What The Cognitive Therapist Needs To Know About Naive Realism

0002We, like our clients, live in world that we interact with. The back and forth influence that runs between the world and each of us defines nearly every aspect of our lives. The more mastery of this relationship the more likely we feel in control; the less mastery, the more likely we feel (and will be) victimized by a world that is so much more powerful. 

As cognitive therapists, we endeavor to alleviate suffering by empowering our clients to use their cognitive abilities to improve their lives. We do this by calling their attention to thinking distortions, by teaching them assertiveness skills, and with all of the tools that we’ve got. Ultimately we’re helping our clients to relate to the world in ways that offer fresh opportunities and the ‘wiggle room’ to make a new start.

 We are in fact unmasking the naïve realism that has trapped them.

Naïve realism is a philosophical tradition that has its roots in the beginning of Man’s efforts to crack the code of the mysteries of the universe. Naïve realists hold that to perceive the universe is to be in direct contact with what lies before. To see a flower is to see a flower as it really, truly is. To see death is to see it as it really is. Idealists, at an opposite end of the philosophical spectrum, hold that human perception should never be confused with what really is. To perceive is to experience a phenomena through the very cloudy lenses of the human perceptual apparatus, social influence, and an almost infinite list of cognitive sleights of mind.

Personally, both sides appeal to me. While that may be a cop out, I evoke my right to have my philosophical cake and eat it too. There is realness out there and how feel free to describe it in any which way I wish. It’s that privilege that I, as a cognitive therapist, happily and lovingly offer my clients.

And then they can enjoy some cake too. 

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