Meaning and identity

  • Meaning can be defined as two or more signalling systems connecting. Connecting means “sending and receiving, receiving and sending.”
  • To visualize this, think of Newton’s every action produces an opposite and equal reaction; thus sending (action) produces receiving (reaction), which in turn sends a message back. For example, a photon hits a hydrogen atom; the photon “sends” while the atom “receives”; by receiving, it also sends a message back and out; it affects the photon and more.
  • Space is the foundation of the plethora of signalling systems. Time is the foundation of their activity and extent.
  • Meaning is the most basic word in language.
  • When you look at it “psychologically,” it’s not what the sign is but what the meaning is. Thus, meaning is a deep basis of semiotics.
  • In this context, it makes sense to say that time and space are the sine qua non of signalling systems. This “defines” time and space in terms of signalling systems.
  • Identity depends on meaning as defined above.
  • Our identities are (somewhat) complex nexuses of meaning/signaling that “embody” our comprehension of the semiotics of our cultures and experiences. They lie at the center of how we understand ourselves. Identity signalling occurs internally as well as externally.
  • In non-FIML social intercourse it is normal for people to assert/display the props/symbols of their identities, as they understand them.
  • People who do FIML also need identities, but they do not need the social props that help non-FIML people define each other.
  • You really do not want to be defined by props and symbols. It’s a static role that leads away from authentic being.
  • People do not truly belong to a culture. Rather they maintain the illusion that they belong to a culture. This is clear when we think and analyze identity in terms semiotics, which here means “the science of communicable meaning.”
  • Having a weak or confused identity can be a very good thing as this may prompt you to learn how identities are made and maintained.
  • No Buddhist should want an identity defined by props and symbols.
  • Buddhism is about authentic being, the “thusness” of being, the experiential existential being that you really are, the one that occurs before there are definitions, props, and symbols.
  • This being can be hard to see because humans are semiotic entities; that is, we are entities that seek, create, and communicate meaning. This causes us to look within semiotics for the definition of our authentic being, a place where it can never be found. You have to look outside of semiotics.
  • But you can’t look outside semiotics unless you know how to look inside. You have to fully understand how the “language” of your semiotics works to be able to step outside of it.
  • Your semiotics is your unique take on the semiotics of your culture(s) and experiences.
  • You cannot fully explore your semiotics, your identity, your nexus of individual meaning alone because there is no way you can check your work. You cannot see yourself.
  • Each of us is a social, interactive, communicative being. You can only fully explore your unique semiotics/identity with a partner who wants to do the same.
  • Two people working together are able to stop the flow of conversation to analyze the semiotics of how they are hearing and speaking. One person working alone is only guessing.
  • Find a partner and do FIML. You will learn a lot from it.
  • Do not expect FIML to give you new symbols or props or tell you how to be. FIML is only a procedure. It is empty, almost devoid of its own content. It is a process that will help you see and recreate your identity.
  • Do not expect your FIML teacher to be an example for you. Do not expect your teacher to be impressive or to project signs and symbols at you. Do not expect to follow your teacher.
  • Just learn how to do FIML from them.


first posted August 22, 2013

We see what we are used to seeing; and interpret it as we are used to

A new study shows that what we see is often a distortion of what is really happening. A short article about that study provides a good overview: Altered images: New research shows that what we see is distorted by what we expect to see:

New research shows that humans “see” the actions of others not quite as they really are, but slightly distorted by their expectations.

The study is here: Perceptual teleology: expectations of action efficiency bias social perception.

I think it is fair to speculate that the conclusions of that study apply not just to visual information, but to all information. For example, much of what we consider to be psychological continuity is habit based on introspective deformities.

See Psychology as “signs of something else” for more on this topic.

See also: Seeing the best way forward: Intentionality cues bias action perception toward the most efficient trajectory.

The Dark Core of Personality

We all know people who consistently display ethically, morally, and socially questionable behavior in everyday life. Personality psychologists refer to these characteristics among a subclinical population as “dark traits.” An understanding of dark traits have become increasingly popular not only in psychology, but also in criminology and behavioral economics.

Even though psychologists have studied various dark traits, it has become increasingly clear that these dark traits are related to each other. This raises the question: Is there a unifying theme among dark traits? (Source)

Study can be found here.

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