As someone who lives alone I talk to myself to a degree that would be embarrassing if I were to be overheard. Most of my conversations with myself are pretty boring, but some are really rewarding. It’s like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but way cheaper.
I talk to myself in three voices (at least). As a child of critical parents, there is always a low bass line of self-criticism throughout any self-conversation, repetitive and not helpful, but no longer at my age very damaging, and usually ignored. This voice is The Critic.
The other two are the Encourager and the Investigative Reporter. The Encourager urges me on when I am tired or scared or lazy or frustrated, much like mushing a dog sled team in the Iditarod. The Investigative Reporter asks why, how, who, what and when constantly and will not be silenced until we know.
I appreciate my Encourager—it’s the only way I ever get to the gym or stop myself from going into Baskin Robbins on a whim. These conversations can be lengthy, since they often degenerate into knock-down, drag-out arguments with myself when I am encouraging myself to do something really virtuous and very challenging. Or stopping myself from doing something really tempting and self-destructive. Who best to coach and encourage me, if not, well…me? I have known myself my whole life and have told myself everything—nothing is hidden between us. But I lose these arguments sometimes, too. I am a formidable verbal adversary.
I do listen to others and sometimes even follow their advice, but despite all my good intentions, I still don’t have a financial adviser or a tax consultant. (I do have a 12-Step sponsor—I’m not nuts!)
A problem can arise when The Critic shape-shifts to hide within one of these two helpful characters…but that may be a subject of a future blog post. I am working very hard on having my internal Encourager sound more loving and less like a boot camp sergeant, but there is a way to go. The Critic and I talk about this frequently, out loud, at home alone.
I talk with the Investigative Reporter as well, but these conversations are more one-sided, more demanding of action on my part, and shorter on his. Often these are just quick interjections, verbal question marks with no interrogatory word: I am a cartoon character with a question mark floating over my head. Usually these questions are answered after a quick trip to Google or Wiki, or in the case of how to YouTube. But the very best full-on curious questions lead to reading a book or conversations with friends and colleagues or even a commitment to longer term research. The majority of books I read are non-fiction and I also watch a serious dollop of documentaries—the Investigative Reporter must be satisfied.
With all these voices (the Encourager, the Investigative Reporter, and even the Critic), I explore these conversations out loud, because I can—I live alone, thank God. I don’t have to listen to someone say, Do you know you are talking to yourself? Of course I do. Isn’t it great?