Some People Don’t Have An Inner Monologue And I Am One Of Them

Some People Don’t Have An Inner Monologue And I Am One Of Them

The voice you hear inside your head? Yeah, I don?t have it.

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It is believed that most humans narrate their day from start to finish via the thoughts inside of our head and our emotional response to different events; however, the variation takes place when it comes to how a person narrates these events. In every brain, there are a gazillion different neurological connections so it should come as no surprise that not everyone converts this computing power into words. In fact, most would believe that we all ?think in words? or ?have an internal voice,? but I am here to say that this is far from the truth and I am living proof of it.

Russell T Hurlburt, a professor in psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has devoted his entire career to studying the psychological phenomena of what he calls the ?Pristine Inner Experience.? In his tests, he would expose participants to a beeping sound several times a day and then ask them to recount what was going on in their head just before they heard it. The idea being that they would get better and better at it and he would end up, after a few weeks, with an accurate portrayal of their mental landscapes.

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In a study performed with 30 college students, an average of 26% of participants reported having some sort of internal speech ? some up to 75% while others had none at all.

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Bernard Baars, one of the leading researchers in consciousness science, says: ?Human beings talk to themselves every moment of the waking day. Most readers of this sentence are doing it now. It becomes a little clearer with difficult-to-say words, like ?infundibulum? or ?methylparaben?. In fact, we talk to ourselves during dreams, and there is even evidence for an inner speech during deep sleep, the most unconscious state we normally encounter. The overt speech takes up perhaps a tenth of the waking day, but inner speech goes on all the time.?

About a month ago, there was a man who made a similar discovery via a texting conversation with a friend: that not every person has an ?inner monologue.? A person?s inner monologue can be defined as ?the inner voice that narrates one?s thoughts throughout the day.? He classified this insight as being a ?day-ruiner? considering he was in complete shock at the fact that not everyone hears a voice inside of their head on a daily basis. He then took this isolated discovery and made it into a social media poll where he encouraged the responses from anyone who could relate. The feedback was tremendous and very insightful for both sides ? those with an inner monologue and those without with one person even mentioning that when they do voice-overs in movies of people?s thoughts, they ?wished it was real.?

People can experience inner thoughts through emotion, sound, imagery, feeling, and text. If I were to say the word, ?dog? to you, your mind would likely do one of three things ? picture a canine of some sort, the word itself, or hear a voice saying ?dog.? But for myself and others, there is a fourth option: sound. In other words, some might hear a dog barking.

My responses to information in any facet come in two forms ? auditory and visual. So for myself personally, I see the words a person is speaking as they would appear being typed on the page of a computer screen and never once will hear the person?s voice speaking them, nor my own. If a person expresses a feeling of heartbreak, I do not replay the words in any one voice inside of my head, but rather picture a physical heart splitting in two along with a sound that can be associated with the thought ? perhaps stepping on eggshells or the sound of a steel-toed boot smashing a fragile object resting on the ground.

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As the individual who expressed his shock following the discovery, I too was surprised to learn that hearing voices in a true linguistic form within the parameters of one?s own mind was both possible and involuntary for many.

Many of us who do not have an internal monologue that is constantly discussing the events of our day, will adopt involuntary visualizations triggered by specific words, phrases, or thoughts. For example, if there is an item on my to-do list that makes its way out of focus, but is prompted by the sight of something, an exclamation point might appear in my mind. More specifically speaking, if I know I need to do laundry and I notice a dirty sock on the floor, my mind will respond with the visualization of a to-do list with an asterisk or exclamation mark next to the words ?do laundry.?

At times, I will see the words spill onto a page (as they are spoken) in a way that illustrates the intonation of the phrase???perhaps a roller coaster going up and down for a question or low-tide for a monotone statement. So in a way, my mind recognizes a voice has spoken each word and it acknowledges there is a specified tone and pitch to each; however, this is depicted via words, rather than a second or similar voice.

To provide even deeper insight, oftentimes my mind reserves specific imagery for specific emotions prompted by all sorts of words, comments, etc. An example of this (that is closest to mine) is that of Elena, a PhD in linguistics at the University of Texas, who shared her own inner language is a landscape of visual references that she has to actively work to convert into the written or spoken word. Her mind lives in a world of associative imagery and metaphors ? which becomes overwhelmingly visceral at times ? consisting of art, culture, fantasy, and personal experience.

Though I do experience words and texts at times, she does not, and at times, this is the same for me. Elena shared in an interview, ?My grandmother used to skinny dip with me when I was little, and then she would go back in the house when the moon came up. It was weird as my relationship with my grandmother changed in that moment. She became very stern again. She was playful until the moon came up. She was like a werewolf. That image became part of my inner language for a change in fate or change in the relationship.?

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When individuals such as Elena sense a souring in conversation or find that their social interaction is taking a turn for the worse, the scene of her grandmother leaving her to bath alone in the moonlit lake will steal the spotlight of her consciousness. ?If a person suddenly changes and I see a different side of them and they are abrupt, that is the image,? she says.

While those of us similar to Elena may have a relatively consistent visual library to draw upon for each emotion, these are merely guiding principles ? a backdrop for more nuanced thought. It?s not as simple as one picture means X while another means Y, the sequencing of these images is where meaning is often found: ?It?s the space in-between where the information is. It is really complex and changes all the time. Mostly the images are rich and will mean different things in different contexts, then I have to mine the image for what I?m thinking about?.

It is a unique thought to consider that no matter where you fall on the spectrum of internal dialogue and no matter the direction, what goes on internally from one person to the next has a tremendous variance. I suppose the appropriate way to conclude these findings is with the observation that no matter our innate preference for mental processing, each of us has a way that works for us. I would be lying if I said I wished I had a voice speaking to me about everything that is going on both in and around me all day, every day; however, I would be curious to spend a moment in the mind of someone who does.


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