Solipsism and mental health(this may give you a headache)


Solipsism is an irritant to all philosophers.  Some call it a nonsense argument, but I disagree.

What is solipsism?  In a nutshell, it suggests that no one can prove to certainty anything outside of their own mind.  I take it further, and suggest we should doubt even that.

Madness?  Perhaps.  It shines an interesting light on reality, though.

Consider this-name something that exists that you are certain of, that you have absolute evidence does, in fact, exist, without at some point you having to rely on belief.

Many will suggest all kinds of things.  I suggest that few of those have seen anything like “The Matrix” or “Total Recall”.

Consider the chair you like to sit in while at home.

11053679-vintage-empty-chair-in-luxury-interior

You believe it exists.  You could give the evidence that you can move it, or try to sit down in a place where you choose to believe it is, and will fail to sit in it if it is not there, and will only succeed if it is real.

Sounds good, right?

What evidence do you have that you attempted to sit?

You felt your body moving in such a way that would tell your brain that you did so, correct?

What evidence do you have that that information is real and actually happened?

You have your memory of the event, as well as visual clues.  All kinds of sensory information.

How do you know you did not hallucinate it?

This is where some will turn to an angry rant at the madness of solipsism, my insanity for using it in argument, or whatever, but the argument is an effective tool to make one point.

Everything you know, everything you experience, it all starts with you choosing to believe it exists on some level.

Got struck by a car?  On some, undefined level, you believed that both you and the car existed.

Won the lottery?  You had to believe a number of things for that to be true.

Solipsism, I think, should be pointed to more often, especially in the world of mental health.  You have to choose to believe you exist in order to choose to take any action.  It may not occur to you consciously that you made this choice, but a choice was made, by you, regardless.

Poof!  You have power.

12477643-magic-wand-with-a-trail-of-stars

You control one thing in your universe.  You have chosen to believe that you exist.  If you choose to consciously disbelieve that you exist, then you will take no actions of any kind, and you will cease to be conscious after enough time has passed.

Your choice in what to believe means that you also control the choices you make on other things.  IE-if you exist then you have to decide how to sort out what internal signals should be acted upon and which should not, but you are in control of that.  You choose the action you take based on these signals, good or bad.

For someone who has hallucinations, this allows for a simple test-if something extraordinary happens, or you are told something you are experiencing is not real, then try to act as though it does not.  If you see a being of fire chasing you, let it catch you.  If you develop burns and are rushed to the hospital or die from interacting with it, then you can now lay claim to the idea that you see things that are real that others do not see or experience.  Otherwise, the next time you see it, you know you can go on and not pay attention to it.

For me-this works.  I see and hear things all the time.  If they are things that I can use an outside source to verify that someone else believes in it, then I use them.  Without an outside source, all I can do is try to recognize whether these things occur in what I see as “normal people’s” lives.  If no, then I try to interact with them to a point.  Some things, I will experience on other levels. Some things, however, I will not.  Those things I experience a sensation by interacting, I make a note of, and quietly try to feel out others and see if they have any reaction to them.  If no, then I can safely ignore them.  If yes, then I know that someone else has a reaction, and they have to become “maybe” at least.

Is it complicated?  Yes, but probably no more complicated than baking a cake, if you have a system.  Perhaps this is what psychiatry is missing.  People need a system of thought, and the one they have isn’t working.  Whether we’re discussing suicide, hallucinations, bipolar, antisocials, borderline personalities…

It may not work for everyone.  Some people may need an assortment of pills to keep them from running nude through the streets chasing laser wielding squirrels.  Then again, maybe we all need to start somewhere.  Some point which we can take control of and hold up as something we have control over.  From there, we can build a system of thought.

Of course, it all begins with the basic belief that we exist…  I have chosen to believe that I do.  Everything follows from this.

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8 Comments

Filed under Philosophical Q&A, Thoughts

8 responses to “Solipsism and mental health(this may give you a headache)

  1. growupproper

    This comment is in reply to your comment on my home page: My big question was not whether or not I exist (I took it for granted) it was whether or not there was any point to life. My stumbling block was the problem of why should I get up in the morning, why should I reach for my goals, for any goals, why do anything, what’s the point? Like you the only reason I could find to do anything was because I chose to do it. I chose to live, I chose to get out of bed, I chose to reach for my goals. It was the only reason I could find that I couldn’t prove to be pointless/false.
    This post comes from a mind that does a LOT of thinking. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. People like you and me get stuck for whatever reason in so much thinking, so much questioning and analyzing that we drive ourselves insane. You said you felt I’ve gotten over a stumbling block. The stumbling block I’ve almost gotten over (because I’m just on the verge of achieving the kind of mind I want) was too much thinking. Your life situation seems a lot more complicated than mine was, but I think the same applies. There are people who act too much and think, we are those who think too much but don’t act. And I know you’re not just sitting around doing nothing (like I was) but I bet you spend a lot more time in your head than outside of it. If you focus a a bit more on the outside world your life will change dramatically. If you take your incredible thoughts and ideas and find practical use for them in the physical world you’ll find out that there’s nothing you can’t do, no heights you can’t attain. Also, your mind will become clearer, you ideas will become simpler, sharper, more concise, less chaotic. Like I said before, your post made my brain spin, this is the kind of thing I would spend hours thinking about 5 years ago, now I find it just too much. Reality is very, very complex but it’s base laws, the stuff you need to understand all of it are very, very simple. If you understand the basic principles you can expand them for whatever need or purpose you may have and only when you have a need or purpose (thinking without need or purpose is meaningless). Just like a writer takes 2 sentences, 2 ideas and expands them in 2 pages or more out of necessity for filling a page, so must we expand our thoughts only when necessary (otherwise we risk going nuts). I really loved your comment and blog, hope this wasn’t too rude. You wrote in 1 post that you tend to write really erratic and change the course of your writing really often. I honestly couldn’t tell. You’ve got a real talent for writing, keep it up.

    • Not rude at all, and I thank you. 🙂

      Put my ideas and thoughts to practical use… Why else would I be on wordpress? 😀

      Ideas are only useful if they can be explained and have the potential to spread. I’m trying to better my writing, both in simplicity and clarity of ideas, as well as the ability to weave a story. You, and others like you, who read and respond to the things I think and say here with honesty will only help me to get better at doing so.

  2. growupproper

    Humanity does need to change the way it views things and the changes we need to make are a small/simple/few. We just need to make a small adjustment to the basis of how we think and feel. It’s been a while since I’ve gone through something quite this complicated (I must say, your post makes my brain spin).

    • Thank you. : offers ibuprofen :

      There is a ripple effect to any changes made, though. Especially when you start with “personal belief of existence”. I don’t think it gets a whole lot further towards the “core” of things than that. 🙂

      In other words, the more information in, the more complex the process of thought necessary to live within a structured society. When it comes to those of us who are “different” mentally ill or overly creative in our thinking, we tend to have extra information fed to us by our ever-so-helpful brains, whether we want it or not.

      (The reason different is crossed out-it’s kind of nonsense, because everyone is different. 😉 )

  3. great post, great comment by orwell1627, gr8 response by you!) A,, this is safe to ‘allow’!

  4. Great post! I agree with you that philosophy has not provided a satisfactory solution to this problem. I grant “Cogito ergo sum,” but that fact does not logically lead to some of the conclusions Descartes and other philosophers have reached.

    • Thank you! “Cogito ergo sum” just doesn’t do it for me, you know? For me, especially given the “brain in a vat” theories, recent movies, that sort of thing, how can one even be sure that their thoughts originate within their own minds? My answer, in my opinion, is sort of like dropping back and punting. I choose to believe I exist, despite the fact I can argue successfully(to me) against the idea. The choice, then is my “defiant act” declaring to the universe, if it exists, that I exist, until the universe proves me wrong. 😉

  5. For the record, I’m going to look for ibuprofen after writing this. 🙂

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