So, I’m not completely sure I’m insane; I just like to hash out my thoughts out loud. They do say after all that you’re your own worst critic and who would hold you at a higher standard but your most strict critic, right?
Oh, hi! Sorry, didn’t see you there. I was just talking to myself. That’s normal, right? Well, I’m not entirely sure myself, even after extensive delegation with myself. So, let’s take a look at some of the scientific and non-scientific information that will hopefully clarify if self-talkers are absolutely insane or geniuses.
See Also: How Often do You Talk to Strangers?
First, I would like to implement the tired literary tool of opening a passage with a quote. Also, as evidenced by the myriad of people that do so on Facebook, using a dead, smart person’s words makes you seem smart… right? Well, Aristotle once said that “there is no great genius without a mixture of madness”, and why wouldn’t you believe what a dead Greek guy said who happened to walk around in a floor-length wool sarong? There has been a bit of a cultural assumption that genius cannot exist without madness, probably because genius is far off the beaten track that it’s as if it was that weird kid in grade school who would sit by himself behind the playground and eat grass (side note: obviously, I was that kid). People misunderstand greatness or genius for madness, and this is evidenced by the fact that most geniuses are recognized long after they pass. I think I’ve written myself into a corner; let me start over.
To Talk or Not to Talk (In Public)
Speaking to yourself in public (or not, I won’t judge) is called soliloquy or private speech, which is actually relatively normal. You should, however, start worrying if the internal conversation involves more than one district voice. Allow me to clarify: if you say “I’m not sure if I turned the oven off” and a growling entity that you can physically hear responds with “You should’ve put your head in it”, then you might want to consult with your mental health professional as soon as possible.
I know they’re called inner demons, but I don’t think that’s what they meant… can you please stop spinning your head completely around? It’s kind of creeping me out… Now why would you do that?! This sulfurous-smelling bright green vomit is never going to come out of this silk shirt and my suede shoes! What are you, a fashion consultant?! I will proudly wear my silk shirt with my suede shoes… very funny… My fashion sense didn’t make you puke, and we both know that.
If you don’t do it in a negative way like “You’re such a f*cking idiot! Didn’t we say you weren’t supposed to expose yourself to the barman, even if he took too long to serve you?!” or “You imbecile! Didn’t I tell you that you should’ve invested in that ostrich farm? You would’ve been rolling around in gigantic eggs and drumsticks right now!” (which I’m sure everyone has said at some point), private speech can actually have numerous benefits.
What? Oh, sorry, I thought you were talking to me. I’ll just continue, even though it seems you are having a heated debate with yourself about the investment opportunities of large flightless bird farms.
So, anyhow, private speech can actually help organize your thoughts, set plans and goals, and reward yourself for milestones towards achieving those goals. It can even make you smarter. I know, right? How does it make you smarter, you ask? Well, a 1994 study took a sample group of teenagers and gave them a test (after extensive groaning, “OMGs” and “RLYs?” I assume), and found that public speech in the form of activity description and self-guidance resulted in higher test scores. But it probably resulted in fewer friends because, well, they’re the weird kids that talk to themselves.
A lot of people do it, and a lot more than what Paris Hilton has done. OK, that was a horrible bro joke and I apologize for it. I won’t delete it, but I apologize.
Another study, involving young, college-aged adults this time, found that every single test subject actually used private speech to assist them through the most difficult of three tasks that they were given. I found it kind of comically whimsical that the test involved two increasingly difficult computer tasks and an origami folding task.
How do scientists come up with these tests, anyway? Do they have a hat or something that they draw potential tests out of? “Oh, look at that! For our ear-scratching compulsion test, we got Put pepper on finger and Put finger in elephant bunk hole. Tim, can you give the Animal Sciences department a quick call, and see if they still have Patrick the Pachyderm over there and ask them if we can borrow him for a couple of days?”
The Creepy Side
This I found especially disquieting in regards to private speech: when you talk to yourself in a negative way (see labored ostrich farm joke above), it might not actually be you. In a weird Matrix sort of way, it’s actually a cognitive simulation of a person that has belittled and criticized you in the past.
OK, so maybe I overinflated it a little bit with the simulation and Matrix thing, but truly negative private speech is actually negative criticism of an actual person that you have internalized and now use that “voice” to demean yourself.
When to Worry
Although I trivialized self-talk as a symptom of demonic possession in the introduction of this article, I would like to point out that if observed with other behaviors, it can actually be an indicator of serious mental health issues which can be managed if treated by professionals.
According to a Schizophrenia.com article, if talking to yourself is combined with symptoms such as involuntary muscle movements, irregular sleep patterns, nonsensical logic and hallucinations, then it most probably is an indication of mental illness. Even though the affliction seems terrifying and tragic, medicine and psychology are constantly making strides in the treatment and management of symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Are You Still There?
See Also: Signs Your Co-Workers are Insane
Sorry, had to step out of my comedy shoes for a moment as this disease affects many people around the world and unfortunately many of them go undiagnosed due to their living or financial circumstances. Let’s lighten the mood though with a little joke about talking to yourself.
Note to self: I need to stop talking to myself.
I know it’s a dad joke; can you do better? Let me know in the comments section below. Jeez, everybody’s a critic…