We don’t all have an inner monologue: what it means to have a “quiet mind”
- BBC News World
“I found out today that not everyone has an inner monologue and that ruined my day.”
This was the title of a blog that came out a while ago and generated heated debate online and in the media.
Those who found out began to look suspiciously at those around them.
“How is that? Don’t you have an inner monologue? … Of course you do. Everyone does!”
“What.. sounds in your mind? Not me!”
The result, on both sides, was often the same: “you are strange!”.
The blog highlighted a specific part of our mental life called inner speech, the silent conversation many of us have with ourselves as we go about our daily business.
Things like, “You shouldn’t have said that to him,” “I can’t forget to buy tomatoes,” or “I’m going to put this off until tomorrow because I’m falling asleep.”
Of course, for those who suffer from something similar, This is normal… very normal As do people like Justin live in a completely different way.
In his mental landscape “there is literally nothing”.
“There is a feeling of emptiness. There are no pictures, no noise, no sounds, no narration. Everything is completely calm, nothing.”
Not only that: between the presence of those sounds and the absence of everything in mind, there are at least three other types of the inner world of humans, a region that is difficult to explore and still largely unknown.
Mary’s mind, for example, is neither full of words nor completely empty… It’s a place Which can be accessed via a spiral staircase behind his left ear.
“It’s like a very nice attic, but small and grand. It’s oak, I think. There might be a little mahogany, but I think it’s mainly oak – I don’t think I can afford mahogany – and it’s full of things like boxes Storage, monitors, films and photographs.
“I think there’s a door in the back, but I don’t think I’ve gone through it. It’s a quiet place. Not noticeable apart from the fact that it’s inside my head.”
Like those who live with their inner monologues, Mary was always convinced that everyone had a similar attic, until one day she spoke with her daughter.
“We were talking about remembering dreams and I said, ‘Well, it’s kind of like when you go into that room inside your head,’ and she said, ‘A room in your head? “One?” She said, “No…you are so weird, Mom!” “I was surprised, but I just accepted that it was a little weird.”
Charles Fernehoe, a writer and psychologist at Durham University, was both delighted and baffled by the reactions to the blog.
“I’ve studied inner speech for most of my career, and suddenly, people are paying attention to something that has always, to me, seemed like a very neglected branch of psychology.”
Perhaps it was neglected, because our inner world is so familiar to us that we rarely pay attention to it.
“When we do that, we discover that it is a very diverse thing, which means that We must not assume that the inner worlds of others bear any resemblance to our own‘ says the expert.
Professor Russell T.
Hurlburt’s investigation caused an uproar on social media.
“It’s hard not to assume that everyone experiences the same way you feel because you don’t get a chance to see everyone else’s inner experience.
“I myself have spent my life studying it but The only people I’ve ever tried are mine“.
Among the people who experienced two of these states of mind was Lauren Marks, author of “Stitch in Time.”
Marx says he “spent a lot of time replaying conversations or anticipating a conversation that might happen” in his mind.
“I wanted to silence that voice but it wasn’t easy.
“I was an actress, director, and PhD student in New York, so My inner talk was fast, nervous and relentless….
“In August 2007 I went on tour with a show at the Edinburgh Festival. I was with some friends in a pub, singing a karaoke duet, laughing etc. until… I stopped being.
“I just collapsed. It was as if every part of me slipped away in an instant.
“The next moment I have a good memory is seeing my parents near my hospital bed. They told me I had a brain aneurysm and surgery.
“It just felt impossible and totally weird. But not bad. I didn’t feel bad at all. I felt everything different, I didn’t know which way.”
“But I found out later. The difference was that I no longer had the inner voice. And basically, I only realized when I started going back and said, “Oh, those are words, I’m not saying them, I’m thinking them!”
“A huge part of my experience after an aneurysm has been calm.
“I didn’t hear myself say, ‘Will I be able to finish my Ph.D.’ Will I be able to live independently? “the future.
“And when I think of the quietest moments of my entire life, those three weeks in the Scottish hospital are always the ones I look at.”
And more silence
Marks values her experience until the end of her book about what happened to her, she says, “Language is one of the most beautiful things in the world. The only thing more beautiful is the silence that precedes it“.
But he adds that the return of his inner speech allows him to do better.
Justin, for his part, lives in this world devoid of mind-blowing conversations.
“When I’m alone, almost 100% of the time, I’m in a quiet and comfortable place.
“It’s like having an island, a place where you are and you are aware, but everything around you is a deep ocean, unknowable. And I think what happens is that I am more attuned to this kind of ocean than my subconscious that surrounds the island.
“Sometimes, if someone interrupts me, I feel a little resentful that I have been taken out of this place and brought back into the real world of conversations and words.”
For Mary, who also doesn’t have words but holds pictures, “There is nothing in your head but calm is wonderful.
“It must be a very comfortable life. But not as colorful as mine inside my head!“.
“I wish someone else could show my attic because it’s so full of stuff and so exciting. If I could just download it to a computer somehow, that would be great.”
In defense of noise
These silent minds, in addition to being full of nothingness or visual images, can manifest themselves with feelings and also with something that has no sensory quality. It has no words, pictures, or feelings. It’s something Hurlburt calls “symbolic thinking.”
But as charming as Lauren is, Marie and Justin’s stories seem, is silence always good?
Fernyhough asks “Why all these words, if they do nothing useful?”
“Research seems to show that the conversations we had with ourselves evolved from the conversations we had with others as we got older.
That’s why I avoid terms like ‘inner monologue’ or ‘the voice in your head’.
Studying how children talk to themselves out loud while playing a game or solving a puzzle prompted Fernyhue to tackle inner speech as a doctoral student.
“This form out loud is known as private speech. The idea is that it gradually turns into quiet self-speech as we get older.
Like private speech, It seems that inner speech has its benefits: It can help us plan what we are going to do and think about what we have done. It can express our feelings, prepare us for action, and scold us if we did something stupid.
“It can list and organize our memories of the past or reflections on the future.
“In fact, research indicates that internal speech may serve as many useful purposes as normal spoken language.”
It is still not well understood why some people end up with a head full of words and others don’t.
Regardless of what future research may show, what we already know about inner speech makes it clear There is no such thing as a normal mind.
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