“WWe should probably go out now, ”I tell Danny as I vegetate in front of the TV. “Yes, we should, but I can’t be mad,” Danny replies, sitting in an identical pose. “Come on, we need the exercise; I can’t sit here all day, ”I insist. “Well, we can because that’s what we did yesterday and the day before yesterday,” he replies. “Exactly! That’s why we have to go. Let’s go!” He shouted. “God! Good then!” he yells in response.
So we got up from our well and headed out into the fresh morning air for a much-needed dose of fresh air and exercise. Only there is no us. I’m alone. I have had a screaming fight with myself almost every day since Covid came along and it changed everything.
In early 2020, I embarked on a month-long quest to find meaningful conversations with strangers. Crippling social anxiety, introversion, and laziness had kept me in a depressing bubble of loneliness and self-imposed exclusion; I was wondering if random conversations with people could pop that bubble and open up a whole new world of social discovery. Did. After getting over my initial shyness, I opened my mouth and started chatting. By the end of the month, he was on first-name terms with the local merchant with whom he had avoided even eye contact for over a year; the hairdresser was no longer a place where I was going to have matches in silence looking at my reflection; and I even knew some of the names of my roommates.
Then I was evicted from my flat in East London. My landlord, who had put 13 tenants in a family home, lost his Houses in multiple occupancy license and we all had to find new excavations. I moved to another part of London, with new people, and had to start the re-socialization process all over again.
Then came the pandemic. I was isolated and alone, alone with myself for company. I’ve always spoken to myself, usually just a few words of encouragement when I wake up in the morning, or when trying to navigate through a dense mental fog, but in confinement, the only person I was guaranteed to speak to every day I. The problem with this is that I know everything about myself; I quickly got bored, so I started arguing with myself. And I always lost.
I need help? Not particularly, says Paloma Mari-Beffa, a senior lecturer in psychology at Bangor University. She says most of us talk to ourselves, silently, all the time – “and by ‘all the time’ I mean even when you sleep,” she says. Now that I think about it, when I have paid attention to my resting thoughts, I realize that I cannot claim authorship for any of them. Words, sounds, and images just appear out of nowhere, then dissolve into nothingness like a shooting star; there and then it was gone.
“The brain is always active,” says Mari-Beffa. “It is always generating images or words.” If we are always talking to ourselves, why don’t we all speak out loud? The answer, Mari-Beffa says, is on both sides of the brain: one that is chaotic and random, and one that is orderly and in control. “When you speak out loud, it is not random, you organize it, you control it, you shape it. When people are under extreme stress or suffer from mental illness, both networks can be active at the same time. “This phenomenon could explain conditions such as Tourette syndrome and schizophrenia, where the chaotic subconscious mind is invading the more conscious mind. neat.
Controlled self-talk, however, can have huge benefits. In 2012, Mari-Beffa performed an experiment which asked 28 participants to read a series of instructions silently or aloud. The group that read aloud showed higher levels of concentration and performance in the tasks assigned to them. Another study, from the University of Michigan, found that self-talk can boost self-esteem, improve confidence, and help us overcome tough challenges. The document, published in 2014, said that those who referred to themselves with second- and third-person pronouns managed their thoughts better than those who spoke in the first person.
I feel a little better about myself, but the kind of self-talk these studies point to (for example, helping people keep up with assignments) sounds like the innocuous words of encouragement you used to say to me before the pandemic, not like the inner rows that I have with myself now.
Chris Gilham (not his real name), a 23-year-old computer science student from Washington, DC, started talking to himself out loud when the pandemic hit. Before the lockdown, he used to socialize in coffee shops with his friends from college; now he spends most of his time alone. He says the masks have helped him: On the rare occasions when he visits his local supermarket, he can speak only in a low voice and no one can see his lips move. Gilham suffers from anxiety and says that self-talk helps him slow down his “constant train of thought … It helps him process something,” he says. “If I’m reading a textbook, rephrasing it out loud really helps.” Still, Gilham isn’t having real screaming struggles with himself in front of a mirror like I am.
“Do you have a partner who can be on the opposite side of you when you have an argument?” asks clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Manly over the phone from her office in California.
“No, I live on my own,” I say.
“That’s why,” she says. “Because we all want to have, inherently, if we are wise, someone with whom to have a conversation.” I’ve spent most of the confinement writing a book, I tell her, and she says I’m probably speaking only because I lack an alternative point of view, someone who contradicts the ideas that I have, especially when I write.
We see children at home “talking to the Tonka truck or Barbie doll and we call it child’s play,” he says. “But somehow we are supposed to lose that as adults. I don’t think it’s necessary. “She explains that self-talk can become a problem if you do it so much that it bothers someone you’re living with, but otherwise it really depends on what you’re saying to yourself. It’s really about: is it appropriate for the situation? Is it disrupting any relationship, whether at home, at work, or otherwise? Is it under your control? Does what you’re saying make sense?
Manly exchanges only a few words with herself from time to time, but chats with her dog. “Someone on the outside might say, ‘Do you really think the dog is understanding you? She’s crazy ‘. I’m not, because I know I’m doing it. “
So I’m saner than I thought, I just need a friend to argue with. Maybe Monty Python was on to something when they created the clinical argument, so that users pay and fight with someone. “No, they weren’t,” says Danny. “Yes, they were,” I say. “Nonsense,” says Danny. I think I like the sound of my own voice. “Now that’s something we can agree on,” says Danny.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism