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Psychology Do you have an “internal monologue” that never ends?

cduggles

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Do you have an inner monologue or do you envision things in more visually/conceptually in your thoughts?

(It’s trending on the internet, so I’ll call this a current event.)

Do you have an “internal monologue” that never ends?

Let’s take a break from politics for a moment and look at a recent story dealing with human consciousness and the way our brains tend to operate.

CBS New York published a report last weekabout a blogger named Ryan Langdon who stumbled upon a question that blew his mind, figuratively speaking. He mentioned to one of his friends that he constantly has an “inner monologue” going on in his head, but his friend was completely confounded by the idea. She said that she never had words, sentences or stories playing out in her head and really only “saw” things internally as pictures or images. This apparently freaked out Langdon, who went on social media to seek other opinions and even took a poll among his friends. The results were surprising.

“Some people’s thoughts are like sentences they ‘hear,’ and some people just have abstract non-verbal thoughts, and have to consciously verbalize them… And most people aren’t aware of the other type of person,” Ryan Langdon tweeted Monday.
He later wrote a blog post, saying “All my life I could hear my voice in my head and speak in full sentences,” but not everyone thinks that way.
Langdon found one friend described her thoughts as “concept maps” she sees in her brain.
You can read Langon’s blog post on the subject here. He seems to have been so shocked to realize that not everyone’s brain worked the same as his that it “ruined his day.”

This is a subject that I’ve dwelled on for most of my life. Like Mr. Langdon, I’ve always had a running monologue in my head all through the day. I also frequently have a variety of fanciful stories playing out in my mind, either about other people that I’ve seen in the news or movies, or fantasies where I wind up inserting myself into one of those roles. But until last year I’d never spoken about it. I viewed it as a real-life version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and wondered if that was something weird that didn’t happen to anyone else.

That changed last summer when I made an appointment to go see a hypnotherapist. (I’d read some positive reports about such therapy and people getting help with developing more healthy lifestyle habits.) My great fear was that it wouldn’t work because I didn’t particularly believe in hypnosis and suspected that I couldn’t be hypnotized. My wife assured me that it was real, however, and described how she herself had been hypnotized in college so I decided to give it a go.

As it turns out, I was right. Despite ninety straight minutes of effort on the therapist’s part and my best, honest efforts to follow instructions and cooperate, at no point did I feel anything close being under her spell. When I finally gave up, opened my eyes and told her it wasn’t working, she tried to argue with me. But I described to her my inner monologue. Every time she gave me a suggestion or instruction, rather than being able to simply accept it, I was asking myself “why is she saying that? What’s she trying to get me to do?” That went on the entire time.

I went home and described the experience to my wife and when I got to the part about the inner monologue, she said that was the hardest part of hypnosis for her. She couldn’t shut her inner voice off either. I was incredibly relieved to hear someone else say they had the same thing and we had a long, fascinating discussion about it.

But after doing some research, I learned it turns out that the majority of people have that inner voice and process their thoughts that way. But not everyone. A smaller percentage of people primarily process things visually, like Langdon’s friend who mostly just sees pictures in her head. Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky did a lot of work on internal conversations back in the 1930s. Other studies, however, like a more recent one at Harvard, suggest that visual and verbal thinking are highly linked in some people.

I’m not sure what that says about the verbal thinkers among us as compared to the visual thinkers. Is one better than the other? Is one found more in pragmatic people while the other is more prevalent in artistic types? Good questions all, and it’s just one more example of how we are still far from understanding the underlying mechanisms of human consciousness.

We’ll close with this short video of Langdon interviewing one of his visual thinker friends. It really is fascinating to learn that not everyone’s brains work the same way.
 

JessFR

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I absolutely have an inner monologue. It's the primary way I think. It takes various forms though, usually it'll be in the form of mentally having a discussion with myself by mentally personifying the different positions in my head.

For example, say im thinking about if I should buy something for instance... My inner monologue will usually take the form of something like...

Cautious jess: "we probably shouldn't... It's a bad idea, we don't have the money for it"
Reckless jess: "what would we have used the money for otherwise? It doesn't matter that much..."

Otherwise sometimes it may take the form of me imagining an opposing viewpoint and having it debate me... For instance "you're worrying too much about this. It's not that a deal".

This is the primary way I think. And it's also how I work out my political opinions. By mentally imagining two versions of myself, one defending each viewpoint. And then debating it to myself.

For instance..

Progun jess: people have a right to defend themselves, it's not OK for women to have no choice but to be unarmed just because other people, mostly men, go around killing people.
Antigun jess: that's not going to work. If a large number of people can have guns then it's inevitable they'll wind up on the street and in the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
Progun jess: that's inevitable anyway, people will illegally import them. Smuggle them in. You live in a country with strict gun laws yet how many times have you seen guns easily available to criminals.

Etc etc. So yeah. I'm a heavily verbal thinker. Is that weird? :p
 

PtahTek

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Mean like a script that my mind adheres to?
Not a chance. Criticalanaysis, tolerance and patience leads to some very interesting out-of-box ideation, IMO.
Marching to the beat of a drum that is syncopated and do not believe what babylon wants i to; it is trickery and deception. Not a conspiracy theory thing but there are arts that we have had to let go... they use this magic to confuse, distract and enslave.
It is almost depressing to think of the monumental task it would be to entrench justice in all society.
I would like to think that my concept on the lost/stolen arts of all peoples are very real and deserve merit but have been used against the populous.
I will listen/read anything but mind is constantly comparing data with previous input: I hate to think I am close minded but once i experience something there is usually no going back. Wish we could all move ahead but that takes individual thinking in hive form.
Ahhhh... talkin out the side of my neck
 

checktest

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Good question.

I kind of vary. Never really had a consistent inner monologue/dialogue/voice before. More scattered thoughts and images, 'senses'. I'll occasionally run off someone else's voice in my mind , and usually have some line of debate/discussion within myself. Kind of stream-of-consciousness but more with perceptions as well.

I've been curious about this for a while, since I lost part of my visualization and some inner monologue when depressed. Has come back some.

I have a friend who says he doesn't really dream and has aphantasia or something similar. He has a more hands-on approach and is a programmer. (I've known other programmers who are highly visual.) A lawyer friend is quite verbal in thought, everything is an argument. I wonder how much shaped some of their choices / their work shaped their thinking. Kind of like London taxi drivers and enlarged hippocampus over time.

[Been meaning to get/read this article from Nat Rev Neuro https://www.researchgate.net/public...gnitive_neuroscience_of_visual_mental_imagery
]
Also another interesting review is https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4538954/
.

Does subvocalization in reading differ from some inner speech? Is a subset or like rehearsal?


But a lot of the time I would say I'll have perceptions and use speech as one of some mechanisms to unpack them. While sometimes I'll construct sentences, a lot of times I'll just try to get stuff down before I forget the line of thinking, like a conversion/ buffer.

Same with doing some math / solving some problems. I'll have some insight and work backwards, jump back and forth, more than logical forward/ methodological analyses oftentimes. Which of course many people do, and there is always the question of how much you are interpreting your thoughts/ lines of thinking. Thinking too much about my thinking slows it down, especially over-monitoring my thinking. But sometimes you need to unpack and parse

We are all similar in many ways but it is interesting to see how we all express our inner selves.


Music too. Sometimes yeah I'll count beats or think of this section coming up and interpretations, or hear a version (timed before), but often more a flow and it just comes out when better, more direct. Well, if I'm not thinking about that squirrel feeder and various stuff outdoors or food / errands or whatever pops in my head. I sometimes play a version in my head when reading music (or hear parts of a recording) but sometimes more feel it.

But yeah, often continuous activity that never ends with mental verbalizations. My dad would picture blankness or something for sleep, going on a mental drive, but I'll think blankness then black spots then pirates then some aircraft carrier and various situations from the day or upcoming and breathing and sensations and evaluations and ruminations and so on, unless I get obsessive on a subject etc...
 

AbbeyLee

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I had to think (heh) about this and I vary a lot. I’ll envision scenarios, have conversations with people, compose emails/messages to people, have a particular song stuck in my head.. A strange one is when I get anxious I sometimes start counting. Not counting things like OCC, just 1, 2, 3 etc.
 

madness00

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I have an inner monologue.

It's almost like i'm the main star in my own movie.

95% of the time i don't, though. The other 5% i am commenting on what i'm doing, like, "should i get a sandwich? Well i'm not really hungry. But i'm bored. Fuck it i'll get a sandwich".
 

Xorkoth

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I have an inner monologue sometimes, but usually my thoughts are a sort of sensory/conceptual blend and I have to think about how to verbalize them. I'll have a monologue come in for isolated more focused thoughts. If I'm focusing hard on something procedural where I have to reason through something, the monologue is more present.

I have always sometimes referred to myself as "we" in my internal monologue (like "hmm, we should make a sandwich now"), not always though. I identify as a single entity, 100%, so I don't know where that comes from.
 

Yourbaker

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A friend asked me this a few years ago and I've been intrigued by people's answers.

When I realized most of my own thinking was done in a narrative style, I tried to avoid the use of language. This is a hard change to make in the way I hold my headspace and I fall back on the dialogue sometimes or specifically when I'm imagining a scenario that involves language, like writing a post on blue light.

Not needing to put words to ideas has made ideas much more flexible in my own mental space but a bit more difficult to convey.

In my personal life I'm currently in a process of "Unbelieving the stupid", so for me, looking at things visually makes that a far easier process. The basic understanding that language is a developed tool for interaction not internal reflection was a big help.
 

JessFR

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I don't know, I say it as if I had a friend with me I was talking to. Sort of.
Exactly! Yaaay we're not alone. :)

It's like having a clone of yourself you're discussing things with.
 

✿Dai₷y✿

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I work with someone who talks his narrative out loud. It's super annoying as if the department must know ex's toy what he is doing at any given moment.


I tried doing it once and couldn't do it for more than 10 minutes.


Having one to myself is usually all the reasons and excuses to try to get out of doing mundane stuff and even more excuses to bail on responsibilities, skife off, reasons to stay in bed.

Then have pretend conversations with usual people to pre prepare for being lectured or told off .
 

Tubbs

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^ I do that sometimes.... mainly when I'm pissed off.

I kind of vary on this.... when I'm reading, I "say" the words in my head as I read them. But general thoughts tend to be visualizations. Also white noise pretty much constantly, it's never actually quiet.
 

atara

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I think it's funny that some people call it an "internal monologue". I certainly do not have an internal monologue. What I have is a cacophony of subconscious screaming, competing chains of thought that rise up in opposition to each other and occasionally steal entire minutes of my awareness, eternally nitpicking, never satisfied, dubious of everything from the honesty of the people I've known for years to the structural integrity of the house I live in. When it gets particularly bad I find myself internally referring to myself as "we", because I am obviously part of this organization but only nominally in control.

"I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse's good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment."
 

Phobos

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I think mostly in concepts, organized in steps like a diagram that forks when there are multiple choices and can reconnect at some point if multiple paths lead to the same result.
Each node might have not only concepts but also visuals I can recall.

It can be hard to put my thoughts in words sometimes, but if I can draw or use a device to show images it helps.
Most times it is impossible to sum up stuff without losing essential details in the process.
 

JessFR

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I think it's funny that some people call it an "internal monologue". I certainly do not have an internal monologue. What I have is a cacophony of subconscious screaming, competing chains of thought that rise up in opposition to each other and occasionally steal entire minutes of my awareness, eternally nitpicking, never satisfied, dubious of everything from the honesty of the people I've known for years to the structural integrity of the house I live in. When it gets particularly bad I find myself internally referring to myself as "we", because I am obviously part of this organization but only nominally in control.

"I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse's good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment."
Oh yeah, the inner voices can be brutal bullies sometimes...
 

Noodle473

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The voice of my co-worker from 3+ years ago has found its place in my inner monologue by means of reactions and digressions of the impulsive thoughts and actions that have found their way into my habits over the past five or more years. I also hear the sound of my landlord of 2 1/2 years ago as he played mind games with himself and others. I didn't really understand it at the time and I still do not understand it today. Some things are best left un-understood. A more recent co-worker of 7 months past also makes fun recurrences in my inner monologue to play the part of the exterminating angel. With a swipe of the scythe he takes away my presumptions. I have not seen any of these people in the past 7 months or more as far as I am aware.
 

Atelier3

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I discuss my options quietly with my dog before doing most things these days. She makes more sense than the voices in my head sociably debating what drug would go best with whatever is the next item on my schedule activity. My dog is not keen on drugs and offers more useful advice than my inner voices.
 
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