Today I Learned That Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue And It Has Ruined My Day.

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My day was completely ruined yesterday when I stumbled upon a fun fact that absolutely obliterated my mind. I saw this tweet yesterday that said that not everyone has an internal monologue in their head. All my life, I could hear my voice in my head and speak in full sentences as if I was talking out loud. I thought everyone experienced this, so I did not believe that it could be true at that time.

Literally the first person I asked was a classmate of mine who said that she can not “hear” her voice in her mind. I asked her if she could have a conversation with herself in her head and she looked at me funny like I was the weird one in this situation. So I began to become more intrigued. Most people I asked said that they have this internal monologue that is running rampant throughout the day. However, every once in a while, someone would say that they don’t experience this.  

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My life began to slowly spiral out of control with millions of questions. How do they get through the day? How do they read? How do they make decisions between choice A and choice B? My friend described it as “concept maps” that she sees in her brain. Another friend says that she literally sees the words in her head if she is trying to think about something. I was taking ibuprofen at this point in the day because my brain was literally unable to comprehend this revelation. How have I made it 25 years in life without realizing that people don’t think like me? 

NoUkL6drTiahwkMY0qqBJQ_thumb_13d6.jpgI posted a poll on instagram to get a more accurate assessment of the situation. Currently 91 people have responded that they have an internal monologue and 18 people reported that they do not have this. I began asking those people questions about the things that they experience and it is quite different from the majority.

I would tell them that I could look at myself in the mirror and have a full blown telepathic conversation with myself without opening my mouth and they responded as if I had schizophrenia. One person even mentioned that when they do voice overs in movies of people’s thoughts, they “wished that it was real.”

gfva7cPSQEGZvIHGIM0vlg_thumb_13e5And to their surprise, they did not know that the majority of people do in fact experience that echoey voice in their head that is portrayed in TV and film. Another person said that if they tried to have a conversation with themselves in the mirror, they would have to speak out loud because they can’t physically do it inside of their mind. 

 I started posting screenshots of these conversations on my instagram and my inbox started UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_13e2to flood with people responding to my “investigation.” Many people were reassuring me that I was not crazy for having an internal monologue, while others were as absolutely mind blown as I was. People were telling me that I ruined their day and that they now do not understand anything about life. Maybe you are all just a figment of my imagination, but regardless, yesterday made reality seem even more skewed. 

How do they think? How does this affect their relationships, jobs, experiences, education? How has this not been mentioned to me before? All of these questions started flooding my mind. Can those people without the internal monologue even formulate these questions in their mind? If they can, how does it happen if they don’t “hear” their voice? I mentioned earlier that I was spiraling out of control. Well, as I write this and as I hear my own voice in my head, I am continuing to fall down the rabbit hole. 

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Whether people just have different definitions of their thoughts, or if people literally don’t have an internal monologue, there is one thing that we do know… you will definitely get a headache if you keep thinking about this. Just trying to wrap my head around it is causing irreversible brain damage. I suggest asking people around you what they experience. If you are one of the few that do not have this internal monologue, please enlighten me, because I still do not understand life anymore. Send help.

@RyanLangdon_

 

2,432 thoughts on “Today I Learned That Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue And It Has Ruined My Day.

  1. My best friend is unable to see an image. If you ask him to think of a tree, all he sees is the word tree, which of course tells him very little. (I on the other hand, would immediately visualize something with enough detail that I could tell you if it was, say deciduous or conifer, and if it was deciduous, the color of the leaves, a vague shape, etc.) If you begin to describe it, the words you use will appear in his mind and attach themselves to the root word tree. It’s like some 3-D version of sentence diagramming, for those old enough to remember that torture in English class.

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    • As a child, I remember only thinking by concepts and impressions. I now think in a combination of words and abstract concepts, so I feel able to empathize with people who use either method.

      Some concepts are much easier to think than they are to describe, which by extension makes them difficult to communicate.

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      • In 1995 at the age of 24, I was reading a book called The Celestine Prophecy. At some point in the book, the main character travels to the Peruvian mountains where he is shown to see, recognize auras on the trees. This is where I put down my book to do a self check, because I had never known the light around people, animals, foliage, and even inanimate objects were not only AURAS, but most people didn’t see them at all! I didn’t know it was rare. Crazy!

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    • This reminds me a little of the (now much refuted) Left-brain/Right-brain dichotomy idea. If you invoke the verbal version of a thing “tree” with the word, you get the left-brain verbal response — the word(s) and maybe a stick-figure representation of the thing. But if you look out in the world and see (for example, a tree) and “think” of that, you get the right-brain non-verbal version.

      In Betty Edwards’ book “Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain”, she says many people who think they have no artistic ability are basically letting their left brain dominate their hands when trying to draw or paint. She says, and this does seem to be true, if you can write legibly (at all legibly), you have all the physical skill you need to draw. So she does an exercise where she shows people a portion of an upside down copy of Albrecht Durer’s woodcut rabbit and has them draw what they see. Then moves the masking so they see a little more, draw that, repeat. When finished, turn right side up – voila, Durer’s rabbit, rendered by the supposedly unartistic person, usually quite well.

      So, there’s *something* to her claim/idea that it’s some part of our brain that turns “rabbit” into “childhood stick figure conception of rabbit”… and renders THAT pretty faithfully on command.

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  7. I have no pictures inside my head at all. If I tried to picture a tree the only thing I could “see” in my head would be darkness. If I didn’t have an inner monologue my brain would be empty. All I have is the sound of my thoughts. In fact I couldn’t turn the words off if I tried. I envy people who can read a book and see a movie of it in their mind. When I close my eyes to visualize something all I see is the back of my eyelids. I have a child with autism who does not speak much and I often wondered what it’s like inside their head. It makes my heart glad to know that it’s possible to have a rich inner life without words.

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    • I am a person who love words. I write (sometimes as a job) , I read a lot. I always learn the lyrics for music. I can not say I ever hear my own voice when I think. Sometimes I make a decision to think with words, and then it is more like a narrative in my head. I do read books “like movies” , where I see the story as a film rather than words. Everything I think about is actually usually a little movie in my head. A silent but extremely colourful and detailed movie.

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      • I also write and read a lot, and after reading this post I think I write because I don’t have an internal monologue. I don’t understand how this guy can have an internal monologue, because to me, words aren’t enough. They are literally just too slow for my thoughts. If you ever listen to me speak, I speak very fast and often pause or repeat a syllable a few times while I decide which part of my thoughts I should not say, because my voice cannot keep up with my thoughts. The current subject connects to something else I remember, which brings up another memory (and my memories do not play out like a scene – they come in little bubbles or something, so I can remember the whole event at once), and then while I’m speaking something might happen around me and then I’ll be thinking and talking about that something, and it would take some effort to get back to the original topic, and I might still be having thoughts about the interrupting topic after that. Honestly, my first reaction to the idea of an internal monologue was something like, “How can he think about only one topic? A monologue must he impossible to sustain in the outside world” (of course, I didn’t think that in a full sentence. It was more like a jumble of feelings, predictions and memories. If the feelings were translated into words, it would have sounded more like surprise, memory:thoughts race, memory:previous conversation, what not possible wrong laugh, amusement, fictional not-real!)

        That is why my writing is vastly more coherent than either my speaking or my thinking. Words move slower than my thoughts do, and my fingers in turn move slower than my mouth. This greatly helps me turn my thoughts into a coherent story. If you’re not asking for a story, only answers or idle discussion, my racing thoughts are sufficient. I’m just rubbish at verbal storytelling because my thoughts don’t flow together, they flow turbulent, like a river with rocks in it to split up the streams, and deep pools where some of the water gets caught and runs in circles for a while, while the rest of the river moves on. Even in my writing, you can tell, can’t you?

        If anyone wants to see more of the thinking style I tried to translate into words, I recommend a fanfic I know called Nightfall. It’s a How to Train Your Dragon fanfic, but it’s a completely different story so you need not have seen the movie to read this fic. The author does a really good job portraying how dragons think, even though the dragons think like I described, all feelings and impressions. Reading that might help someone who thinks in words understand a little better.

        I’m curious now. Do your thoughts just run slower than mine do? More cohesively? What causes that?

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      • Having a verbal internal monologue doesn’t mean that’s all one has. Just as you can be thinking, visualizing, remembering, theorizing, etc., etc., while having a conversation with a friend, you can do the same thing while “talking” only in your mind. It’s like you’re making comments or voicing thoughts to yourself – but you don’t make sound. It’s not words slowly being formed in a mental vacuum.

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    • I don’t know if you know: people who can visualize things in their head, don’t actually have to close their eyes. You don’t use your eyes to visualize inside your head, it’s more like a third eye.

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    • That’s called aphantasia, i think I have it too, i mean i don’t see shit but I can recall the shapes of basic things and colors and stuff. But I don’t really see images, just feel the reminiscence of the objects, remember their taste or smell or how they feel to my touch.

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  11. I can even play movies in my head. I thought, I’m crazy but reading this made me realized that I’m not the only one who had a internal debate everyday. 😂

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  12. I can think in my head like what you said that you can talk to yourself in the mirror i can do that too, but when imagining something i can imagine it yes but the color would be different it would be darker when i close my eyes but i can still put an image in my head and imagine it, i wonder how people without an imaginations in their head go through with it im interested and want to know more.

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  14. Wow. Since reading this I’m trying to understand. But the hardest part is to find out how it happens in my own head. As soon as I try to consciously understand how I think it gets mixed up.
    I’d put it that way:
    I can form sentences in my head, like if I would be speaking to someone or write something down without actually doing it. But I am never hearing a voice.
    In my day to day life I don’t have an inner monolgue and I defenitley thought “I wish that was a thing” when this voice in peoples head is portrayed in TV and film.
    I’m not sure how exactly I do think though. I can picture things and scenes and pictures in my head. But I’m not sure I “see” them. I do read books more “like movies”, too.
    I’m still trying to figure it out but as I said: as soon as I think about it slips aways.

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    • That’s exactly the same for me. It would be an interesting study to see if there are differences in if more people develope Alzheimer’s one way or the other. Sometimes when someone describes an event to me I see it so vividly that later I think that I actually experienced it. I never see words in my mind and don’t have an inner dialogue, other than just quietly thinking.

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  15. Lol. I have an entire cadre in my head, monitoring my interactions with the outside world. It used to bother me, the incessant noise, criticism, impulsive pushes, the visual performances, and self analysis. The middle of the night sessions are the worst. They can sometimes be tough to shut down. I can’t remember a time when this wasn’t happening. One day, when transitioning between anticonvulsants, it all stopped. It all stopped. To say I was lost doesn’t come close to explaining what happened. I became furiously angry. Almost uncontrollably. I am not trained, it became apparent, to interact with the outside world. Well, I learned I had to, quickly. Nobody really cares about your internal oddities. Slowly, as I adjusted to the new medicine, I returned to my “normal’. I am fine with being like this.

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    • Thank you so much for mentioning your experience with the anti-convulsion medicine. I experienced A similar thing when I was prescribed the same medication a few months ago. I didn’t realize it at first because I was still healing from a serious seizure episode but when I recognized things were different I adjusted very well and realized that I am less anxious and I don’t miss the constant inner dialogue…. In my case, the medication decreased the amount of internal dialog, maybe just not as frequent, surely less pressing dialogue. I find this very intriguing.

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    • When you think in words, but don’t hear them, does that mean you see them?

      I wonder if part of the confusion about this is people assuming that the “voice” is the same as one’s speaking voice. It’s not. It’s a mental voice. There’s no actual sound. It’s a thought-form of sound, and it’s not the same as what your ears perceive when one speaks.

      For me, it’s the same as when I think visually. I don’t see clear, bright images the way I see with my eyes. It’s more like a combination of the knowledge of what something looks like with a faint construction of a thing in my mind.

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  17. Watch Toy Story 4 if you haven’t, Buzz doesn’t have that “inner voice”, after reading this article I was so amused watching Buzz and Woody talk about it. When I first watched the movie it totally went over my head, but know that I know it’s crazy to think about!

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  18. That’s how I felt when I found out, that when asked to visualize something, like the beach, most people actually see an image. But for me, I only get a concept of what a beach is. As for that internal voice, until today, I thought everyone had one. Mine narrates my entire day.

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  19. This is a really difficult thing to express. I don’t hear a voice in my head. When I’m remembering stuff it’s is like a film or still images though. I “say” the word in my head when I read it but that would be about the extent of it. I don’t narrate or what I’m doing in any way, in fact until this moment I thought only people who did this kind of thing were narrators in films, or Patrick Bateman from American Psycho…(the film)

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    • My childhood memories are in pictures, glimpses. My current experiences are images and a continuous internal dialogue. I can’t shut it up.

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      • I have images from my childhood that are unconscious, and back-projected on my life. As soon as I notice and recognise the view, it stops, but later it is replaced by a different image that remains on the screen until I notice it. I think this is how my brain keeps my memories alive.

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  22. This is a wildly interesting. When I make tea in the morning my inner monologue is there, when I brush my teeth, it’s there, even when I lay my head down to rest it’s there. Yoga & meditation have taught me to focus on my breathe to tune into myself. Many times I have tried to “shut” Off this inner voice- nothing like its telling me what to do or think, as I am the one in control of these inner thoughts but to allow myself’s inner voice to pause. When looking in the mirror to get ready I can completely have this silent conversation all within myself. A positive thing I believe. To be able to go to a Work party and have some drunk too handsy work associate Make awful jokes all night & you smile, but in your head, you’re screaming at this idiot who makes idiotic choices constantly. Honestly having this “power” I would say to sift through life with yourself as this backup boost, is a blessing!

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    • Wow stand up and be heard people we all have the choice stand up for yourselfs to many people believe they are finished before they even run the race we all are powerful. A mind is a beautiful thing exercise that seek the truth

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  26. Todella mahtavaa lukea asiasta. Olen todellakin luullut vuosia, että olen hullu. En ole tästä asiasta voinut puhua kenellekään, pitänyt salaisuutta kohta 30vuotta,olen 45vuotias. Jo 15 vuotiaana huomasin ajattelevani erilailla, kuin silloiset kaverini. Ette usko kuinka huojentavaa oli lukea tämä artikkeli.

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  29. Ryan, I am going to blow your mind even more…. I can do both! So I was not surprised with any of the ways, my surprise was the fact that they seems to be normally mutually exclusive Hahaha
    Most of the time I do have an inner dialogue but sometimes I just don’t verbalize what I am thinking. It feels as if you have word document that you know what is says, and you just need to pull it from the folder. You don’t need to read it or visualize it, you just put it in the “front of your mind” and the idea/knowledge is there. It’s difficult to explain…. but I guess it makes sense considering that before humans developed a language (or maybe it could applies to babies too) they still had thoughts and emotions etc., and they didn’t know any language at all.

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  30. I recommend the research of Russell T. Hurlburt. He has an article called “Telling What we Know: Describing inner Experience.”
    He also has a book called “Sampling Inner Experience in Disturbed Affect”

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  31. That’s called aphantasia, i think I have it too, i mean i don’t see shit but I can recall the shapes of basic things and colors and stuff. But I don’t really see images, just feel the reminiscence of the objects, remember their taste or smell or how they feel to my touch.

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  33. Hmmm… I do both, internal dialogue & mental viz – does this make me a further anomaly…? I can do the mental self-talk, particularly when actively decision-making/problem-solving. Other times, for more mundane tasks or more creative problem-solving, I can visualize undertaking activities, somewhat like a mental movie. Beyond this, there are even times when I do both at the same time, both “talking myself through it” & visualizing action.

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  34. I also thought everyone had an inner voice. It’s definitely a better version of myself, and it’s how I can tell myself things I don’t want to hear or break down things for myself that I don’t like.
    What I’ve always wondered is, how is it exactly that I can ‘hear’ my ‘brain words’? It’s not a sound wave, but my brain is perceiving it as clearly as any spoken words.

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  35. Very interesting. I’d like to suggest Margaret Archer works on internal conversation, she identifies various types of “conversations”. It could sound weird, but it seems that people really don’t think in the same way.

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  38. I find I do both – think visually and in words. I can have a personal monologue going in my head, but I am just as likely to be observing a physical think without words. I do find I favor the monologue after 55 years on earth, but maybe I have been conditioned to do that. I was far more visual when I was in elementary school. You will find this is not a new concept – Googling “visual thinkers versus audible thinkers” returns millions of results – I leave you with this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjNZx-CT5JM

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  41. I have dreams sometimes where it’s like they are being read to me. I’m clearly narrating them, just as coherently as if I was reading a novel. I’ve even heard myself giving full descriptive text of how a character looked after getting injured a lot. As I wake up, the sentences start to fragment; they’re still whole sentences, but they no longer link to each other so coherently and start to sound nonsensical, and there are also long pauses in between them where I am not thinking in sentences. Eventually the sentences completely dissolve as I wake up and my thinking returns to its normal speed and lack of focus.

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  42. I honestly have never realized that the reason they do voice overs in movies is that they’re portraying someone’s inner voice/thoughts. That literally would’ve never occurred to me because I never hear voices like that in my own head. I have just always assumed it was a movie way of telling us more about the character, since we can’t read more about them like we would in a book.

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    • Keep in mind that it is a “portrayal” of the thoughts. That doesn’t mean a person *hears* the voice the way we hear it when watching the movie. It’s more like the concept of sound. I hear myself saying the words I’m typing to you the same way I hear the words I’m reading or the words I’m thinking, but it’s not an actual sound that I hear. I can only say it’s the conceptualization of sound. If I say something in my head, then say it out loud, it’s not the same voice. The mental voice is like two dimensional or something, and it has no ability to go up or down in volume.

      In movies, the voice we hear when a character speaks is the same voice we hear representing their thoughts. But that’s because it’s a movie and the only other way to show their thoughts would be with cartoon speech bubbles, which isn’t efficient for a movie. But for those who believe they don’t have a mental voice, they should not think it’s exactly like it is in movies. It’s nothing like that.

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  43. Here’s another thing that might blow your mind. I do not have an inner monologue and I can also visualize how to spell words. Like actual images as if I’m viewing them on a page. I call it photographic spelling memory, but I think there is a real term for it. If I’m forgetting how to spell something, I just look at it in my head and copy it down onto the paper. 😄

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    • Me too! How else could anyone spell a word aloud, if they’re not reading off the letters? Spelling without reading sounds really, really hard to me. I have much more understanding now of why some people have lots of trouble with spelling after reading this blog post.

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  44. This is stupid, It’s not binary like “not have voice in head” and “have voice in head”. It’s just different how people perceive this internal “voice” it’s like everyone has a different volume.

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  45. I am just glad to see where some are saying they do both. That’s me. Sometimes I am conscious of it and other times I don’t have a ‘choice’ of which I use. Like my inner dialogue will sometimes become something I have to speak aloud. Sometimes I can visualize what’s described in books, but other times I just see the words. Oh, and sometimes my inner thoughts/dialogue is cut off or interrupted by a completely different dialogue that has to be voiced aloud. Suddenly I feel like a very weird person…

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