Most of us have a voice inside our heads and it can be caring, supportive, negative or critical. Learning to control this internal monologue could help you cope with daily stress
4 July 2022
WHAT was the last thing you said to yourself in your head? A warm word of encouragement or a scathing put-down?
For me, it was neither. It was more a loud “aargh!” as one part of my brain tried to persuade another to stop procrastinating. As usual, this internal battle cry was both a blessing and a curse. It was a helpful reminder that deadline day wasn’t the time for doomscrolling, but it also made me feel bad. My inner voice had spoken and it was far from impressed with my work ethic.
It got me thinking about the voice inside my head. How is it possible to feel like one distinct person and yet simultaneously feel browbeaten by an entirely different person who is also part of “me”? Why is my inner voice often so brutal and is there any way to change its tone?
As it turns out, our inner voice is wrapped up in some even bigger questions, such as those concerning the nature of consciousness, our sense of self and how our inner life affects our behaviour. For that reason, a small band of researchers is dedicated to understanding more. It is challenging work, not least because it is impossible to truly listen in on someone else’s inner world. But we are beginning to grasp where inner speech comes from, how it differs between people, its contribution to cognitive skills like memory and its relationship with mental health. Happily for anyone who has a bully in the ranks, research is also revealing strategies that can help change our internal conversations for the better.
The obvious …