In the comments to the post, Even The New Republic Now Calls for a Party Purge of Corporate-owned “Centrists”, James Schipper, an excellent writer, differs regarding my definition of solipsism:
Solipsism, strictly speaking, is the philosophical theory that only I have consciousness. After all, I have no access to your consciousness, so how can I know that are conscious of anything. I can only observe your behavior.
It also means extreme egotism. See here.
a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; also : extreme egocentrism.
Self-absorption, an unawareness of the views or needs of others.
The solipsist differs from the narcissist in that the narcissist is an egotist and has a very high opinion of himself. The solipsist may have a high, low or neutral opinion of himself, but no matter, all he thinks about is himself. The egotist does not care about other people – they’re jerks who really don’t give a damn. The solipsist may well give a damn about others, but they don’t have time to think about them, as they’re wrapped up in themselves all the time.
The narcissist won’t go to their friend’s Dad’s funeral because they doesn’t care that the friend’s Dad died. The solipsist doesn’t go because while he wanted to go out of sympathy (solipsists are sympathetic to others), they were too busy thinking about themselves, and they forgot to go. Or they went to the funeral, but they couldn’t get into empathizing because they were wrapped up in their own issues during the service.
Similarly, the narcissist doesn’t listen to you because you are not important. They don’t care what you think. You’re nothing; it’s like you are not even there. There is a callousness about this type of thinking. You’re essentially nothing, a zero to them. The solipsist is trying to listen to you, but they’re having a hard time since their mind keeps thinking about themselves and their own stuff, so they keep asking you to repeat things.
The solipsist is not really callous – he’s just self-absorbed!
The narcissist is just an jerk. There are antisocial tendencies built right into the essence of narcissism.
If you tell the solipsist he’s a solipsist, they’re going to feel hurt because most of them are nice people, and they are really are caring and empathetic towards others, but it’s not apparent due to their extreme self-absorption. The solipsist will resolve to think about themselves less, but they may fail.
There are therapies for the solipsist. If they’re not too unhealthy, you can get the solipsist to ask questions to others about their lives and get them to talk about themselves, their lives, their feelings. Have them ask, “And how did that make you feel? That must have felt terrible. I can’t imagine feeling that way…And do you hate your father now because he left you at age three? How do you feel about him now? What do you propose to do about these feelings?”
Most people love it when you ask them about themselves, their lives, their histories, even the inner workings of their own minds, since they don’t get to talk about themselves much.
Then have the solipsist listen to the other person because after all, everyone has something interesting to say. This is good because it gets the solipsist out of their head for once. Then have the solipsist reflect on the experience of listening to the other and how good it felt to get out of their head for once. There are rewards for being an empathetic listener.
Narcissism is much more difficult to deal with because narcissists by their nature never think that there’s a problem. They enjoy their narcissism, and they don’t know how to get outside of it anyway. It’s all they know. Egotism can be dealt with, but when it gets to the point of narcissism, it’s almost too late. The narcissist can be treated but rarely is, since once again, the narcissist can never see that there is a problem.
All personality disorders are characterized by solipsism or self-absorption. This is why people with personality disorders often seem to have poor memories. I have told personality-disordered persons very important ongoing facts about my life (such as that I collect a trust fund from my late grandfather every month), and then several months later, repeated that fact to them.
Every time, they acted like they were hearing it for the first time. “Really? You get a trust fund? I never knew that!” That’s because they were hearing it for the first time in a way. They registered this important fact about you, but then quickly forgot it, since it’s about you, so it’s not that important. It’s not that they don’t care about you, but more that the personality-disordered person is usually running around in their own head thinking about themselves most of the time, and facts about others are assigned a lesser importance and hence drop out of memory.
One therapy of the solipsist or the egotist is to bluntly tell them, “You know what? You are not important at all. You’re nothing really. No one is important. We are all nothing. We are all grains of sand on the beach or blades of grass in the field.” If you say this to your average person, they freak out, because it offends their egotism and their sense of “niceness.”
But it really is true if you think about it.
The difference between this thinking and an that of an antisocial or narcissist is that the antisocial/narcissist thinks that they;’e God and the rest of the world are grains of sand at Waikiki.
When you lower your own ego to the same debased level as everyone else’s, there is a freedom from the cage-trap known as egotism. The great philosopher Alan Watts talks about this a lot. He’s written a lot on solipsism.