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College Voices

Do Some of Us Have a Subconscious While Others Don’t?

Sydney Murphy



Source: Johnhain | NeedPix

While some listen to their inner voice and non-verbal thoughts throughout the day, others hear nothing at all and spend their day filling the silence by speaking out loud.

The phenomenon of inner monologues has recently been brought up in conversations on a variety of social media platforms discussing the idea of some people having an inner monologue and some having none. 

Let’s explore both sides of the phenomenon and imagine what life would be like with or without having a constant conversation with oneself. We will also touch on the psychology behind the reason people have an inner monologue and their personal experiences living with or without one. As a reader, you will have a chance to interact with this phenomenon by reflecting on your own thought tendencies and exploring how others live differently within their own mind.

Just as children learn how to speak using their voice during social interaction, adults learn to speak to themselves through practice using their own internal voice. Inner dialogue is an internalized form of speaking out loud that can be improved through practice. A person’s stream of consciousness or thoughts and conscious reactions to events is referred to in many other ways including verbal thinking, inner speaking, covert self-talk, internal monologue, and internal dialogue.

Research conducted by Bernard Baars, a leading Dutch neurobiologist, concluded in 2003 that when people reflect upon their own inner experience, they often report a verbal quality to their reflection. Researchers Dolcos & Albarracín’s findings in 2014 showed that people often talk to themselves using the first‐person pronoun. It has also been found that people with ADHD tend to have reduced inner-voice activity, or the ability to consciously talk to themselves within their own mind. They, therefore, tend to speak out loud more often to sort out their own thoughts. 

“Human beings talk to themselves every moment of the waking day. Most readers of this sentence are doing it now,” said Baars. 

Though this may be true in some cases, some have argued that it depends more on the situation than the natural cognition of the individual. People have posted comments to this on social media forums such as Reddit. 

“Both extremes occur in ADHD, and even occur in the same person. Different environments can be overstimulated. It’s hard to be in your own head, while other environments are so under stimulating, that [your inner conversations] remain in your own head.”

Take into consideration the idea that you are somehow not in control of your own thoughts. That calling them an inner monologue is an embellished way of referencing the phenomenon that your brain has more power than you do over your own thoughts. That they wash over you in forms that you don’t truly recognize or even understand.

Now think about what life is like to live with these thoughts essentially occurring all the time…it can feel unsettling, to say the least. Some see inner dialogue as enabling the incorporation of self-empathy in one’s daily life. The ongoing conscious conversation is something that has aided many in self-reflection and self-motivation.

Man looking up with his right had on his chin.
Source: Geralt | Pixabay

On the other hand, imagine life lacking this inner experience. Everything thought of and discussed with yourself is shared with the outside world. Everyone is constantly aware of your thoughts and opinions because you have no choice but to share them. While some have non-verbal thoughts presented abstractly that have to be consciously verbalized to be made sense of, others hear nothing at all. These people could be described as visual thinkers. Though this constant conversation is held in the minds of many, it is not maintained by everyone. A comment was made by someone with no inner monologue about life lacking this inner conversation:

“I kind of feel like I would be on top of everything in life if I could have these conversations with myself unimpeded.” 

Though many do experience inner dialogue all the time, others only experience it occasionally, and then there are some who don’t experience it at all. As we have covered the benefits and negatives of inner dialogue, there has been no conclusion of whether inner dialogue is detrimental or helpful in a person’s life. This debate is an ongoing conversation that is dependant on each person and their relative lifestyle. 

Gratitude and mindfulness can also be helpful tools when it comes to managing one’s inner voice.

Let’s dive into the strategies people use when managing and remaining aware of their internal dialogue.

Meditation can help you become more in tune with your thoughts and even organize your wandering mind.

Self-awareness can also be a way to explore thoughts and attitude tendencies. Whether you tend to think more positively or negatively and whether you mainly think about the past, present, or future.

Exploring the motivation that you consider as the reasoning behind your actions can strengthen your actions and help motivate others to support your cause.

Gratitude and mindfulness can also be helpful tools when it comes to managing one’s internal dialogue.

Internal monologues can become self-detrimental if they are solely negatively themed. Actively changing what you are thinking about or how you are thinking it, takes practice but can be beneficial to your mood and mental state. When a negative conversation begins to form in your mind, one way to convert it to something positive is by focusing on something good about that topic or even switching the topic to something completely different.

This phenomenon of inner monologues could essentially mean that as sentient beings, a large amount of our existence is happening without ever entering our consciousness. It is important to keep in mind that everyone is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. As though many things that occur in our lives, pass by use without even catching our attention. All people’s lives are unique, strange, chaotic, and complex, just like your own. Holding on to this feeling of sonder can help you manage and remain aware of your internal dialogue or lack of one. The constant reminder of this could alter the way we all perceive the world as we know it.