal semiological clusters. By definition, deep personal semiological clusters are important. Most of them began in the deep past and have been added to since. By observing and analyzing these clusters in real-time, partners will find they are able to upgrade them to optimize both their psychologies and their capactities to communicate with each other.

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

Heritability of common brain disorders

A large, wide-ranging statistical analysis comparing common brain disorders to the genomes of over one million people has found some interesting linkage.

“One of the big messages is that psychiatric disorders turned out to be very connected on the genetic level,” says Verneri Anttila, the first author on the paper and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Broad Institute. The implication is that “current diagnostics don’t accurately separate the mechanisms” for the conditions, he says, which might be a factor in explaining the struggle to find new treatments. (Analysis of a Million-Plus Genomes Points to Blurring Lines among Brain Disorders)

The study is here: Analysis of shared heritability in common disorders of the brain.

EDIT: Unrelated but interesting: Brain tingles: First study of its kind reveals physiological benefits of ASMR

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.