Does talk­ing to your­self make your mind un­sound?

Re­search sug­gests a healthy in­ner di­a­logue is a good thing

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - Ted Markle Ted Markle, a me­dia in­dus­try vet­eran of more than 30 years, is a keen ob­server of the hu­mor­ous side of the hu­man sit­u­a­tion. He ap­pears in this space ev­ery Mon­day. You can reach him at ted.markle@tc.tc. – Twit­ter : @ted­markle

“But tonight I’ll be with some­one who will look me in the eye; And in that room there’ll be a bot­tle and me, my­self and I…” Me, My­self and I, John Prine, Dan Penn, & Spooner Old­ham I talk to my­self. Most of us do. Of­ten, fol­low­ing a pro­longed si­lence be­tween the two of us, Sue will blurt out a ques­tion so dis­con­nected with our most re­cent con­ver­sa­tion that I look at her in stunned amaze­ment.

I have ab­so­lutely no idea what she is talk­ing about or how to re­spond.

Af­ter a brief pe­riod of an­noy­ance, she re­al­izes that I could not have heard the lead-up dis­cus­sion that had been tak­ing place in her head.

“Right,” she says, “You missed the meet­ing in the small board­room, didn’t you?”

In­deed, I missed that meet­ing. I was at a to­tally dif­fer­ent one in my own head – at­tended by more than just me and my­self. In fact, I don’t re­ally know who all was there. My in­ner meet­ings are proof that talk is cheap, be­cause, in my case, the sup­ply far out­weighs the de­mand. Some­times, I try to take at­ten­dance, but am con­stantly in­ter­rupted by some­one play­ing a both­er­some mu­sic sam­ple over and over and over…

It has got­ten to the point where, dur­ing re­cent walks with Phoebe the won­der dog, I have ac­tu­ally caught my­self talk­ing aloud to… uhmm… my­self. If an­other pedes­trian is fol­low­ing closely, they usu­ally avoid eye con­tact and ac­cel­er­ate as they pass by.

Wor­ried that my self-chat­ter may be an early sign of mad­ness, I did some re­search.

It turns out that a healthy in­ner di­a­logue is a good thing!

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Emo­tion and Self Con­trol Lab have demon­strated that the way we talk to our­selves can im­prove our thoughts, feel­ings and be­hav­iour and even re­duce anx­i­ety. Ap­par­ently the key is the tone and per­spec­tive. Best re­sults come from be­ing sup­port­ive, not neg­a­tive, and us­ing “you” in­stead of “I.”

http://self­con­trol.psych.lsa.umich.edu/wp-con­tent/up­loads/2014/01/KrossJ_Per­s_Soc_Psy­chol2014Selftalk_as_a_reg­u­la­to­ry_mech­a­nis­m_How_y­ou_­do_it_­mat­ters.Per­s_Soc_Psy­chol2014Selftalk_as_a_reg­u­la­to­ry_mech­a­nis­m_How_y­ou_­do_it_­mat­ters.Per­s_Soc_Psy­chol2014Selftalk_as_a_reg­u­la­to­ry_mech­a­nis­m_How_y­ou_­do_it_­mat­ters.pdf

Psy­chol­o­gist, Molly An­drews, in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Daily Mail in­sists that talk­ing to our­selves is com­pletely nor­mal. “‘I don’t think it’s mad to talk to your­self, we do it all the time… Far from it be­ing a source of mad­ness, it ac­tu­ally gives us the abil­ity to think about other worlds. It’s crit­i­cal in what it means to be hu­man.”

http://www.dai­ly­mail.co.uk/fe­mail/ar­ti­cle-4171512/Psy­chol­o­gist-says-talk­ing-com­plete­ly­nor­mal.html

Re­as­sured, I got to think­ing that maybe it’s the op­po­site that’s true.

What is it with peo­ple that don’t have a ro­bust in­ner di­a­logue – or at least have never stopped to iden­tify the voices within? What’s up with them?

Our abil­ity and will­ing­ness to talk our­selves through past in­ter­ac­tions – ob­serve them from an eye-in-the-sky point of view may be a cor­ner­stone of em­pa­thy. Talk­ing to my­self, es­pe­cially from a self-dis­tanced stance, tran­scends my ego­cen­tric view­point and al­lows for in­tro­spec­tion. I can bet­ter cri­tique my own ac­tions.

No dis­course in your head means no re­grets and no apolo­gies. It pushes us fur­ther away from em­pa­thy. With­out an in­ner di­a­logue, how can we truly re­late to those around us, re­spect their bound­aries and ac­knowl­edge their needs, feel­ings and as­pi­ra­tions?

We all know some­one who fails to ques­tion their re­flex­ive judge­ments and never stops to ask them­selves what how oth­ers may have ex­pe­ri­enced cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. (Heck, you may even know peo­ple who voted for some­one like this.) And sooner or later, the ac­tions of these peo­ple surely leave you talk­ing to your­self.

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