How do I cope with solipsism or solipsism syndrome?
March 2, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I cope with solipsism or solipsism syndrome?

Here Keeping it brief, I've been feeling really unreal at the moment, and my dreams are kinda realistic. This is a really upsetting thing to happen to me, and I was wondering if anyone who's had the same thing could give advice on this. Therapy answers I'd not prefere, cause I need quicker fixxes. Any suggestions? Is this permanent?
posted by Jazzwick to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like you were seeing a therapist a month ago - is that still going on? Any way you could get your next appointment moved up?
posted by moxiedoll at 4:23 PM on March 2, 2010

Response by poster: She said I've learned all there is to know. I'm making gradual progress on my OCD, and my fear of external punishment has disappeared, but now the solipsism has come back and I'm scared to even go to sleep cause the fear's so powerful. I'm sorry I use this site a lot and I will get some interesting questions up soon.
posted by Jazzwick at 4:28 PM on March 2, 2010

The problem isn't that your questions aren't interesting, it's that they're beyond the scope of what people can answer who aren't mental health professionals. I don't think there are any quick fixes for this. You can't just start spreading your peanut butter in a different way and it'll go away. You really need to talk to a therapist. If your current one won't help you with it, then find a new one. Also therapy isn't like school where you learn some stuff and then you're done. If you're still having issues then you're not done.
posted by amethysts at 4:52 PM on March 2, 2010 [15 favorites]

Does your therapist know that the solipsism has come back? You sound very upset, and it's not good to be afraid of going to sleep--I'm not a therapist but I would think yours would want to hear from you ASAP if this is how you feel. Contact her.
posted by sallybrown at 4:53 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's not that you use the site a lot or don't post interesting questions. But you seem to frequently use AskMe as a substitute for therapy. There are several examples just in 2010.

To literally address your question, though this probably isn't that helpful, I don't understand how you can write this:
How can I deal with not being unique? ... Everything I do seems to have been done a thousand times before, probably even my life story.
And now you're talking about being a solipsist. Isn't feeling that "there are so many other people like me" mutually exclusive with feeling that "I'm the only person in existence"?

You don't need to apologize for your questions not being "interesting." Some of them are quite interesting, and that's not a requirement for posting to AskMe anyway. Many of my questions have been very boring, and I'm fine with that: AskMe exists to help the askers, not to entertain the answerers.

But there seems to be something larger going on that's not really addressed by our targeted answers to your specific questions. I know you said you don't want therapy answers and your therapist says you have everything you need. But that sounds like a rather uncalled-for dismissal by your therapist. Maybe you just had a mediocre therapist -- that wouldn't be too unusual, and it wouldn't be your fault.

In response to your veganism question, after several of your comments seemed to express an increasing level of anxiety beyond your specific question about vegan practices, I wrote:
OK, at this point you're clearly looking more for therapy than for guidelines on veganism. So, I recommend therapy.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:08 PM on January 12 [12 favorites +] [!]
Replacing veganism with solipsism, I stand by that advice here. If your therapist seems to be losing interest in helping you, look for a new therapist.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:57 PM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Useful tips on suppressing the symptoms!
1. Visit a place in which you can see far off.
2. Get some plants.
3. Spend time around pets, spend time with people.
4. Find someone you can talk about your feelings with.
5. Eat healthy.
6. Keep Hydrated.
7. Get a normal amount of sleep.
8. Exercise.
9. Get outside.
10. Seek professional help.

It sounds like doing things that increase your contact with other living entities in the physical world is the way to go. That wiki page makes it sound like sufferers are often people who are isolated in confined spaces and whose contact with other people is always mediated through technology. Do you spend a lot of time on websites like this one? I sure can't tell you're a real person from here.
posted by contraption at 5:00 PM on March 2, 2010

On post-view, I want to be clear that I'm not at all trying to suggest that your concerns are unimportant or not worth our trouble to help you with. There are so many thousands of people on this website that someone would definitely help you if they could. The problem is I doubt that a haphazard assortment of faceless internet users who haven't met you and are just typing words in their spare time can really get to the heart of things.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:00 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree that it sounds like you need to find a new therapist who is willing to take your concerns seriously. Therapists shouldn't just dismiss your problems like that. They should work with you for as long as it takes to get you feeling well. I also agree that it is unlikely you will find a satisfactory solution to this problem from AskMe. If you are willing to say where you are located, someone might be able to recommend a therapist in your area.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:03 PM on March 2, 2010

Yes, call your current therapist first. Yes, look for a new therapist if your current one continues to dismiss you. If all else fails, if therapy really isn't an option, look for a support group of some sort. These are not the sort of problems you solve by wallowing in your own thoughts. Having someone to talk to, and to serve as a reality check, is a big big help.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:03 PM on March 2, 2010

Maybe this is trite or obvious... but is there a way that you can embrace the feeling? As in, who cares if none of this is real? Regardless of whether everything is real or not, you can still do what you enjoy, be the person you want to be, act in accordance with your values, help and be kind to others and the environment (since it probably makes you feel good to do so), engage in hobbies that are fun for you, eat tasty food, and so on.

Alternatively, you can try to insist to yourself that what you have is a feeling, and that it is artificial. Like, for people who are depressed, keeping in mind that they're viewing the world through depressed-colored-glasses sometimes can be empowering. Just repeat to yourself that it's merely a feeling that you have, and what makes the most sense is to proceed as if everything is real. You have the right instincts for this; after all, you thought about what all of us would think about your question!

If your therapist says that you've learned all there is to know, and thus isn't helping you combat your fear, I think you should try to find another therapist. Or at least explain to your therapist that you need more help from him/her one way or another, because you're still not feeling ok.

And no worries about how interesting your questions are! Like others have said, this one certainly is, and even if it weren't, you need not worry or feel guilty or obligated in terms of your AskMe questions. It's all good.

One question: what is the fear of sleeping about? How would you finish the sentence, "I'm afraid to go to sleep because...."?
posted by sentient at 6:03 PM on March 2, 2010

You have been seeing a therapist. Have you ever been assessed by a psychiatrist?
posted by kitcat at 6:27 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

If no one outside you exists, who is answering your question? I'm not being glib here. I'm pointing out that you are, in your very asking, betraying a need for others who you know to exist. Embrace that need! Let others need you back!
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:36 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

As much as we all want to help, it would be a lot better to find someone to talk to, particularly a therapist, but for help sooner than that, try calling this hotline:

The Girls and Boys Town line "provides short-term crisis intervention and counseling and referrals to local community resources. Counsels on parent-child conflicts, marital and family issues, suicide, pregnancy, runaway youth, physical and sexual abuse, and other issues."

If your frightening and realistic dreams have to do with sexual assault, you might also call the Rape Crisis Hotline: 800-656-4673.
posted by salvia at 7:04 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this is relevant to your situation at all, but I'm curious whether or not you ever have migraine headaches? I do, and suffer from what I'll call "episodic solipsism" (for lack of a better term.) This started when I was a little girl: I'd tell my mom, "Mommy...I just don't feel real! I feel like I'm inside a bubble looking at everyone and everything else in the world."

This happens to me a LOT, and my latest neurologist told me it's a feeling/symptom/whatever that can be tied to both migraine and epilepsy.

Clearly, I am NOT a doctor so I'm not trying to diagnose you here, rather, just wondering if you've examined possible physical causes as well as mental/emotional.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:12 PM on March 2, 2010

Someone above said:

Isn't feeling that "there are so many other people like me" mutually exclusive with feeling that "I'm the only person in existence"?

Just wanted to point out that those two things absolutely aren't mutually exclusive and really fit quite nicely together. If you truly feel that you are creating the rest of the world (as in a dream), of course they would all be reflections of you and, hence, be like you.

Maybe try this exercise: each time you encounter someone, or at least talk to someone, try to find something in the way they talk or behave that would NEVER come from you. This could help you on both counts. Good luck!
posted by nosila at 9:07 PM on March 2, 2010

Just wanted to point out that those two things absolutely aren't mutually exclusive and really fit quite nicely together. If you truly feel that you are creating the rest of the world (as in a dream), of course they would all be reflections of you and, hence, be like you.

That's a valid logical point, but it's not really in line with the frustration and dismay the OP was expressing about not standing out from the crowd in his question about not being unique. I maintain that there is a pretty serious contradiction between the two questions if you look at it not as a logic puzzle but as an emotional attitude toward the world.

Anyway, there's not much point in sitting around trying to rationally justify solipsism. If the OP thinks he's the only one who exists, he's simply incorrect. For instance, I exist; otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here typing this on my MacBook, and he didn't know about that detail until I just told him because he's not here with me. And if he thinks the MacBook is just a figment of his imagination, he's wrong: it's been in my possession for years, since before the OP knew about me. As ObscureReference pointed out, he doesn't really believe that other people don't exist or that it's all in his mind; the fact that he asked the question shows that he believes that we have thoughts in our minds that aren't in his mind to begin with. So, if you want to look at it rationally, there you go. (Of course, I don't expect any of this to solve the OP's actual problem of needing to see a therapist.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:41 PM on March 2, 2010

To elaborate on my previous comment, let's say someone posted a question that said this:
I'm a solipsist. I don't think anyone else exists; I'm just imagining them.

I also don't find myself to be unique. I resemble many other people in the world, even though they're imaginary.

I feel just fine about all of this. I'm happy with my beliefs, and they don't interefere with my life. Am I being illogical and wrong? Should I change my beliefs, or is this OK?
I would answer that question: "You seem to be doing fine. Sure your views might be unconventional and challenging to conventional wisdom. I might not even agree with them. But who cares what I think? Go ahead and stick with your worldview if it works for you."

But that's not the OP's situation. If he's deeply distressed about being alone in the world, and deeply distressed about being too much like other people, I recommend realizing that there's a tension between these views: if you're often running into people who resemble you, well, at least you're not alone in the world.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:50 AM on March 3, 2010

Maybe you just need to shake up your daily routine. It can help to interact with things that surprise you or are not under your control. Volunteer, garden, go on a hike, ride public transit, get a pet, mentor a kid.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:14 AM on March 3, 2010

You work on giving up your OCD rituals, your fruitless quest to live without any impact on other living things, and your belief that some mystical force is going to punish you if you don't do these things. Feeling detached and unreal? Of course you are, you are attacking the dysfunctional comfort zone behaviors that traded a moment to moment sense of security for the ability to pursue a real, functional, fulfilling life. Getting kind of crazy, vivid dreams? Of course you are, all these emotions and sensations you're suppressing have got to come out somewhere. How do you interpret these ordinary mental phenomena? To hell with supernatural punishment, now you're facing total gratuitous existence failure!

Just keep working on what you've been working on. You know you exist, you know realilty is real, you know your dreams are dreams. You KNOW these things. You seem to have a real penchant for getting invested in whatever weird psychological cabbage your brain kicks up around what are pretty basic experiences of fear, detachment, and self-reproach. Stop trying to figure out things you know in your heart are crazy. Focus on things that you know are real, like your pursuit of academics. Fake it till you make it, as the old-school alcoholics say: if it doesn't feel real, act like it's real anyway. Now shut off the computer and go take a walk or something.
posted by nanojath at 11:56 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to suggest randomness. Or maybe things that are awe-inspiring. Find things that you cant imagine, to try and regain your sense of disconnection. Try looking at galleries of art, from different artists, and realize that there's no way one brain could have produced art that different. Or, you could try violence if beauty doesn't work. I don't know you personally, but I've stayed away from violent images most of my life, and I know there are things out there I couldn't possibly imagine on my own. They'd have to be from someone else.
posted by shesaysgo at 9:20 PM on March 4, 2010

It's hard to know where your head is at -- or should be -- if your body is out of whack. We are, after all, biological creatures. Are you eating well? Are you managing to sleep ok, considering? What about exercise? It's hard to get a feel for reality when you're fuzzy from being low on sleep, barely eating, staying indoors all the time, etc..

Many of the other experiential suggestions here might work (worth a try), but I second/nth the suggestion to consider another therapist. There's a million of them out there, and they don't all share the same ideas. A psychiatrist isn't a bad suggestion, but be sure you don't end up with a pharmaceutical "cure" for your problem (unless it's to compensate for a biochemical imbalance).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:45 PM on March 17, 2010

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