I should have paid attention to the telltale signs. I was talking to myself, and not quietly either. Then again, at least I was chattering aloud in the car, alone.
Come to think of it, I talk to myself frequently, though not always so anyone else could hear. But why? Why the constancy of inner dialog, why more at some times than others, and specifically, why do we talk ourselves out loud?
As for the noisy, inquisitive, or disparaging inner voices, they are rarely silent, frequently helpful, occasionally instructive, and at times, hurtful. And when I resort to lectures or debates with myself as if in ordinary discussion, I know I have too much on my plate.
I Am Not Alone. (And Neither Am I. And Neither Am I.)
I am reminded of a serio-comic film I saw once in which one of the characters is cheating on his girlfriend, skirting closer and closer to being caught, and chiding himself (aloud) as he tries to break off with the other woman and return his relationship to “normal.”
And he talks to himself in the mirror. What is amusing (and telling of his screwed up priorities) is that he is more upset with talking to himself aloud than the underlying dramas over his pending breakup. And yes, not only does he bring his relationship to the brink of disaster, but ultimately, he gets caught.
While there’s nothing so onerous taking place in my life, talking to myself aloud is a sign that I’m feeling overloaded: too many lists, too few hours, too many commitments, too little sleep, too much of this, too little of that… You get the picture.
And so I take to talking to myself aloud as a means of further structuring an overfilled day.
I know I am not alone in this. (And my other “mes” are not alone in this either!)
Why Do We Talk to Ourselves Aloud?
As for other causes of conversation that we venture into solo, finding myself sitting at a snarled intersection this morning, I can think of reasons that go beyond being overly busy and stressed. Among them are:
- aiding recollection
When I’m annoyed at myself — I’ve taken on more than I can handle, I’ve forgotten something important, I haven’t stood up for myself or my position — I speak aloud in a maternal tone, as if lecturing a child. At times, I can be downright cruel in the language that I direct to myself.
Under certain circumstances, I’m wiser in my approach, as motivational talking — yes, aloud — can be used very effectively. When overcome with an urge for cookies, my response may be something like this: “Now come on. You really don’t need them. You’ll feel lousy after. And you’ll feel great if you eat that orange instead and can fit your favorite jeans by next week!”
And as was the case early this morning when running errands from a mental checklist, I repeated them out loud to impress them in my short-term memory.
Anyone else for bank, bananas, gas, garlic, spinach, salad, and two breasts of chicken?
What Psychologists Say on the Matter
In the many years I lived alone, I didn’t speak to myself any more than I do now. If anything, I adore the quiet and feel no particular requirement to hear my voice.
Yet I wonder why I have periods of time when I am more likely to talk to myself than others, I was curious to see what light psychologists might shed on the matter.
This article from The Guardian shares insights on our inner voices, including the way we hear as we read silently, as well as when we talk to ourselves.
Apparently, our “inner speech” actually involves tiny muscular movements similar to speaking aloud, and with evidence suggesting:
… that inner speech and speaking out loud share similar brain mechanisms.
Fascinating, don’t you think? Moreover, we may all find ourselves engaged in inner speech when, for instance:
… Perhaps you’re at the supermarket and realise that you’ve forgotten to pick up something you needed… maybe you’ve got an important meeting with your boss later in the day, and you’re simulating – silently in your head – how you think the conversation might go, possibly hearing both your own voice and your boss’s voice responding…
Now I won’t say that it’s only these practical purposes that send us to rehearsing (or regurgitating) words circulating in our busy minds. For some of us, we’re hearing voices from the past – a critical parent, for example – that we internalize as our own. And more’s the pity.
The Power of Inner Dialog
When I hear the self-deprecating voice in my head that I know was absorbed during childhood, I consciously try to turn things around and allow my adult self to overrule the less kindly speaker. Even in this, I find that when I am tired, angry, sick or stressed, a more raw and unforgiving voice will emerge, and the adult must work harder to remind her that negative self-talk is unhelpful and a positive approach is generally the better way.
Psychologically speaking, Psych Central goes so far as to inform us that talking to ourselves is a “sign of sanity.”
… Talking with yourself… relieves loneliness… it may also make you smarter. It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating. There’s just one proviso: You become smarter only if you speak respectfully to yourself.
Well that sounds pretty good to me! Though I do, still, need to work on the way I speak to myself – kicking the less than respectful terms to the curb and sticking to positive messaging.
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