Memory reconsolidation as key to psychological transformation

I’ll probably have more to say on this subject, but for now let me just say I am delighted to have found a psychotherapy that is highly compatible with FIML practice.

Indeed this psychotherapy is based on the same principles as FIML, though the approach is different.

In FIML unwanted psychological reactions are discovered in real-world, real-time situations with a partner.

In Coherence Therapy—the psychotherapy I just discovered—unwanted psychological reactions are called schemas. Schemas are transformed through memory reconsolidation in a way that is theoretically very similar to FIML practice.

Here is a video that explains the process of memory reconsolidation that is achieved through Coherence Therapy:


Coherence Therapy (CT) requires a therapist, while FIML does not.

In a nutshell, CT uses three steps (as described in the video) to achieve results. I will list them below in bold font and explain briefly how FIML differs and is also very similar.

1) CT: Reactivate the target schema as a conscious emotional experience. This is done with the help of a therapist.

FIML: In FIML, harmful or unwanted schemas are encountered in real-life with a participating partner. No therapist is needed, though prior training in the technique is helpful.

2) CT: Guide a contradictory experience. This juxtaposition unlocks (de-consolidates) the target schema’s memory circuits. (“Mismatch”/”prediction error” experience)

FIML: The “contradictory experience” is discovered in real-life through the FIML query. The partner’s answer to the FIML query provides the “juxtaposition” that unlocks or de-consolidates the encountered schema. In FIML, we have been calling this process the discovery and correction of a contretemps or mix-up.

3) CT: Repeat contradictory experience in juxtaposition with target schema. This rewrites and erases target schema.

FIML: Repetition of the contradictory experience happens in real-life whenever it next happens if it happens again. Generally, most schema or unwanted reactions are corrected within 5-10 recurrences. Serious unwanted schemas may take more repetitions.

Since CT uses a therapist as a guide, it is better than FIML for very serious problems and for people who are unable to find a partner to do FIML with.

Since FIML does not use a therapist, it is better for dealing with a very broad range of many unwanted schemas, not just the most serious.

I am quite sure that CT will be very effective for many kinds of psychological agony. If a problem is acute, I would recommend CT based on my experience with FIML.

A shortcoming of FIML is it requires a caring partner and the transformations it induces are generally all induced in the presence of that partner. Much good comes of that and most transformations can be extrapolated to other people and other situations, but for serious problems like panic or deep anxiety, an CT therapist may be more helpful.

FIML is best for two people who want to optimize their psychologies. Partners will discover and correct many unwanted schemas and many bad communication habits.

If you can understand CT, you should be able to do FIML. If you have already done CT and had good results and now you want to go further and optimize your psychology, FIML will help you do that.

I believe the core theory of CT is sound. If that is so, it should be clear that bad schemas arise constantly in life. We start new ones all the time. Bad schemas are like trash that inevitable accumulates and must be cleaned away. FIML does this job very well.

Here is more on memory reconsolidation, which underlies CT: A Primer on Memory Reconsolidation and its psychotherapeutic use as a core process of profound change.

More on FIML can be found at the top of this page and in most posts on this site.

Is there a universal morality or basis for morality?

Anthropologists from the University of Oxford believe there are seven components or rules of human morality that can be found in all societies.

…help you family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect others’ property, were found in a survey of 60 cultures from all around the world.

An article about this study can be found here: Seven moral rules found all around the world.

The study itself can be found here: Is It Good to Cooperate? Testing the Theory of Morality-as-Cooperation in 60 Societies.

The study concludes that the universal basis of human morality is cooperation.

Among the seven rules, bravery is defined as a moral virtue in defense of one’s group, an ultimate form of cooperation that may result in death.

Deference to superiors seems to be a virtue that supports group hierarchy.

Both bravery and deference to superiors indicate that fighting within and between groups is common.

In today’s world, obviously, many people and most Americans do not live in tribes or stable neighborhoods, so our groups have become nebulous, abstract, bound more by belief and imagination than tribal and clan and familial bonds.

In this respect, the study shows why politics—and other subjects touching on group identity—can become so polarized and so difficult to discuss rationally.

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.


First posted 12/21/17

Word order and word choice affect how and what we think

A new study shows that the word order of the language(s) we speak affects how we remember spoken information and perhaps more.

An article about the study can be found here: Word order predicts a native speakers’ working memory.

The main novelty of this study is that the link between language and thought might not be just confined to conceptual representations and semantic biases, but rather extend to syntax and its role in our way of processing sequential information. The language we speak affects the way we process, store and retrieve information.

The study can be found here (no paywall): The word order of languages predicts native speakers’ working memory.

Word choice can have even bigger effects on how we think and what we think about.

For example, using the term default mode network in place of unconscious mind or the Freudian Id yields a very different kind of understanding about what people are and how they function.

If you pay close attention to your default mode network, I am certain you will find yourself making judgements about other people. I am also certain that many of those judgements will have been repeated many times in the past and without intervention from your meta-self will be repeated many more times in future.

These judgements affect how you think and feel about many things; they tend to be fundamental to the workings of our psychologies.

Often our default mode judgements include our desired punishment for the offense we have just judged: “I hope that SOB falls in the river” or however you would put it.

A wonderful side of our minds is we can see that. We can see what we are doing and even figure out ways to act on what we see.

The next time you notice yourself wishing someone would fall in the river, stop and ask yourself if that is what you really want.

I am not saying get all moral with yourself and pray for the person. I am just saying ask yourself if that is what you really want. Do you really want them in the river?

I bet most of the time, if not all, you would much rather see them repent, reform, apologize, make amends, sin no more.

If you see that, you can see there is no spiritual need for revenge or punishment. What we need and want is the betterment of the person we have judged and the betterment of ourselves.

The way we think about our real-world minds and uses of language can be changed by how we think about them.

Psychology as a feature (and bug) of language

Since almost all uses of language are ambiguous and since this ambiguity can only be resolved sometimes, it follows that whatever is not resolved is interpreted subjectively.

Since such subjective interpretations happen many time per day, it follows that individuals will tend to deal with unresolved ambiguity in idiosyncratic ways that tend toward becoming patterns in time.

This results in what we call “personality.” Extroverts seek to define the moment by asserting meaning while introverts tend to wonder about that or just accept the meaning asserted by the extrovert.

A paranoid person sees danger in unresolved ambiguity while a neurotic person worries and reacts to it.

Having experienced early trauma associated with unresolved ambiguity, borderline personalities are acutely aware that something is wrong and often mad about it.

Besides these rough categorizations, all people are molded by their habitual responses to unresolved ambiguity. Personality is little more than a name for our groping attempts to find or manufacture assurance and consistency in a world where little is certain.

Instead of talking about our feelings or pasts, we would all do much better if we talked about how we talk and how we deal with the ambiguity inherent in virtually all significant communication.

Language itself is neutral as a thing in itself, but they way we use it is not neutral. We assume too much and clarify too little.

How (intimate) interpersonal language functions

Parentheses around the word (intimate) indicate a spectrum from less to more intimate, less to more psychologically important.

1) If we study how (intimate) interpersonal language functions, we will discover that it is significantly both defined and impeded by errors in listening and speaking.

2) The more intimate interpersonal communication is the more idiosyncratic it is.

Since (intimate) interpersonal communication is psychologically more significant the more intimate it is, it follows that it is very important to analyze and understand this kind of communication. It also follows that (intimate) interpersonal communication is harder to analyze from the outside the more intimate it is.

It is essentially impossible for an expert to tell two lovers what their words mean or how to understand their acts of communication.

Therefore, the lovers must do it themselves. The expert can only show them how to do it themselves.

3) This is a fundamental truth that rests in the nexus between language and psychology: the more intimate the communication the more important it is psychologically and also the more important it is that the communicators be able to analyze their communication satisfactorily and correct errors that inevitably occur.

4) How to do that can be taught. This is a good job for psychologists. Doing the analyzing and correcting is the job of the intimate communicators.

5) If (intimate) interpersonal communications are not analyzed and corrected; if errors are not discovered and removed from the system, the psychologies of both communicators will be harmed.

6) Conversely, if (intimate) interpersonal communications are analyzed and corrected; if errors are discovered and removed from the system, the psychologies of both communicators will be benefited.

7) Indeed, removing error from an (intimate) interpersonal communication system will result in gradual optimization of both the system and the psychologies of the analyzers.

8) In sum:

  • communication error is inevitable in (intimate) interpersonal communication systems
  • it is very important to correct these errors
  • and to analyze them and the communication system itself in the light of these corrections
  • this optimizes both the communication system and the psychologies of both communicators

There is no other way to accomplish such sweeping improvement in both communication and individual psychology. There is no outside way for intimate communications to be analyzed and no one else to do it but the intimate communicators themselves.

This is a fundamental truth that applies both to intimate communication and psychology. And this makes perfect sense because psychology is determined by intimate communication and vice versa.