Thursday, 30 December 2010

Is talking to yourself really crazy?

We're always told that talking out loud to yourself is a sure sign of losing your marbles.  However, with my Dear One away, and Baby Boy at nursery, I started to ponder how true this is, or not.  And so I came up with a host of reasons why it's a good idea to talk to yourself!

This might sound a bit strange, but let's be honest here: who doesn't have an inner dialogue running almost constantly?  "Should I eat that biscuit?  Do I have time to run to the shops?  Should I wear a red top or a green jumper?  Will my friend arrive on time?  What's keeping her?  Should I call her to check?  Do I hoover now, or do the dishes first?  Does it matter?  Oh, yes, I should hoover as late as possible as she's allergic to cat hair, and the cats won't stop moulting just because I've already hoovered."

Speaking some of this out loud achieves two things: firstly, it slows down the rate at which you churn through ideas, as most of us speak a lot slower than we think (well, other than children and some adults who trip over their tongues in their haste to get everything out of their head).

Secondly, actually saying something out loud you hear it both in your head and in your ears.  This makes it more likely that you will pay attention to it, and may notice if you say something important (or ridiculous - I've often laughed at myself when I say something out loud, which in my head I might just have let pass by).  And this matters as those things we say in our heads still get processed by our brains, but without as much censorship as if we say them out loud.  So, we're swallowing whole all those judments, self-criticisms, and down right daft things we sometimes say to ourselves and may be missing our good ideas!

I think it's interesting that the Fool in tarot is always accompanied by an animal (normally a dog, as above).  I have often talked "to the cats", or "to the baby".  While talking to the baby is justified in that it really does help with language development, to be honest talking to the cats is mainly talking to myself but with a theoretical audience to prevent me feeling quite so foolish.  And this points to another aspect of talking to oneself.  It can happen because we are alone, without the benefits of others to bounce ideas around with.  But the benefits of getting ideas out there to examine and play with remains.  So, if we're isolated, whether temporarily or for a longer period of time, talking to ourselves can help us clarify ideas, as well as keeping us feeling more connected, even if it is just with the dog/cat.

This aspect of feeling more connected is relevant, too.  I know of several people who have been on vipassana retreats.  There, part of the idea is to be silent in company.  This highlights again the differences between being with others or alone.  Being silent in company is a different feeling to being silent alone, just as speaking in the presence of others is different to speaking to yourself (just think of having to speak in front of an audience for instance).  Speaking out loud when alone reminds us of speaking with others, just as having the TV on to hear voices can make us feel less lonely.

In all these ways, I think it can do us good to talk, even if no-one is there to listen or reply.  So, be honest here, do you ever talk to yourself, or to the cats/dog/goldfish etc?

Image: The Fool from Dame Fortune's Wheel Tarot by Paul Huson, published by Lo Scarabeo.

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