Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 6, 2013
“Solipsism is often introduced in the context of relating it to pathological psychological conditions. Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud stated that other minds are not known, but only inferred to exist, he stated “consciousness makes each of us aware only of his own states of mind, that other people, too, possess a consciousness is an inference which we draw by analogy from their observable utterances and actions, in order to make this behavior of theirs intelligible to us. (It would no doubt be psychologically more correct to put it in this way: that without any special reflection we attribute to everyone else our own constitution and therefore our consciousness as well, and that this identification is a sine qua non of understanding).”
The only mind we can be certain of is our own. From there, we assess our relationships and infer meaning into other people’s perception of their experience. So, it stands to reason, that the better we understand our own brain, the deeper we can connect with others. Lolo, a sixty-two year old male, and Annette, a forty-one year old female have been married for twenty years, and yet, their understanding of one another is shallow. By that I mean the continual frustrations with their communication style plagues their marriage on a daily basis. Lolo is obsessive and gets tremendous enjoyment out of finding bargains through coupons, credit card points or airline miles. Annette, however, feels that those details detract from her enjoyment of life. For Annette, pleasure means not getting mired in details, whereas for Lolo, those details give him enormous pleasure. Their drama plays out as Lolo asks Annette to follow-up on new credit card applications making Annette fume at Lolo, pushing her towards contemptuous feelings, which she is only occasionally fully aware. Lolo, in kind, is “frustrated” with Annette, because these “simple details” never seem to get done. The problem goes back to this notion of Solipsism. Lolo knows how his mind works and so he assumes Annette is a twin, and likewise. Couples therapy helps them see that their vantage point, perfectly valid, is not shared. For twenty years, this incongruity was never articulated, but rather, felt as an “irritant” on good days, and “despise” on bad days. To understand that each brain is unique, and hence different, is the art of relationships, and the art of psychotherapy. The brain fires in different ways, making one tempted to see the science in this drama, but the state of the art, is just that, an art.