Do you speak to yourself continuously, or is it just me?
I talk to myself continuously from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep (most of the rest of the time I don't spend doing this is usually the time I spend actively observing something, or talking to other people). I find it difficult to "think without talking to myself", and what I talk is usually coherent gramatically. Does anyone have an inner monologue that is silent, and not articulated? Does anyone think without speaking to themselves? Can anyone think logically without explicitly talking to oneself? I can understand simple processes like deciding where to go can be accomplished without saying "I want to go to the park", but about the more complex ones?
Also, if you have an articulated inner monologue, is how you write/converse similar to how you have your inner monologue, in terms of grammar, idioms, accent? Or is the way you conduct your inner monologue markedly different from the way you actually write/converse?
I would like to know, because it will give me some ability to better relate to people, if I know that what lies beneath a person is not simply his unarticulated feelings, but also articulated speech. If I know people to conduct an inner monologue similar to how they speak, I think I can truly "understand" a person, know them inside and out, instead of knowing the outside (the conversation). Basically, if I can simply know the form of how people think, I can more easily relate to people, even if I don't know the content of their thoughts.
I get asked often if I am speaking to myself (by those who don't know me well; those who know me generally understand/tolerate me, heh ;)).
(Note: This post is a bit disjointed, and it doesn't really contribute anything too meaningful. That said, contribution and flawless writing were not my intentions in writing this post; I just wanted to share my thoughts/experiences, and then put in some headings so it was easier to read. Interpret this post more as a window into understanding more about me rather then a well written article.)
Do I speak to myself?
(Note the irony of that title. ;))
Before I answer your question, let me define some terms.
I would say someone ďspeaks to themself" when they speak aloud as if they were talking to someone, and then proceed answer that "self" in some form. An example may sound like this:
"What should I do today?"
"I think you should clean the house."
In my definition, a person who really "speaks to themself" would not have much or any control over what they are doing, and they are likely to think that this "self" they are talking to is real.
If you think this is crazy/dysfunctional, I'd agree with you. Some people may say this is schizophrenia, and it probably is very close to it, but Iíd say schizophrenia is merely a label given to a highly dysfunctional ego rather then an ďillnessĒ or ďdiseaseĒ. Just like you donít have a disease when you have a habit, you donít have a disease when you think in a predominant manner, no matter how strong that thinking pattern is. But anyway, what I describe above is what I'd call "taking to yourself".
So, given my definition above, do I talk to myself?
No, I do not. That said, there are several other things I do.
Voicing my thoughts
I've never really liked thinking all that much. I much prefer having a clear, thought-free mind then one cluttered with thinking.
So, to maintain this "like water" mental condition, I often voice my thoughts, or at least portions of my thoughts. For example, I may say aloud: "Ok, what do I have to do today?", and then proceed to think of what I have to do today. I don't really answer myself. What I say aloud acts more like a heading would in writing then a question to answer. It sort of gives structure to my thinking and keeps my mind serene.
Commenting on my experience
I picked this up when I was younger. Specifically, I spent a lot of time with a friend I was very close with. Long story short, we used to often pass comments on the things we observed and experienced, mainly to share our thoughts with each other.
This habit ended up sticking, and I havenít really seen a need to change it. At worst, some people find it annoying to be around me because Iím always voicing my opinion about something whether it was asked for or not.
Some may find this practice annoying, but personally I believe life is much more interesting when we share the experience and allow others to get a glimpse into our own unique perspectives (especially when thereís some humour thrown in!), so I consciously continue this practice because I feel it enhances my experience of life and, at least, serves as a sort of protest against all those deadly serious people who act as life is some sort of serious affair. (Iím full of irony today. ;))
Using life as a forum
This stems from the above point. Recently Iíve become more aware that when I'm around people, I often speak as if life is some sort of forum. I'll often pass comment on something, not specifically talking to someone, but not talking to myself either.
I see this practice much like making a post in an online forum. I'm not always making a post to someone specifically, but nor am I directing it at myself. It's more like a general expression, kind of like a facial expression, except communicated verbally.
Often Iíd welcome a response. Sometimes I just voice something to share a particular thought I find amusing (I try to keep life as humourous and amusing as possible, so this is pretty often; I get strange looks when I just laugh to myself sometimes, but such looks invariably come from those poor souls inflicted with seriousness ;)).
How sane am I?
Iím not particularly keen to explore this topic, but I often find myself jokingly questioning my sanity when I think about things like the nature of reality, various beliefs, etc. Fortunately I always conclude that my worries of potential insanity usually stem from fear, and that Iím just really exploring something thatís far, far off the conventional map, so to speak.
I donít have any personal experience with this, but I believe the only time you have something to worry about is when you kind of get lost in your thinking and lose your sense of awareness. Personally, Iíd find that difficult to do -- too many things would snap me out of such a state if I ever fell into it -- but I will admit that is something Iím semi-fearful of, since itís one of the only things that I really feel venerable to.
Pulling the cloak off the mind
How I keep myself from going crackers by such thoughts is largely by becoming more aware of the automatic processes that my mind seems to run on. One of the specific things I do is notice that any worries or fears I have are largely being perpetuated or even created by the very act of thinking itself!
This doesnít always snap me into a state of intense awareness, but it does make me see how ridiculous the notion of insanity is, and I theorise that one of the easiest ways to slip into a negative state of mind is by creating an imbalance between awareness and thinking, which is what insane people seem to do. Too much thinking seems to end up becoming destructive, and your thoughts begin to feed themselves.
Understanding the mind
The conditioned mind is made up of many structural processes, many of which you probably aren't even aware of, and in my experience, when I encounter something I don't quite understand, I feel a pull towards thinking about it, even if I don't really have a real desire to understand it.
Want to experience it for yourself? Ask yourself "am I sane?". You'll probably begin to notice your mind reacting in one way or another (maybe you'll get worried, fearful, curious, confused, etc).
This pull towards understanding is a pointer towards a hidden structural process in the mind. These structures are independant of content (ie. specific thoughts, such what the weather was like today, how old you are, etc), and it's often all too easy to mistake content for a structural process. They are also automatic and usually not something you control. To experience what I mean by this, try to not picture these objects when I say them: Apple. House. Car. Keyboard. (Have you failed yet? ;))
Anyway, while I could go on and on about how the mind operates, Iíd say that thinking is a great tool, but when you fail to balance it with your other faculties, much like failing to balance general living with restorative practices such as eating, sleeping, drinking, etc, youíll suffer the consequences. I wouldn't really be worried of things like insanity as I would be vigilant in maintaining awareness, which includes an understanding that any pattern can become destructive if you let it, including those associated wiht thinking.
But then, thinking is only one aspect of our consciousness, much like hearing is only one function your body can perform. Years ago I had no knowledge of this concept, and Iím still coming to grips with it now, but I wouldnít doubt that statement for a second.
If anyone would like to explore the nature of their thinking more deeply, I recommend the work of Eckhart Tolle (specifically A New Earth or The Power of Now, although A New Earth is probably better for this topic). Youíll learn that while you ďcanĒ think, you are certainly not your thinking, and it gives you a new perspective on life that is extremely useful. But that is all I will say on that matter and Iíll let people explore this path at their leisure.
(If it seems I plug Eckhart Tolle a lot, it's only because his work is highly applicable to a vast number of topics... it's kind of like plugging Steve when talking about personal development. It's kind of hard NOT to reference him, especially when his work is so helpful/good.)
I usually have an inner monologue running at all times. Sometimes just for fun I'll experiment with trying to think in images instead, but for the most part I am an auditory person and my thoughts are in words.
Bruce, we may share certain patterns of thought, like the pull towards understanding structures. But, l've never questioned my sanity, probably because I consider the term meaningless. I generally think all people can think in similar patterns, it is just that some people spend more time in a particular pattern of thinking (some act with little pondering, some ponder a lot). If a pattern of thinking leads to a happy and content life, through the joy of contemplation itself or through the fruits of this pondering (such as better ability to relate to people), I see no reason a label such as "sane" or "insane" should mean anything other than "normal" vs. "slightly different".
Like you say, the pattern of thinking simply should not become destructive to happiness and contentment.
Secondly, unlike you I do like my mind to be constantly occupied by internal monologue, I find constant thinking/contemplation/monologue to be very enjoyable, I think contemplation is a very useful motivator. I find it difficult to motivate myself to wake up if all I have to do is work. My mind is very much cluttered with thoughts about problems I face, instead of quieting my monologue, I write and I write and I write until I get to what looks like a solution, or at least some understanding, and any emotions I may have with a statement like "am I sane" slowly fades away. I find writing to be a good aid to the internal monologue, it is slower, but thoughts flow more logically, and a solution is always found.
I looked up your name over the internet and called a mental institution. Expect a phone call in the next few days.
Please stay home and don't get out.
What the average person expresses externally is filtered, based on culture and society. Much of what goes on in internal dialogue is not acceptable in polite society.
There is no way to know the depths of someone's internal dialogue. There is no real "form" either. Depending on your relationship to the person (friend? family? significant other?), situation (work? personal?), recent history (did they experience death of a loved one? raise at work? started taking drugs?), etc.., there are infinite forms.
If you want to better relate to yourself, then meditation and mindful awareness will help you tremendously (it has helped me). However, being aware of yourself doesn't automatically translate into better relations - it certainly is a foundation. However, better relating to others is a complicated interaction of knowing yourself, practice, knowing social norms, knowing how to boost others positive feelings, etc.
Yes, there is a running dialogue in my head At All Times.
Yes, it is very much like the way I talk and write.
Yes, sometimes I talk (think) out loud to myself - especially when trying to make sense of unfamiliar, detailed information.
Yes, I sometimes answer out loud to myself.
No, I am not schizophrenic.
And if I feel self-conscious about it, I act like I'm talking to the dogs. ;)
I've always associated talking to myself (as well as the tendency in others) with a creative and imaginative mind.
I don't meditate but isn't inner silence something that people who actually do it aim for? Quiet this inner voice?
I also have an inner monologue (dialogue?! sometimes it seems as if there's a committee meeting in my head :)).
I've been able, over time, to distinguish between when my inner voice is being helpful (like for example when I'm trying to make sense of information, like Lola mentioned) and when it's simply stuck on "repeat" and rehashing useless gunk... that's when I use meditation or Eckhart Tolle's suggestions from The Power of Now to quiet it down.
It depends on what I'm doing. When I'm at my desk drafting, I never think in words. When I work out sometimes I stop thinking in words.
Most of the time, of course, I'm not working out or at my desk. (That takes up maybe seven hours on a super busy day.) Most of the time I'm thinking about my boyfriend and how we're going to spend time together after he gets off work, and whether or not I want pumpkin cheesecake from that Italian place again, or whether I should purchase a new vacuum, or what would it be like if Foucault met a vampire, and more importantly, what kind of shirt he'd be wearing, or maybe that I should spend less time thinking about Foucault and vampires and get to cleaning my bathroom mirror more often.
That's it. Yup! :)
I talk to myself often and gesticulate thoughts and feelings, but only when I'm alone. I think if I were to get a video camera and film myself all day, then sit down and watch it, I would be watching a madman.
When I read, I speak the words in my head and have conversations with people. This isn't the same as hearing voices, the voice is my own and it's not uncontrollable. I'm not sure, but do other people just think voicelessly?
The thing is that speaking to yourself is not always a bad thing. Speaking is a pressure valve for our thoughts. If you spend enough time alone, it is dangerous to internalise your thoughts too much. When you internalise your thoughts too much you can have a conversation with yourself to a point where you might develop another personality. This is purely my theory, though, and cannot confirm if that would happen. However, I have spent alot of time alone so, if I am not actively thinking (IE working on something, writing, etc.. basically keeping my brain active), my thoughts linger and turn sour. The only release valve for me is to talk to myself but in a way that does not suggest another personality.
I have a very active brain that is on high speed so even at the moment I wake up, my brain is already at it, usually about something that I have to think about IE something I need to do that day, solving a problem, etc...
So, if you do talk to yourself, make sure you don't pick up a different personality because that's when it gets dangerous.
Even if you are not a person who may usually talk to yourself, it helps when you are trying to pep yourself up IE boost your confidence. Verbalising your thoughts can give them more power because they conscious words, words of choice, and not subconscious fractures of thoughts.
That's all I have to say on the matter.
Way off topic:
A light bulb just went on. (Hey I have those days) I meditate and always wanted to get into the visual aids they use, you know the calm ocean, floating among the stars. I could never do it. I did have great success with the chants though (but only to myself, too distracting out loud). Cdn2wheeler said: "could I be more auditory-dominant than visualy-dominant" I never thought of that. I guess that must be the reason. Or I'm just weird.
Yes I talk to myself too, sort out all sorts of stuff. Talking out loud is kept to a minimum, the guys in the white coats are lurking enough already. Besides out loud conversations are distracting. Cursing is best done out loud though, I get very little benefit from keeping it to myself.
I'm talking to myself. When I'm alone, I do it out loud. When I'm in public, I do it silently. That's my natural way of thinking. When I speak or write, I have the internal dialog that matches what I say. Some people say that I'm good at writing and I attribute this skill to the habit of "playing with words" in my head.
However what I talk about internally is the images that rush through my head. I'm thinking in movies and just comment the most important bits out of these movies. I think that this habit formed in my early childhood, when I would read a book, see it in my mind and then remember is and talk it through as if I am a character in a book.
Nowadays I have a good control of my mental processes, I can switch from visual thinking to sound thinking to internal dialogue, to sensual thinking and mix and match them all as I need. Each way of thinking is useful for different things.
And of course I can switch the voice in my head when I need to (meditation, visual experience, sex etc). Comes with practice.
If you think in words and sentences all it means is that you are likely a verbal-aural person.
Most verbal people don't actually think in terms of proper paragraphs. If you heard their thoughts it would seem haphazard and highly confusing to you.
Only verbal people who fancy themselves as/are thinkers will have a proper comprehensible inner monologue or dialogue or trialogue or whatever.
Unless, of course, when you say you can "switch" you mean for ten minutes or so.
I DO have proper "articulated speech" in my head. I speak in full sentences and it all makes sense. YET... I've never considered myself a fully verbal/aural person. Both verbal and visual are important. I "see" the words in my head as I say them. I can only learn a new language or how to pronounce someone's (unusual) name if I see the words written down. I not only have a photographic memory though, but also an aural one - I can remember conversations word for word (it often amazes me how people mis-remember what has been said :)).
Paraphrasing Al Capone one can say that: "You can get much further with a kind word and capitalizing it than you can with a kind word alone."
I humbly disagree. Please, try to use capitalized text only if it is absolutely necessary which is about never.
*Taking off my mod cap*
To tell how did I come by this ability would require me to retell the large portion of the NLP Master-practitioner course plus a couple of extra seminars. It is beyond the word limit even for my voluminous posts. To make it short, first you have to notice that all types of thinking are present in your mind. I've never met a person who did not use all of them. Visual, aural, kinesthetic. The problem is we are used to one of them and have better skill with it.
But as everything in our brain, this skill can be practiced.
The key is to start noticing these images, sounds and feelings. Once something is inside our conscious attention we can control it.
I'd sit and play with my internal movies - take snapshots, resize, change color, hue, saturation, distort proportions and so on.
The same for sound and feelings.
To be able to stay in a certain mode for a long time I change my body parameters to the ones typical for the people with one or another mental type. Posture, gesticulation, tone of voice, eye movements, breathing type. Once you get it right it even becomes difficult not to be, say, kinesthetic.
But maybe I still have a chance. :) How long a switch you would consider worthwhile? 20 minutes? Hours? Days?
By switching I mean that I can switch whenever I like and for whatever time I need. I usually do not need more than a few minutes, or dozens of minutes at the very maximum. It all depends on the purpose. If I'm memorizing something I go completely visual, but I need to do it sometimes for a fraction of a second.
If i prepare a speech, I'd better stay in the aural mode and it can take a couple of hours or more to polish a speech. However, I would also have a bit of visual to mentally lay out the non-linear structure of the speech at the same time.
If I have sex, I go to "all feelings" mode and with your permission I will not comment on how long does it last :)
For me being able to switch fast is more important than to be able to stay in a certain mode for hours. There are very few tasks that require staying in one state for hours. Quite opposite, if you've found the right mental state for a task it takes progressively less time. That's the whole point, isn't it?
Unlike most who've replied in this thread, I rarely ever have an articulated inner monologue in my head. And yes, almost all of my logical thinking is conducted without explicitly talking to myself.
When I think, I consciously juggle discrete concepts or beliefs (some of which are blurry, others are clear) in my mind. My concepts/beliefs are not consciously represented as words or images. Rather, they are represented as something else. However, these representations are fundamental (irreducible) in my conscious experience and they are unlike anything else, so I have no idea how to describe the representations other than with the words "concepts", "beliefs" or maybe "ideas" (which I'm sure is not very informative).
Perhaps not surprisingly, when I talk to people, I have great difficulty in expressing my thoughts with words - i.e. I'm somewhat inarticulate (writing is different, though, as I have plenty of time to choose the right words. This post has taken me about 15 minutes to write so far). Consequently, many people assume I'm less intelligent than I am when they first meet me. Also, my way of thinking has a strong influence over the way in which I like to interact with people. I generally dislike engaging in small-talk (I'm not good at it and I find it boring), but I love having deep conversations about general or abstract notions.
I envy people who can express their thoughts verbally with clarity, so I've tried in the past to practice thinking with words. However, I find that this forced way of thinking is slow and hence frustrating. Recently, though, I discovered that, if I read a book out-loud to myself for several hours, I can maintain a natural articulated inner-monologue for several more hours without any effort at all, and when I converse with people in this time period I can speak much more articulately than usual. I sometimes now read out-loud to myself before I attend a social event so that I find talking to people easier and more enjoyable. It would be interesting to pinpoint the neurological reason behind this.
On the plus side, I have a natural talent for rapid comprehension of abstract ideas in, for example, mathematics, computer science and philosophy, and I find mastery of such ideas deeply satisfying. I have a particular interest in philosophy-of-mind because I'm so fascinated by the way in which my own mind works.
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