People That Talk to Themselves

Larry Wall - Perl

Larry Wall – Perl (Photo credit: shaond)

As absurd as it may sound, some people talk to themselves.  They habitually speak out loud with no intention of directing their words towards others.  Maybe it’s the satisfaction they get by letting their emotions out or the need for company.  Why they do it is a very interesting question.

Psychologists refer to this as “private speech.”  However, at times it is notorious.  It may be thought of as an indication that one is not mentally stable.  Some may consider such behavior as abnormal and socially unacceptable.

Children Talk to Themselves

Children who often talk to themselves are often noticed by teachers, parents, babysitters, and casual acquaintances.  Kids may spend more talking to themselves than they do to others.  Some will babble on before they fall asleep and often can be heard through a baby monitor.  As they talk, they summarize events that happened that day or reenact conversations.

Some adults conclude that children who talk to themselves are inattentive, disobedient, or even mentally unstable.  Such a habit helps children promote cognitive development.  Hence, they are able to practice language skills and reflect on their experiences.

By “thinking out loud” children are much more able to keep their impulses under control.  If they are tempted to do something they know is wrong, they’re likely to repeat verbal warnings given by their parents.  When faced with new or challenging situations, for example: jigsaw puzzles, they are more apt to private speech.

Avoiding Silence

Loneliness can be another reason people talk to themselves.  They speak out loud to raise the pleasurable sense they would acquire if another person was present.  Those who’ve encountered an embarrassing situation may talk to themselves about how the event could have been avoided or as a means of defense, responding in a way such as, “Let them think what they want.”  Others may do it as a means of creating a false presence of a loved one they have lost.  This form of behavior is different from hallucination as the speaker realizes the other person is not present.

According to Joseph Jordania, an evolutionary musicologist, many people talk to themselves to avoid silence.  He claims that humans’ ancestors were “social animals” who practiced contact calls as a means of keeping in contact with other members of groups they were part of.  If silence occurred, this was a warning signal that triggered fear or uncomfortable feelings.  Therefore, people talk to themselves as a way of filling in the gaps of long periods of silence.

Misfit Kids

As a kid, a friend of mine, I’ll call him “Larry”, would talk to himself nonstop, sometimes for an hour at a time.  He was a misfit kid and had few, if any friends.  Larry was legally blind and always had trouble learning new tasks and working with his hands.  Developing new skills was awkward and harder for him than it was for everyone else.  He was placed in a foster home at an early age and received a lot of criticism from others and was even thought of as being mentally retarded.  This caused him great humiliation, but after being told it so many times, he learned to believe it.

Nobody seemed to like Larry.  Perhaps it was because he was different and struggled to perform most everyday tasks, like opening a locked door with a key.  Those who’ve observed him couldn’t understand why it was difficult for him to do menial chores that they found easy.  Hence, people looked down on him, called him derogative names, and acted hostile towards him.

During recess he would aimlessly wander around the playground by himself while talking up a storm.  Nobody would approach him or allow him to join in any of their games.  Those that did only asked him questions like “Are you retarded?” or “How many fingers am I holding up?”  Although some seemed friendly towards him, he still had no friends.

This story serves as an example of why children talk to themselves.  Larry really wanted someone to talk to but couldn’t seem to find anyone.  He was always a loner and figured that since he didn’t fit in, he would just talk to himself as a means of externalizing his inner emotions.  By doing so, Larry could make even his deepest thoughts and observations known to himself.

Why Adults Do It

Almost all of us talk to ourselves.  We mutter a statement or two either under our breath or out loud.  Sometimes, it is because of a thought that just entered our mind that we feel strongly about-good or bad.  Other times, we may think of an event or some stimuli that makes us feel guilty about something, as objects or word associations.  For example, when I think of the phrase “new to me” or the like, I think about how reluctant I was to learn a new task on a previous job I had and how I attempted to lay the entire burden on my supervisor.  Shame on me!  If I heard any phrases that reminded me of this incident, I would have to mutter something out loud as a means of releasing the guilt.

Expressing a thought out loud is OK.  You’re letting yourself know that a great idea occurred to you and you ought to act on it.  Also, you may murmur a phrase in an attempt to release a negative inner emotion.  If you treated someone unfairly or avoided a troublesome situation you could have corrected, you will more likely feel guilty about it later.  Once you encounter stimuli that remind you of the event, you may then mumble or shout out something as a way to justify for your guilt.  Just hope that nobody catches you doing it.

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