Thursday, July 16, 2015

solipsism; or, you're so vain.

You're so vain, you probably think this blog is about you.

I'll never forget it. It was one of the most mind-shattering moments of my life.

It was 2008. Springtime. I lived in Orem, Utah. I had to get to school. I got on the bus feeling nervous and self-conscious. My hair wasn't dry. My heels were starting to show some wear and tear from overuse (back in the day when I only wore heels. Ha!). I sat down and noticed a woman sitting there a few seats past me.

She was overweight, dressed in ill-fitting clothing, and looked pretty unkempt. I thought: "That poor lady! She is probably sitting here thinking the same thing I'm thinking... that everyone on this bus is judging me this whole bus ride." I stopped and had my moment of realization. I had been too busy being self-conscious about my own self to really care about what that lady was up to. 
Good old Provo transportation. Image here.

Realization #1: People are way more wrapped up in their own lives than they are wrapped up in yours.

Then I realized, I hadn't judged this lady, besides to observe her general state, and my reaction to her was one of sympathy and solidarity.

Realization #2: Not everyone who observes you is judging you.

Then I realized, even though this lady was possibly sitting there feeling so self-conscious about herself, it didn't matter. I didn't know her name. I had no idea where she lived. I had no idea who she was. Even if I had been all judgey-pants about her, it wouldn't have mattered, because then she was going to get off the bus and continue her normal life, and I would get off the bus and continue my normal life, and we'd probably never interact again. And this hadn't even been an actual "interaction."

Realization #3: Even if people judge you, in most cases, they don't even know your name and won't even care or remember tomorrow.

And now that I am blogging on solipsism, years and years later, I'll add realization #4:

Realization #4: This giant realization in my life was in itself solipsistic!

Oh well. I'll take it. The overall experience left me significantly less solipsistic, at least in my own mind. (See what I did there?)

What is solipsism?

This is the best explanation of solipsism I've read so far (from this article, which is worth reading if you care about, you know, solipsism). Emphasis mine:
Solipsism is to doubt the existence of the world that the person perceives and retreating to the only thing the person does not doubt; her own conscious mind.

In the context of the nature of existence and justified belief, Solipsism is the position that the mind is the only thing that can be known to be true and that knowledge of anything outside the mind is unjustified. 
That is just a fancy way of saying that solipsism means “I believe I’m the only one that is right base on what only I know; so you must be wrong even if you can prove you are right.” 
This is a very informative post from someone else on why solipsism matters. Worth a read. He uses a relevant illustration in this post:
Journaling in my presence? He must
be journaling about ME!!!!
Image here.
Consider Ian Ironwood's tremendous adventure in female solipsism, which he explored by the simple device of writing in a notebook in the presence of a number of women.
The lesson of the story is that every single aspect of the response from a group of 14 women (13 co-workers and a boss) was based on a) her solipsistic belief that I was writing about her based solely on the fact that she didn't know WHAT or WHOM I was writing about b) her belief in the absence of evidence that my stubborn silence was proof that I was writing about her and c) the belief that every other woman in the group was conspiring against her over the imaginary book for some reason.
Read the entire thing. It may sound absurd, but speaking as a published author, I assure you that you could easily replicate his experience in very nearly any group of women today.
The writer goes on to list a solipsism test you can expose your friends to in your spare time. But essentially, solipsism is the term for egoistic self-absorption that makes a person--but more typically, a woman--think that everything that happens, everything that people think and say, is All. About. Her.

My moment on the bus that day shook me from (at least some of--most of?) my solipsism when I realized: not everyone on the bus was thinking about me. This bus ride was actually not about me at all for the vast majority of people. Ironically, I came to that conclusion by solipsistically observing my own thoughts and projecting them onto everyone else ("well, if I don't really care how that lady looks because I am too busy obsessing over my own life, then surely other people are too busy obsessing over their lives to care that much about how I look! Because my personal experiences totally merit being projected onto everyone else!"). Okay. It was still a solipsistic realization. But since that moment, I found myself becoming significantly more objective and less ego-centric in my daily life.

Signs of Solipsism

If people are talking and their conversation slows or stops when you come near, do you automatically assume that they were talking about you?
Rationalization hamster, a
common consequence of solipsism.
Image here.

If you read a critical yet unspecific line on a friend's Facebook page or blog, do you automatically assume that it is all about you?

If you see someone writing in their journal and occasionally looking up at you as they do it, do you assume they must be writing about you, even if you are complete strangers?

If someone makes a comment about the costs of the medical system from the obese, and you are obese (just as an example), do you automatically assume that the comment was a personal slam against you and feel a need to defend yourself? (Other examples would be someone bringing up a study on this or that and you thinking that the other person bringing it up was a commentary all about you.)

All of these are signs of solipsism--the practice of assuming that everything everyone else is up to and thinking and doing all day long is all about you. (There is more to solipsism than just that, but for the purposes of this article, that's the aspect I'm going to focus on.)

Since my realization that day, I have found myself jumping far less to the conclusion that people are commenting or thinking about me me me all the same. My default assumption is now to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are actually not talking about me, because really, why would they? When my brother died, a total two people bothered to check on me. That was two years ago. Even this blog only gets a handful of hits every day ( I think yesterday's post got all of seven entire views, yay! Probably only half of them were mine!), and essentially no one I know locally in real life except basically my mom even reads it. So why would people who can't even be bothered to read my blog or check in on me when my brother dies bother yakking about me in real life?

And even if they are yakking about me in real life... so?

Decreasing my solipsism in these matters has made a huge positive difference in my life. But, easier said than done.

Why solipsism matters

Solipsism matters--I'm writing about it on this blog about energy healing--because it is a crucial determinant in how happy people are. In how happy women are. The more solipsistic you are, the less happy you will be--and the less grounded in actual observable reality. Solipsism is a part of the matrix that seems inborn to the female psyche, but doesn't have to stay that way. Solipsism cripples logic and rational thinking. It encourages selfish thinking, self-centered thinking, irrational thinking, and emotional rationalization (or "hamster-wheeling") and such thinking and behavior is not really called for. From the scriptures we learn that putting our own egos aside in the service of others is the way to happiness: to dwell in a solipsistic state is to put the ego on a pedestal and spend our time and energy rationalizing it all. To embrace solipsism is to waste valuable time and energy making flawed assumptions about objective reality.

On an energetic level, highly solipsistic people tend to be very energetically turbulent, because they allow their perceptions of what other people may or may not be thinking or saying or doing about them them them to influence them, regardless of objective reality. I suspect it is literally impossible to be energetically grounded and engaged in solipsistic thinking at the same time. Being grounded is so important to energetic health. It's time to ditch the solipsism.

How to decrease solipsistic tendencies

It's easy to say that you're not going to assume everyone is always thinking and talking about you you you all the time, but it's less easy to implement that, or to clear the feelings associated with assuming that everyone is just gossiping about you you you all day long.

The obvious and most effective way to clear solipsistic tendencies is through energy work--clear the emotions associated with past solipsism, and then go through and change the subconscious belief programs associated. The subconscious belief programs are sometimes not what you would completely expect. For example, I would consider "Everyone hates me" to be a solipsistic program, but less obviously so than a program of, "People are always talking about me" or something like that. You'd want your theta practitioner to first determine how many subconscious programs are contributing to your solipsism, and then identify them and pull and replace as they are identified.

Obviously, you can do this without energy work as well; I did. Just deciding to no longer make assumptions that everything is about me me me is a good place to start. It's like an affirmation. Some people choose to use energy work to change their thought patterns in the course of a few minutes; some people decide to repeat affirmations over and over for years until the same change is effected. Both ways can be effective. Some people just wake up one day and decide to change how they think--that's kind of what happened to me. There are a number of ways to escape the limiting tunnel-vision that is solipsism.


Solipsism is in part the tendency to assume that everyone else is preoccupied with you, that everything people write or say or do is about you. It is not a conscious mindset--it's more like the default position to which all women are set, to one degree or another. It is an opposite of the conscious mindset. Not all women are equally solipsistic. Solipsism elevates the ego while denigrating the importance of objective reality, and prevents true energetic health. Solipsism can be avoided or minimized through a raising of consciousness and energy work.

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