What The Cognitive Therapist Needs To Know About Solopsism

A core idea of cognitive therapy is that suffering is generated, in part, by evaluations; the targets of these evaluations include experiences that occur ‘outside’ the corpus of the evaluator (what I call the client) as well as sensations that occur within. One of our tasks as cognitive therapists is to assist the client in changing the evaluations thereby lessening his or her suffering. We do this through different ‘tricks’; cognitive restructuring, perhaps the most uniquely ‘cognitive’ of these tricks,  helps the client doubt the certainty of his her or her evaluations. Within the gap generated by this doubt lay the fertile ‘ground’ of new empowering possibilities of thought and action. In a sense, doubt becomes our therapeutic ‘friend’. What greater doubt can there be than that the world of suffering is nothing more than whispers of imagination of a disembodied mind? In fact, this is the basic position of the Solipsists, a philosophical tradition that begins with Gorgias of ancient Greece (485 –380 BCE). While it may not be helpful to encourage a client to disregard a financial problem as an irrelevant projection, it can be immensely useful to get them to doubt the certainty that fuels their immobilization.

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