From the time we learn words, and perhaps even before, we talk to ourselves. Luria and Vysgotsky suggested that perhaps we talked out loud first, for example, when learning to read, and then internalized it as we learned how to read ‘silently.’
But we regress. Try putting together something complicated from a set of directions, and you may find yourself speaking out loud—to whom? To yourself, of course!
Just as we internalize our ability to make sense out of words, we also internalize the way the important people in our lives—parents, teachers, mentors–talk. Have you ever gotten upset at a partner or child and listened to the words coming out of your mouth?
In horror, when my own child was three and had just gotten in trouble for the fourth time that day, I shouted at her, and sounded exactly like my own mother! We all do it.
We rehearse what we are going to say: What that interview will sound like when we plead our case with the traffic court judge. We rehearse what we should have said: that perfect comeback that never occurs in the moment of embarrassment.
We give speeches in our mind, we propose both marriage and project, compromise and ultimatum. And in times of stress, we start to repeat ourselves. We play the same scripts repeatedly, sometimes as frequently as four or five times in as many minutes.
We give ourselves negative self-talk or, less frequently, positive affirmations. But the ratio is about 4 to 1 in favor of the bad stuff. Ever wonder why that is?
The truth be known, we are talking fools. And the key to all of this is that when we are talking, even to ourselves, we are not listening.
Not taking in the beauty of nature, not paying attention to our children when they need us, not immersing ourselves in the perfection of the moment, whatever that might be.
Just for today, dial down the internal dialogue a little. Listen to the silence. And be less stressed.