Do You Talk To Yourself? Does It Matter?
Do you talk to yourself? Before you answer, think about where your answer came from. Chances are, you answered it to yourself, with a voice inside your head. That voice is your voice, and unless you’re schizophrenic, it’s the only voice in your head that you actually listen to.
Years ago, I was attending an AANP convention in Portland, and was approached by a colleague who was familiar with my studies and work in psychoneuroimmunology and the impact of language on behavior and health. He told me that he had terrible insomnia, and was wondering if I had any insights to offer him.
“I don’t know if I do, but I have a few questions,” I replied. I asked him what he did while he lay awake at night. He told me that he talked to himself about the day’s events, about what was coming up the next day, things like that. “But mostly,” he went on, “I keep reminding myself how late it is and how important it is to fall asleep.” I watched his face as he said this, and I don’t know how else to describe it. He looked agitated. So I asked him, “When you talk to yourself that way, what does the voice in your head sound like?” I think that put him in a state of total confusion. He got very quiet. I could hear a clock ticking.
“What do you mean?” he finally said, somewhat slower than before, and in low tone. “I mean, what does your voice sound like when you talk to yourself and can’t fall asleep.” He said, “I have no idea.” Now, I knew he had to have some idea, since it was his experience. So I asked him to access his experience in order to answer my question. “Think back to the last night when you couldn’t sleep.” “That was last night,” he told me.” “Great, remember last night, where you were when you had trouble sleeping. Get inside that memory, and try to hear the voice that’s talking to you about how important it is to sleep and how late it is. Listen to find how it sounds, what emotion it’s expressing.” He nodded, closed his eyes, and a minute later, they sprang open as he said, “It sounds really loud and angry!”
I thought about that a moment. “Gosh, so you’re telling me that you have a voice in your head that’s talking to you in a loud and angry tone while you’re trying to sleep. No wonder you can’t sleep! WHO COULD?” He laughed, but didn’t get how valuable this information was until a moment later, when I said, “What if you let that voice, which is trying to help you, continue to tell you how late it is. Only change the tone of it. Make it loving, gentle, soothing. Tell me what happens.” SO he closed his eyes and took my advice. And, no kidding, he fell asleep right before my eyes.
Have you ever stopped to actually listen to that voice inside your head, really hear the way you talk to yourself, the kinds of things you say about yourself and the world around you? Ever listened to the tone and what it sounds like it’s saying? Ever said to yourself, “What a jerk! I can’t believe this is happening to me!” or “I don’t get paid for this kind of abuse!” How do such thoughts affect your attitude and your behavior? Do those thoughts help or hinder you? Just as what you think has an effect on what you say, so does what you say to yourself influence what you think. And when you change the way you talk to yourself about a problem, you change the way you think about it at the same time.
In my next post, I’ll make some recommendations to you on how to turn that voice in your head into a resource instead of a ruffian.
Assuming you are still awake when you finish reading this, I’d love your stories and comments.