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      The certainty of doubt

      Dr. Padraic Gibson

      Padraic Gibson is a psychologist, family therapist and supervisor. He works in Ireland, Italy and Malta. He is a Senior Research Associate and Lecturer at Dublin City University and founder of the OCD® and Anxiety Disorders Clinic .

      Infectious doubt

      Human beings have a natural tendency to seek certainty and control over their lives. Doubt challenges this desire for certainty, because it introduces a feeling of ambiguity and unpredictability. When faced with doubt, individuals may experience discomfort and anxiety due to the inability to confidently predict or control outcomes. Doubt can create cognitive dissonance, which is a psychological discomfort that occurs when people have conflicting beliefs, ideas, or perceptions. We also tend to seek constancy and consistency in our thoughts and beliefs. When doubt arises, it can challenge existing beliefs or create inconsistencies, leading to a state of cognitive dissonance that we seek to resolve. This can be particularly destabilizing when it involves challenging deeply held beliefs, values, or personal identities. Our attachment to these beliefs and identities provides us with a sense of stability, meaning, and belonging. When doubt arises, it can threaten these core aspects of the self, triggering emotional reactions and a strong desire to protect and defend one's beliefs or identity. Doubt is often associated with the fear of making wrong decisions or choices. Human beings tend to avoid mistakes and strive for accuracy. Doubt introduces a feeling of vulnerability and fear of making mistakes, which leads individuals to experience anxiety and hesitation in decision-making processes.

      Self Confidence Concept Illustration

      Certainty and control

      Human beings have a fundamental need for certainty and security, which provides a sense of stability and reduces anxiety. The discomfort and impact of doubt can be attributed to human psychology's inherent desire for stability and security. While doubt can cause discomfort and uncertainty, it also serves important cognitive functions in our daily lives. Doubt stimulates critical thinking, open-mindedness, and the exploration of other perspectives, which essentially leads us to learn, grow, and decide. Managing doubt and its impact requires individuals to develop skills to tolerate uncertainty, engage in self-reflection, and use cognitive strategies to navigate the complexities of doubt in different aspects of life.

      History of doubt

      The history of doubt in philosophy is rich and spans different periods and philosophical traditions. Doubt has played an important role in shaping philosophical inquiry and has been a driving force in the exploration of knowledge, truth, skepticism, and epistemology (the study of knowledge). Socrates, an emblematic figure of ancient philosophy, emphasized the importance of questioning and doubting one's beliefs in the quest for wisdom. His method of inquiry, known as the Socratic method, involved engaging in critical dialogue to question and examine assumptions, leading to a better understanding of issues. In the 17th century, René Descartes brought doubt to the forefront of philosophical inquiry with his method of systematic doubt. In his work “Meditations on First Philosophy,” Descartes engaged in radical doubt, questioning the reliability of sense perceptions and even the existence of an external world. He also sought to find a foundation for knowledge that could withstand doubt, ultimately arriving at his famous saying "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). Pyrrhonism, a school of skepticism founded by Pyrrho of Elis in ancient Greece, held that true knowledge is impossible to achieve due to the inherent limitations of human perception and cognition. This theory was further explored by philosophers such as David Hume, Kant, Locke, etc. and, later, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus explored the existential doubt that arises from the simple reality of the human condition.  

      Sartre et al delved into the challenges of finding meaning and purpose in a seemingly absurd and uncertain world, emphasizing the importance of confronting and embracing existential doubt as a catalyst for freedom and authenticity of the individual. 

      Doubt remains a central topic, and philosophers continue to explore questions related to the nature of knowledge, the criteria for justified belief, and the limits of human understanding. Throughout history, doubt has played a vital role in challenging established beliefs, sparking intellectual questions, and opening the way to new ideas and understandings. It continues to be an integral part of philosophical discourse as thinkers grapple with the complexities of knowledge, truth, and human understanding, but it can backfire.

       

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      Psychological effects of doubt

      Doubt can have a big impact on human beings because we have a natural tendency to seek certainty and control in our lives. When doubt sets in, it can threaten these fundamental aspects of the person, triggering emotional reactions and a strong desire to protect and defend one's beliefs or identity, as can be seen in many current political debates across the world. While doubt itself is not generally considered a psychopathology or disorder, some psychological disorders and conditions may involve doubt as a dominant characteristic or a contributing factor.  

      Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

       Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by recurring intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety or preventing perceived harm. Doubt is often at the heart of OCD, as individuals feel excess self-doubt and uncertainty, leading them to engage in repetitive behaviors or mental rituals to temporarily alleviate uncertainty.

      Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 

      Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry and anxiety about various aspects of life, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as agitation, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Doubt can be a significant factor in GAD, as individuals may experience chronic uncertainty, apprehension, and excessive doubt about their abilities, decision-making, and future.

      Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

      Body dysmorphic disorder is a disorder characterized by a preoccupation with perceived flaws in physical appearance that are not observable to others or are mild. People with this disorder often have excessive doubts and worries about their appearance, leading to intense distress, self-consciousness, and avoidance of social situations.

      Paranoid personality disorder

      Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by pervasive distrust and suspicion of others, with a tendency to interpret others' motives as malicious. Although not explicitly linked to doubt in the traditional sense, people with paranoid personality disorder often experience excessive doubt and uncertainty about the intentions of others, which contributes to their distrustful nature. and suspicious.

       

      Generalized anxiety disorder

      Specific phobias

      Some specific phobias may also involve self-doubt as a contributing factor. For example, people with a phobia of flying may have doubts about the safety of airplanes and experience excessive worry and uncertainty about flying. These doubts and anxiety can lead to avoidant behaviors and significant distress.

      It is important to note that the presence of doubts alone does not indicate psychopathology or a disorder. 

       

      Bibliography

      1. Abramowitz, J. S. (2006). Understanding and Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
      2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA:  
      3. American Psychiatric Publishing. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Anxiety disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.  
      4. Antony, M.M., & Swinson, R.P. (2010). The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven, Step-by-Step Techniques for Overcoming Your Fear (2nd ed.). New Harbinger Publications.
      5. Barlow, D.H., & Durand, V.M. (2014). Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. Cengage Learning.
      6. Descartes, René. "Meditations on first philosophy. (1641)
      7. Hofmann, S.G., & DiBartolo, P.M. (2001). Social Anxiety: Clinical, Developmental, and Social Perspectives. Academic Press.
      8. Hume, David. "Investigation of human understanding". (1748)
      9. Kant, Immanuel. “Critique of pure reason. (1781)
      10. Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On the genealogy of morality”. (1887)  
      11. Sartre, Jean-Paul. "Being and Nothingness". (1943)
      12. Stroud, Barry. "The meaning of philosophical skepticism. (1984)
      13. Williams, Bernard. “Descartes: the project of pure inquiry”. (1978)
      14. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. "On Certainty. (1969)

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      A team of more than
      50 trainers in France
      and abroad

      of our students satisfied with
      their training year at LACT *

      International partnerships

      The quality certification was issued under
      the following category of actions: Training action

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