Talking to oneself is often stigmatised as a sign of insanity. It conjures the image of a disturbed mental patient, rocking slowly in the corner of a padded room and mumbling nonsense that only they understand.
Almost everyone does talk to themselves to some degree. Often it’s a question, such as “where are my keys?” or perhaps a bout of swearing after dropping a plate. These ourbursts are almost reflexive – remnants of instinctive noises we made as children, like approaching a stove and announcing “hot!” before backing away. My experiences involve talking to myself at length; almost soliloquising.
I’ve recently been spending extended amounts of time in my own company; at least, longer than I’m used to. My partner is currently wrapped up in seasonal work, so is often not at home until after I’ve gone to bed. Of course, I’m at work for eight hours a day, so I’m far from lonely – but the frequency of me being alone has exacerbated my tendencies to talk to myself, and I’ve begun to notice.
When I talk to myself, the ‘conversation’ ranges from a fabricated interaction with someone in my life, to a fictional story, or even a good old-fashioned rant. Sometimes, I recap what happened that day, and what I liked or didn’t like about it; sometimes I talk about a negative altercation with someone, which has even driven me to tears in the past.
For me, talking to myself serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it provides noise – just as one might talk to their pet. In an empty house, the sound of my own voice makes me feel less alone.
Secondly, I feel that it helps me to make complex emotional topics easier to understand. Sometimes life can be overwhelming, and with everything else going on, I can’t always make sense of an interaction I had that day, or how I’m feeling about something.
In translating thought into speech or written word, one is required to order things in a cohesive way, so it can be understood. As I speak these things aloud, I’m able to evaluate them from an outside perspective – grounding myself and shrinking the impact of the issues.
In contrast, depending on what I’m saying, talking to myself helps me feel emotions that I had previously stifled. For example, if I’d had an argument with my partner but was unable to discuss it with him, I sometimes talk it out with myself. It may make me cry, but it helps me decide whether it is enough of a problem for me to bring up with him, or if I can let it go. This also applies if somebody upsets me; I rant about it and let out the anger that I can’t express directly to them. In this context, talking to myself is akin to therapy.
There have been articles floating around, aiming to combat the stigma surrounding self-conversation, that declare those who partake in it as ‘geniuses’. They cite prominent intellectuals such as Albert Einstein as being among those who talked to themselves. I don’t feel like doing so makes me more or less intelligent that those who don’t; it is just one of the many ways one can express themselves. And though I might be insane, it feels like the most sensible thing to do.