Talking to Yourself – Totally Normal

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I read an interview of  Alexander Kirkham, a psychologist studying cognition. Of course, I can’t find the article, but this one by his senior co-author, Paloma Mari-Beffa, covers all the main points:

It’s about how people think by talking to themselves. Apparently everybody, multiples and singletons alike, have a constant conversation with themselves running through their mind. Sometimes it stays in their mind, sometimes they talk out loud to themselves.

Sometimes it’s a monologue. “If I make eggplant parmigiana, I’ll have to allow a good hour. But that would make dinner real late. I better think of a simpler eggplant dish. Those babies are going to rot if I don’t use them soon.”

Sometimes it’s a dialogue. “Should I get a latte?” “Sure, why not.” “No, lattes are expensive.” “But I deserve a treat.” “You have a treat almost every day.” “I deserve treats.” “it’s not a treat, it’s a bad habit.”

Now, I talk out loud to myself all the time. It’s more effective than just thinking: I pay more attention.

I’m writing this as I wait for my car to get serviced. I have promised myself that it will be the last time I drive, my swan song. On the way down, I talked to my Driving Fairy. “Please help me drive carefully. I’m going to drive carefully, cautiously, courteously. I’m going to watch for every car, every pedestrian, and bicycles and scooters and skateboarders.” My Driving Fairy is good to me and I got here in one piece.

Even though I am dissociative, it seems that my thinking isn’t much different from everybody else’s.

I’m not sure if everybody talks to fairies and furniture, but I have heard them talk to keys and computers and I don’t see the difference.

Kirkwood notes that when people talk out loud to themselves it slows down their thinking, which automatically makes them more attentive. Talking silently saves time because no muscles have to be moved, and because people tend to use sentence fragments when they think. I discovered by myself that telling the Driving Fairy that a traffic light is about to turn red focuses my attention and prevents me from having to slam on the brakes at the last minute. It also prevents highway hypnosis.

I often wonder what about me is “normal” and what is due to the aftereffects of the abuse I suffered as a young child. I keep coming across articles that suggest that certain ways of thinking or experiencing the world are not unique to dissociatives. I’ve come to think of us as being on a spectrum.

  1. Everybody talks to themselves all the time. No difference between us and others.
  2. Everybody has parts. No difference between us and others. BUT….dissociative people have amnesiac barriers between some of the their parts. Other people don’t.
  3. Some people who are not dissociative (or psychotic) occasionally experiences voices as coming from outside their mind. Dissociatives often experience voices coming from outside. Plus dissociative often see parts vividly with the internal eye. Other people don’t.

It seems to me that the difference between us and others lies in the characteristics of our parts. Some parts don’t know of each others’ existence. Some have specific, limited jobs – to perform certain acts on demand, to hold a memory or emotion, etc. The central issues, therefore, are amnesia and differentiation.  And that is the subject of three or four whole books!


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