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Not everyone has an internal monologue (ryanandrewlangdon.wordpress.com)
1225 points by altacc 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 874 comments



Unfathomable to me. My mind is constantly racing, playing out different conversations, interviewing myself in a variety of roles to navigate my thoughts on things (one day I'm the president of the US talking about foreign policy, another day I'm a big tech CEO navigating the diversity questions). I constantly have something in my ears to tune myself out, podcasts or music. After being diagnosed w/ ADHD I realize I'm probably on the extreme end of those with internal dialogue but to see a complete lack of it in others is very surprising.


I used to be like that, and it was helpful in many ways as I seemed to always be ready for wherever a conversation might go. But I wasn't living in the moment. Now I actively stop myself from simulating the various branches of potential conversations. It feels good to live in the moment (shaking my head a little when I feel it starting helps). The downside is that I don't have as many prepared responses and am more easily caught unaware, so now I rely more on sentences or behaviors that are broadly applicable to buy me time to think about my actual response.


On the other hand, it is so satisfying when a conversation hits a branch you worked on for hours on end! Very useful for dating and job interviews. Especially for people with foot-in-mouth disease[1]

[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/foot-in-mouth_disease


While I do play out a lot of conversations and branches in my head, my imagined lines of conversation never really play out in reality. I find for example that my imagined conversations are a lot more hostile, I'm always imagining having to battle and batter my coworkers and managers to explain why things are the way they are - but in person I find that not only are others nicer than I imagined they would be, but I am too. I'll plot the cutting things to say, but in reality I realize that such things would be wholly inappropriate and undeserved and I don't really want to be mean anyway.

For me, this tendency is more of a problem online. This is because I can simply plot out a conversation and then write it the way I planned. It's something I need to be mindful of, to restrain my inner-jerk not just in person but online too.


The part about hostility is a perfect observation. The reason is that compulsive thoughts are usually driven by fear.


Exactly. Our brains evolved in a complex social environment where saying or doing the wrong thing could mean getting attacked or pushed out of a social group. But in modern society this is much less the case.

And what would it be like if we could train our brains to think empathetic thoughts about the people around us? This is the premise of the book How to Make Friends and Influence People. The results are very powerful and lead us further to fulfilling our aims than fear infused thinking.


Hi, that's a nice book reference. I've ran into this thread a bit late, but do you know if that book is still relevant (it's published in 1936, Wikipedia says) or are there more modern works that incorporate those ideas and work with them?

I love how you guys make me feel like I'm not an odd person. I have a hard time explaining what it's like in my head to other people, including my own wife. If nothing else, it's comforting to know other people struggle with interactions because of the multiple internal threads constantly churning.


> I find for example that my imagined conversations are a lot more hostile

Yes, this! I sometimes find myself getting slightly mad at someone for something that I imagined them doing (or thought they were going to do), because I then had a played-out clash with them over it in my head. As soon as I notice what I'm doing, though, I stop being mad, because it's ridiculous to stay mad at someone over something they literally didn't do.


As a man with Aspergers, that sounds so useful.. and while I can often simulate conversations in my head, real-world conversations with real people almost never play out the same way.

It probably has to do with having little ability to intuitively understand what other people would think.


From my experience, I think a lot of it is due to the fact that you can't really surprise yourself. In the conversation in your head, you try to always be the 'winner' of the debuate, and part of that is to try and come up with remarks from your 'opponent' for which you have gotcha replies. Except you know what your 'opponent' is going to say because that's you. In real life, the opponent is someone else and they may surprise you.


Interesting. I tend to think you can surprise yourself. I write stories as a hobby, and my characters often surprise me.

I'd say it's down to two things:

a) Having to imagine a different personality's perspective, and

b) Having some time to think of a better answer than the off-the-cuff one.

Point a tends to happen whenever I make an effort to see the world from someone else's point of view, or make up an imaginary character to have a conversation with.

Point b tends to happen in my own head when I get quiet time - like during a long walk or shower and a thought I'd never imagined before comes up.

It can have some predictive power, too. Imagine, for example, there's an important negotiation coming up. You'll be sitting on one side of the table wanting the things you want. It does help to put yourself in the opposite seat mentally, thinking about what they want to get, and how you'd go about trying to get it. Maybe even trying on for size the best arguments you might make for their position.


True, I didn't want to imply you can't brute force it somehow, but what I was referring to was the general, low-effort, low-stakes conversation we (apparently not) all have in our heads.



Maybe but it's also very hard to predict what will happen in general I think.


My psychologist once thought I might be on the spectrum, but IDK. I do have a few symptoms including difficulty communicating, but I plan so heavily for every situation that others hardly notice.


I struggle with the same thing, and I don't appear to have Aspergers. Where are my superpowers?


> Very useful for dating

Really? By far the most useful thing for dating seems to be the ability to be in the moment while conversing and being able to feel the flow of feelings and emotions - that's what makes a good interpersonal intimate conversation good and speeds up any dating goals one might have... Overthinking stuff, or even thinking a lot in general (while conversing) - does not.


You missed the initial point... preparatory thinking; it's not playing out during the conversations, but before; and for many of us, allows us to actually be in the moment with a discussion because we're prepared for standard branches of the possible conversations.


> By far the most useful thing for dating seems to be the ability to be in the moment

That obviously varies a lot. When I am actually spontaneous, bad things happen. I am able to improvise on top of a plan, but winging it is not an option.

My psychologist thinks I might be on the autism spectrum.

For what it's worth, while I'm far from infallible, my strategy on dating was successful enough the last two decades or so.


Is it though? I have found a job and wife that is OK with my foot in mouth disease and think it works better when you sell who you are. Don't get me wrong self improvement is important, but so is telling people who are going to spend time with you what they are going to get.


The fact the I plan conversations does not make me any less of myself. You are mistaking planning with deception.

And anyone I meet will eventually learn all my flaws, but that's an incremental process. It doesn't make sense to just throw each one of them on the first date.


>I have found a job and wife that is OK with my foot in mouth disease

Makes it sound like you make foot fetish videos!


That sounds like hell to me. I don't have an internal monolog. I think in visuals. I am a quiet person. I am a better programmer for it I think. I visualize the structure of a program I am writing and pair programming would also be hell for me.


I definitely am capable of thinking non-verbally, and I agree it can help with programming. But I just can't wrap my head around not having an internal monologue at all. How did you even write this comment? What was the process that led you to put together this particular series of words, if not 'hearing' them in your own mind as an expression of your thoughts first?

Edit: Thinking on this more, I may not have had an internal monologue when I was younger. I recall when I was maybe 11 or 12, I had a sudden, distinct moment of increased self-awareness, after which my internal monologue became my predominant mode of thinking. My first thought was that all of my mental activity up till that time had been in a fog, and that I really hadn't even been a fully conscious being. I crossed some kind of cognitive rubicon which my previous self couldn't even understand. I assumed this was a normal phase of mental development at the time, but now I'm curious if others have had similar experiences.


I spend a lot of my time writing, and when I'm ready, stuff just pours out. I'm always thinking the words as I write them, but there's not lots of intervening internal dialog.

Often it's like I have no clue what I'm going to write, until I write it.

But maybe that's just that I've trained myself to write my internal dialog down, instead of just thinking it. And when I'm stuck, I definitely talk to myself more. Sometimes to the point that I can't write anything.

When I'm really focused on something, on the other hand, it's very hard to stop. I'll be so tired that I can barely think, and yet I can't clean my teeth and wash my face without scribbling notes on scraps of paper. Which, by the way, I dispose of securely ;)

Also, it's obvious that there's a lot going on that I'm not at all conscious of. I can stew over stuff for days, or even weeks. And then, out of nowhere, it's there to be written. Or done, as the case may be.

### GIBSON SPOILER BELOW (ROT13) ###

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Damn, this is so weird. I had the same experience, and was desperate and sad by how many years went by without me "actually living" (as I so thought at the time). I went to an extreme of really thinking with this internal monologue for everything that I did, even going to the bathroom. Otherwise I would feel like a robot from the cartoons I watched.

Not the parent, but the general process would be: form a kernel of a thought, this is largely subconscious process. This thought is made up of meaning-and-context-rich symbols specific to my mind. Refine this thought, resolving contradictions and various logical weakpoints. Translate this thought into speech, losing much of the information content because language is a tool created to holler at your fellow hominids as you hunt African game and backstab each other when competing for high value mates.


I'm not lacking internal monologue, but this resonated with me.

Often I can feel that I have a complex idea more or less nailed down, but it's an effort to stop and put things into words, even internally.

Other times though even an internal monologue isn't enough to tease out the edge cases or weigh the tradeoffs, and I need to write stream-of-consciousness style.

Different styles of problems lend themselves to different approaches, I think


Language is a way of communicating abstractions from one abstraction machine to another; of course information content is lost, but that is only because it must be transformed and compressed to fit into the narrow channel of audio signals that humans are capable of both producing and detecting.


Well said. And in relation to primal psychology (hunting game on the African savannah and hollering at fellow hominids), our ability to convey abstractions and stories through language is an integral part of what makes us human. So the view that language is just a utilitarian tool and not much more is myopic to me. We are social creatures, and whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, sharing thoughts with others is inextricably woven into your biology. A rejection of this concept is, to me, a rejection of a deeply important part of life and what it means to exist as a sentient being. It often bothers me to interact with people who have this attitude; it's like trying to talk to them through a glass barrier that they refuse to take down.


This fascinates me as I remeber this moment too - I was about 5 or 6 though and it was going into my grandmothers back garden through an arch and I was like fully 'awake' for the first time - I had vague feelings of memories prior to this but I do remember the voice becoming aware.

I've never had anyone else remember or experience this before and I think its important.


I was browsing the thread, trying to recollect my oldest memory of me having an internal monologue and remembered one time in my grandmothers back garden when I was 5/6, then read this :)

My story was that I was playing around in the garden. I was messing with a pile of stuff placed against the garden wall and as I'm touching something, suddenly I feel a huge electric shock. There was an old electric socket there, probably for pluggin a grass cutter. I remember the strong tinge around my whole body and how it pull me into it. I quickly twitched and jumped back. I remember telling myself "Wow, I could have died there". And, "electricity really gets you stuck" (I remember when I was that age adults would warn you about touching electric sockets, saying you could "get stuck to it", I guess not grounding installations was common).


That's really cool, thanks for sharing! Based on your and another poster's response, it seems like there is some wide variation in the age at which this moment might occur (I'm skeptical that the other poster who said they were 3 had the 'same' moment you and I are talking about, but it seems similar enough in this particular context). This begs the question - are there people who never experience this event??


I recall very specifically, when I was 3 or something, walking out onto the playground and realizing sentences are made out of words.

Learned myself to read before getting to primary school.

Also can bypass verbal thought. Can internally hear and visualize mostly anything. Don't recall not being able to internally hear or visualize things.


Words are like symbols in a programming language. Sentences pop into my head like a while loop construct might.


Interesting. Just curious, are you able to have a conversation with yourself in a mirror without speaking out loud (something that the article says at least some non-internal-monologue-having people say they can't do)?


Yes I can but it sounds somewhat false to me. It's hard to capture in words the real truth of what I am thinking. If I start talking to myself it starts to sound like someone else's voice - my fathers or someone famous


This makes sense. You can't have an internal monologue until you learn a language.


Agreed. As I've grown older, I spend less time running tight verbal loops in my mind, and more time examining things visually. It seems more externally-oriented, and allows for better sleep.


It's not necessarily either-or. I have an internal monologue for most things but much of my math and programming thoughts are conceptual.


The same for me. Also I have that internal monologue, but it feels like it's just me talking and it's not constant chatter, I can just not talk inside if I don't want to.


Why is it a bad thing for your brain to be running DFS all the time? Is it a wasteful use of time? Does it cause behavioral issues? Is it a personal choice? Or...?


I think it's a question of balance. I was too far on the side of not living in the moment, and spending lots of time on what-if scenarios. I think that I might have veered too far to the other extreme now, and my capacity for empathy is suffering a little.


Fully agreed. I was like this (overthinking what if’s) for many years, and the amount on energy spent on this left me spent to actually go and live in reality. The upside was having a plan for nearly whatever life threw at me - but discarding hundreds of alternate plans. Now as I grew older I have learnt to be much looser with life steering, as we are not in full control anyway. Just have a general direction of what you want to do, and spend the rest of your energy here and now...


Thanks for answering. Makes sense to me.


This "Living in the moment" stuff has depth such that many books have been written on it. It is one of the premises of mindfulness meditation, and Buddhism thoroughly explores this.

The summary is that you will be more satisfied if you are not continuously ruminating on the past, or anxiously anticipating future problems, but instead focus on your immediate happiness. e.g. Right now you are comfortable, not in any pain and surrounded by interesting things. Enjoy this, and don't worry about some conversation you might be having later.


Living in the moment is somewhat counter to striving. It's hard (maybe impossible?) to be a builder and a creator without spending some time ruminating on the last and future.


I think it depends on whether you want to feel like a good person, or be a good person. Living in the moment lets you feel better, because there's less to consider. Constantly examining yourself and those around you allows you to better react to those surroundings (even if some people don't act on it for various reasons, one of which might be getting too caught up in the examining and never doing).

Like literally every single thing in life I can think of, the truth is likely that moderation is key, as too much to either end of the spectrum is problematic.


This is definitely not true, at least most people don't experience it this way once they learn meditation/mindfulness/etc.

What happens instead is that if you are in the moment, you can much more easily see and feel which things actually exist in the current moment for you to consider, and to actually react to those surroundings that actually matter, instead of those that have been served up by the internal dialog which is based usually on worries, fears, ego beliefs etc. Living in the moment does not make you live like an animal. It makes you appreciate and focus on that which truly matters for you, instead of distractions that a constantly thiking mind always throws at you and makes you feel like everything is says matters and is very important.

Those things that are truly worth considering, already exist in the moment. If you have a real need or want to do something today - it will be in the moment and it will present itself. It is a total nonsense that a person "living in the moment" can never complete any complicated task, accomplish a complicated goal or plan for the future when that is required. - And that is being a good person, not simply "feeling like one".


I would argue that perhaps your idea of living in the moment is more like mostly living in the moment. To truly live fully in the moment would be to react to stimuli as they were encountered, wouldn't it? If so, then to truly live in the moment would be to ignore most the ramifications of what you say or did, beyond what you could internalize, as to act without forethought is to strip away all we do to try to tame our less desired instincts.

That is what I tries to express by talking about moderation before. At one extreme you have what I outlined above, and at the other you have the person who always seems absent minded because they are always thinking about something else, and are rarely if ever giving their full attention to what's going on in front of them and around them.

I think when most people say you should "live in the moment" they are actually espousing moving that direction on the spectrum, which can be beneficial, even if reaching the end of the spectrum likely isn't. The point of all this is that being more mindful of your surroundings and living in the moment is probably useful most the time, until it isn't, because you've gone too far, where too far depends on the location, company, and circumstances, so there's no real "correct" answer.

The reason I even broached this is because it was already alluded to in this exact same thread, with:

I think it's a question of balance. I was too far on the side of not living in the moment, and spending lots of time on what-if scenarios. I think that I might have veered too far to the other extreme now, and my capacity for empathy is suffering a little.

I can relate to that in some respects, even if only for aspects of my personality. In letting go of always being too overly concerned with exactly how I was perceived and interpreted when I was you to being able to let some of that go later in life, I noticed times where my not making sure to explain myself in extra detail probably left people thinking I was dismissive of their concerns (and there are probably plenty of times where I don't realize I was dismissive of their concerns, and I'm willing to bet that's more often now than in the past).


If it is 10AM and I need to plan for my meeting at 3PM, and I need to consider the needs of the person I am going to meet - all of these details exist in my mind "in the moment". I can use those stimuli in the moment to plan out everything I need, in the moment. Even though I plan something in the future, I move those plans in my mind which exist there as a moment, as images or words or etc.

Once you start practicing mindfulness or meditation, you very easily see these distinctions. Yes, there is a way to use those concepts in a literal sense in which "in the moment" would mean that you can never consider anything else than your immediate surroundings. However most spiritual teachings or meditation retreats or people who say that this thing has helped them in their life, mean it in a more practical way.

Perhaps "being in the moment" is not the best phrase to really explain what they mean here and there is a lot of space for confusion and misunderstanding. But it is just the phrase that they usually use.


I think that this is a false trade-off. Being "in the moment", or "present" doesn't mean turning off your brain and not planning for the future. It is possible to be present while you are planning for the future.

This amounts to, when planning, not being overly invested in emotionally anticipating the outcome of your plans. (Both good or bad, as anticipating the good will hurt your ego when the plan fails, and dreading the bad will hurt you now.)


I've also noticed that people who over invest in their ability to prepare tend to be people who struggle under pressure or to adapt in the moment.

Everything in moderation I guess


I can comment on this for my wife who suffers from anxiety.

She is very good at planning because she needs to feel in control all the time. You are right that when things don't go as planned and the pressure ramps up she loses her control and makes poor decisions or no decision at all.

It's interesting to me as I am on the opposite side for most of the time.


For me personally it seems to make it impossible to get to sleep. Which makes me tired, and less resistant to rambling trains of thought. Repeat ad infinitum.


Have had this issue sometimes, specially when ruminating about a discussion or whatever. What i often do in those cases is going into visual mode. For me I imagine having big long wings and catching the wind from some high mountain descending flying slowly, trying to surround the mountain and checking the views. It's something soothing and takes the attention away from the internal monologe. Though you can fall back to it and when you notice go back to visual. I also note that there is like two visual modes, one less defined, more controlled by my will, and one more realistic and crowded with details mostly out of my control.


I don't usually have this issue, but when I do I find just focusing on breath, meditation style, helps. As soon as you notice yourself thinking, acknowledge the thought gently, and then let it go. At least for me (with a bit of practice) this can head off any thoughts before they can get started, and eventually allow things to quiet down.


Also, acknowledging the fact that, since I'm in bed trying to sleep, I can't act on these thoughts right now anyway, so I don't really need to have them right now (and trusting that if it's important, they will probably come up again at a more useful moment).


Try to get on a low dosage of Clonidine it is very cheap and it puts me out to sleep right away and it has been around for awhile, very safe.


Some people find 1 or 2 drops of lavendar oil on a hanky by their pillow relaxing.


When you think less you may be open to more possibilities, be more spontaneous and even have some childlike fun. However, others can be taken aback and even suspect ulterior motives, until you harmonize better with others.


Thinking less can be advantageous for situations that welcome spontaneity, thinking more is very useful for all the others.


Spontaneity is also thinking. There are two distinct modes of thought. Verbal/abstract and real-time/intuition. These have neurological foundations in the two hemispheres. The right is more highly connected. The left has more to do with speech and rumination.


I was obviously referring to the thinking involved in making plans beforehand.


> thinking more is very useful for all the others.

Is it? Buddhist monks would likely disagree with you.


Buddhist monks usually live in monasteries. And the ones that don't live a very different life than most people.


I am surprised that you said others can suspect ulterior motives, because that started happening to me but I can't figure out what the connection is. Can you expand on that?


I have learned to be cautious with two very different types of people (this is not a scientific exercise, take with a grain of salt):

- One is people who are constantly negative and cast stones everywhere, but offset that negativity with charm. They can accrue a network of Stockholm-esque followers that would say "he's not an asshole, he's actually a really sweet person." When they perceive a threat from you, or they find that you are indifferent to their charm-aura, you can get on their s*list pretty quickly. They can subtly isolate you from their followers, and be as useless as possible if you have to depend on them for anything. If they lash out at you, it's actually not out of character because they lash out at everything. They're just being themselves, right? Much of their venom is hidden behind sardonic humor, which gives them plausible deniability. They are not beholden to social norms, and everyone around you has accepted that. In lieu of social norms, they create impenetrable, arbitrary standards that only they and their followers can meet.

- Another type of person I'm initially careful of is someone who doesn't give any "tells." They always go with the flow, and laugh at everyone's jokes. The only overtly interesting thing about them is how social they are (they only open up in trivial ways). They listen very deeply, asking follow-up question after follow-up question, but they're likely to go and spill your secrets over drinks "I heard X said Y....ya I know, interesting." They don't waste an opportunity to gain social currency, spanning all social groups in order to trade between them. They rarely challenge people, and seem above the fray, but they're as political as anyone.


Do you live on the set of Mean Girls? But me, most people are spending their energy trying to get by, with no time for junior high school drama conspiracies. Maybe I'm too useless to be socially manipulated.


I agree with this. It's like classifying by alpha/beta/gamma personalities -- a false comfort, as people are rarely so simple


People are indeed complex. The first type of person described specifically is rare, but what is more common is a dangerous combination of aggressiveness and charm.

Tying back to the OP, I think an internal monologue is valuable. If you don’t have one, that’s out of your control. However, I think it encourages pro-social behavior on the margins. Using your internal voice is quite literally introspection. It can make you feel bad about a potential course of action, preventing you from doing it. It can also make you feel worse about something bad you did, by replaying it in your head. Too much of that can bog you down, but I think it’s an important part of the self-policing toolset. I believe reflective people are more trustworthy (not that internal voice = reflection).


Abusive people won’t bother you if they don’t see you as a mark for their games.


after reading those personality profiles your comment cracked me up


I hear you about the people who use their charisma to assemble followers and mark you down as an enemy if they can’t bring you into that fold. It’s very disappointing that you can’t have a normal working relationship with them.


For 1 alot of info on "gaslighting" online.

For 2, there needs to be reciprocity and honesty (even silent). We shouldn't regard ourselves as below/above, but may be ingrained and diminishing.


Has there been a deflation of the word "gaslighting" recently? I used to understand it as "making person X or others believe person X is crazy (in order to discredit them)" but I see it used much more widely nowadays and I don't really see what it has to do with the scenario in question.


"Gaslighting" now means having a different perspective and asserting it's the correct one or a valid one.


So if you say the world is flat is the correct perspective and I'm wrong.

While I say the world is round is the correct perspective.

Are we gas lighting each other?


Which is inline with making someone feel they are crazy. Making person x second guess their own perspective.


Setting different standards for themselves, setting other people up, even boasting of sabotaging others openly, surrounded by gullible and oblivious people, limiting number of marks, snide remarks, running in packs and claiming all authority while victimizing themselves. Gaslighting is rare but part of the toolset.


It lost it's subtle manipulation element too. Gas lighting was causing doubt to spread, using manipulation tools the abuser thought were flying under the radar of the victim. The victim fell oblivious to the changes in worldview. It lost all connection to psychotherapy when it became a politicized term.


Humans are complex and social systems.


People mostly prefer "their own kind", at least until they truly get to know you. Solving fatigue by being recluse starves crucial human contact. For many reasons there can remain barriers before getting meaningful contact. Your question itself points to this preference and yearning, and not indifference.

A different mode of mind will be received by others differently, as an experience. To get anywhere we must move, but to others this might be deemed too uncomfortable or even mistaken as implicit criticism.

As social creatures we must have/find support around us. This works as platform and mandate, so helps true leaders lead.


Book I found enjoyable and valuable, especially given today's environment of deteriorating social trust: https://www.amazon.com/Talking-Strangers-Should-About-People...

Gist: don't think too much, it's gonna be okay.


What's DFS?

When I look closely at those sorts of imagined conversations, I almost always conclude that my attention has been misdirected by delusional egotism. I also find that letting them run tends to entrench the delusions, which I am better off without.


Depth first search. Basically he's saying you're playing out each conversation to the end, then backing up to the last branch point and chasing it to the end, repeat until you've exhausted every possibility you can think of


Oh. That almost never works IME, though.


In my experience it typically doesn't work, but sometimes it can work and is good to keep your mind busy IF you have some free time. It's just rehearsing, essentially what dreams are, but in daytime and more controlled.


It doesn't work in the sense of predicting the conversation, but do it long enough, or, do it with iterative deepening, and even though you probably won't nail the specifics of how the conversation goes, it WILL frequently prepare you in broad strokes such that the actual conversation's twists and turns won't throw you, even if they do surprise you.


Poster said BFS, which is good, because DFS is probably a massive waste of effort that mispredicts reality (but is a more immersive daydream).


I found that in my late 30ies I shifted from an exhausting DFS to a BFS mode....and it has surely helped in tackling social and work complexities better. I have also discovered that I was unconsciously not giving my full attention to details ,especially over math/programming problems, I was always in a state of slight 'haze', but the whole thing was extremely well played by the brain...I really thought I was fully concentrated and paying complete attention, but only now I know that I can step to a deeper level, where I play back and forth multiple variables and remember better the connectivity of the problem. A decent analogy would be if you play piano and are going through a challenging part, your hands and mind are fully focused on the movements but doing so makes everything hard and stiff, and eventually you run out of steam very fast, with experience though you learn to microfocus on some parts and keep it loose on others...etc. seems fitting..


I think it's the personal/interpersonal version of "real artists ship". I am one of those people that spends too much time in his head. It's mostly wasted energy if I never pause and let the thoughts out.


The worst is when I accidentally sub-verbalize a speculatively executed conversation branch, leaking information I didn't intend to.


Your mention about shaking your head is very interesting. How did you come up with that? Are you aware of Peter Levine's or David Berceli's work on shaking/trembling as a natural stress-releasing mammallian instinct that people are usually repressing?


In the last couple of years I started thinking about this and since then I'm trying to live in the moment because now I'm aware of how much time I spend in my head. It is very hard for me to train this though.


"interviewing myself in a variety of roles to navigate my thoughts on things"

I used to from time to time imagine my half of a conversation in which I was showing around someone notable who had traveled through time to get to the present day. Maybe someone from 1,000 years ago or maybe from 50. That is, for entertainment, not to cope with anything. I never felt like my imagination was quite good enough to turn it into fiction.

In general though, I don't have a monologue in a continuous sense. I frequently imagine saying things, imagine other people saying things, occasionally imagine saying something to myself, but I would never say that's how I think exclusively. When I am having trouble with a concept or problem though, I tend to return to verbal analysis - a narrative or verbal description helps me figure out things that I otherwise struggle with.

If I am writing, I might be hearing the words in my mind, or I might not. If not, I might reread what I wrote and then feel like editing it, probably because I wasn't conscious enough of how it sounded. So, really, I don't exactly relate to having or not having an "internal monologue". Thinking one type of thought all the time seems weird to me.

As far as this post goes, I didn't know what it would look like until I was done, so I'm not necessarily conscious of how I organize things at all.


> I used to from time to time imagine my half of a conversation in which I was showing around someone notable who had traveled through time to get to the present day. Maybe someone from 1,000 years ago or maybe from 50. That is, for entertainment, not to cope with anything. I never felt like my imagination was quite good enough to turn it into fiction.

I do this exact same thing.

I also have conversations with random people in my life, explaining what I’m doing and what I’m thinking to them. When I have an inner monologue, I don’t think of it as talking to “myself”, but rather the imagined presence of some friend or family member. I have no idea how normal this is.


> I also have conversations with random people in my life, explaining what I’m doing and what I’m thinking to them. When I have an inner monologue, I don’t think of it as talking to “myself”, but rather the imagined presence of some friend or family member. I have no idea how normal this is.

Also do this. Very rarely to "myself", nearly always someone else.


I do the same thing. I'm not sure if that counts as evidence towards it being normal.


I don't do the first part, but I do do the second one.


> I used to from time to time imagine my half of a conversation in which I was showing around someone notable who had traveled through time to get to the present day. Maybe someone from 1,000 years ago or maybe from 50. That is, for entertainment, not to cope with anything. I never felt like my imagination was quite good enough to turn it into fiction.

I do this all the time. It's usually Ben Franklin, but sometimes it'll be someone else. Almost always a scientist who'd be curious and I think fun to hang out with. I don't know how long I've been doing this, but it's probably at least a couple times a year for the past decade or more. I imagine how I'd explain modern technology and how he might react.


I had no idea other people do this too. To me, it doesn't even feel intentional.


Same. I'll be driving along or walking down the street and my mind will wander to "I wonder what Franklin would think about cars. How do I even explain how they work? And let's not even get into cellphones." Faraday is another common target. It's always someone I could picture having a beer with, rather than some interminable boor (I imagine) like Newton.

The "tour" description is perfect; I'm always explaining or showing the person around or something. I imagine there's some ego component here; I only have a popular-science level understanding of these things, and my explanations would only be interesting to someone from the past or otherwise detached from society (which is also something I think about).

This all manifests as a bit of a mind game or thought experiment; it's not as though I'm actually conversing with the person. It's almost entirely one-sided: me imagining how I might explain the world to someone smart and curious but without any modern scientific knowledge.


Ha! When I need to take some idea apart and try to understand it, I often find myself explaining it to a highly perceptive Charles Babbage who has had his wish to see the future granted, albeit without having to sacrifice the rest of his lifespan. There can be others, but Babbage is the most frequent visitor by far. I have no idea whatsoever why.

As for the rest of perl4ever's comment, there is not a single word or thought or sentence in it which I do not completely recognize and relate to.


And, as far as visual thoughts go, I don't think I'm a visual person, but I wouldn't say I don't think visually. Once in a while, I do. Waking from dreams, I often feel like they were very visual. I guess maybe my sense is that my visual imagination is latent or stunted. Usually it's difficult for me to picture anything, but I feel I know what it's like, that I can imagine waking up and being able to see the tiniest detail of something I'm thinking about.


Your comment just reminded me of a dream I had, I think last night coincidentally. I am also not a visual person, and while I can visualize things, do object manipulation, and that kind of thing in my mind, it's quite difficult for me to pull up more than a hazy metal picture of something, and anything I do get in detail tends to be ephemeral.

Anyway, last night (I think) I had a dream where I was able to pull up an essentially photographic mental picture of something. I recall spending some time analyzing it and being amazed at the level of detail and permanence, knowing that that's not usually how I experience things.

Of course, recalling it now, I can only bring to mind a hazy picture of what I experienced. (I think there was a field of some kind and maybe trees?) But now I'm curious... did I actually see that clear mental picture in the dream? Or did I only have, like, the idea of doing so?


Isaac Newton was my favorite imaginary person to give "tours" to.


Ketamine infusions can completely, instantly and seemingly permanently remove these racing thoughts, allowing you to only have them when you want them. Doesn't impact creativity either. Feels like the part of the brain responsible for running worrying scenarios quiets down and only brings them up to consciousness when necessary. There are several studies showing anxiolytic in addition to anti-depreesive effects. Doesn't work for everyone, though.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31339086


I found that about a year of serious mindfulness meditation with some CBT was able to give me the same lasting effect, even though I am not currently regularly meditating


Did you every try meditating? Most styles (that I know of) involve trying to quieten the mind, or train you not to grasp onto thoughts and run with them. Instead just let them arise and fade away. That's assuming you would be interested in changing this. (It's certainly beneficial when someone has annoyed you and you can't get it out of you head for the rest of the day).


With me it is often less words and more action movies: getting innocent people out of harms way, looking for cover, looking for anyone like minded who might be able to help block the doors and try to ambush an attacker together with me. Calling the police, whispering the address etc etc.

Not sure if it would work if anything happens, but this is one of the thing my mind keeps itself busy with as I walk through the city. And no, I'm formally a trained soldier, but I don't have much training in this so it is just my bored mind going crazy with ideas.


Pretty much describes The Last Psychiatrist's writings about Narcissism and The Matrix generation. "When the time comes the Universe will make it so I save everyone and know Kung-Fu, because I'm innately a hero so of course it will".

https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/03/what_was_the_matrix....


A tangent on this: superheroes are creatures/concepts as old as stories though, from the oldest myths of Ulysse and Atlantis to Superman and the Force and indeed Neo. It's a whole category, perhaps the all-time biggest (think who fits the profile of "historic superhero", you'll be surprised who goes in that basket, even if we believe their life/deeds were real and not 'super').

I mean, stories, right.

I personally risk the assumption that the outer manifestation of these shared inner delusions of grandeur is called "civilization". I would actually call it "aspiring" to greatness, and if it's a disease, then it's the best we ever got.


The difference is, Superman has a long internal struggle between his desire to do right and his desire to give up in the face of so many people suffering, he may be America’s Boy Scout but he works hard and he keeps a low profile and he is modern day Sisyphus - skipping out on his everyday life to go to unpleasant places alone and deal with unpleasant people, save lives, and come back to .. a journalist notepad and a story about some trivia and no amazing rewards.

Neo on the other hand is a modern day superhero exactly, he’s like the Wanted film main character - he did nothing, doesn’t work hard, doesn’t train at anything, and then sometime while he’s working a drudge job and slacking off, the universe dumps hero on him because of someone he innately is, and then everyone loves him for this thing he didn’t do, but instead is a thing he is.

The equivalent in real life might be considering Dr Jonny Kim, graduated high school, joined the navy, became a Navy SEAL, became a combat medic, sniper, navigator, went on 100 combat missions, graduated with a math degree, went to Harvard med school and became a doctor, and is now a NASA astronaut selected as a possible mars mission candidate, navy reservist, husband, father, decorated combat vet, and 35 years old; and then imagining NASA deselecting him and replacing him with a 35 year old you know who “thought about being the first man on Mars since childhood” and whose favourite film is “The Martian”, and is just waiting for NASA to find him because he’d be the perfect candidate, he could “learn any of that stuff but won’t waste his time until they choose him” [hey that too much describes me!]. Sure maybe Jonny Kim always dreamed of going to Mars and loves The Martian, but he also did things.

Batman went to be Far East and trained hard in martial arts for years, Neo waited for someone else to load martial arts skill into his brain in a safe virtual environment which he could control so he never lost.

Heroes in the past did hard heroic things, rather than dreamed of being called upon to do easy heroic things they could innately magically do. Heroes of the past wanted to win a war, action movie heroes play to a viewer who wants to be seen as a hero and doesn’t care how the saving of people (or whatever) is irrelevant and secondary.


This is an incorrect understanding of the nature of the movie, imho. Neo is a philosophical super-hero, not a physical, and so it's unfair to compare him to physical super-heroes.

The character is established in the scene where he wakes up, having done something on his computer. He has books on philosophy (Simulacra and Simulation). He's obviously been searching for a long time, and his _mind_ is something most minds of his age aren't: ready to see the real world. Morpheus even says that they typically don't extract people his age because their minds can't handle the reality.


That's way beyond me. What is a "philosophical super-hero" - in what way is any amount of philosophy heroic at all, let alone super-heroic?


I don't think it's "beyond you", I think it's so simple you passed right above it.

A "philosophical super-hero" in the context of Matrix, circa 1999 is something along the lines of:

Everybody's asleep like Jim Careys in the Truman Show. Reality is not what we think it is. We're all slaves, we're all miserable even if we think we're happy. It's all a lie. “They” control us. “They” know and keep us ignorant. “They” are the reason why we suffer so much and we're not even fully aware of it.

Enters Neo. Neo is a cool dude who should have been Will Smith but he declined to do Wild Wild West — crazy sci-fi in the machine seemed less blockbuster-worthy than big machines exploding in the Far West, yeah, that was a bad call. But I digress.

Neo who's not black, unlike Morpheus, is not like the rest of us. No no no: he's AWAKE(ning). He's woke, man! Like F, this should have been Will Smith, that smug look haha. Oh boy, I digress. Not that Matrix itself is boring but.

Then there's Zion. It's really the Bob Marley ideal, because why not, heaven can only be full of hippies of sorts, and the idea is that if humans "escape" the bad guys, they can all go party to Zion. Cue NOT Laureen Hill, that was a fail honestly.

So, imparted with this supreme Knowledge about “them” and heaven and Morpheus' BFF and so on, Neo can do a whole lot of cool tricks because he now "knows". And there he goes, solves the puzzle in a trilogy because that sounds nice, and the good people are now free. Probably. Or not. Who cares at that point. The whole story was never about that anyway.

So, that's the level-1 "philosophical hero". He just "gets it" and that makes him stronger. There's also a big nod to human versus machine in that the Matrix, the bad guy-s, they don't understand "love" the way we do, and Neo.. well, he's the romantic you know, he loves Trinity and that's the key to his ultimate surviving. “A truly original take on what it means to be human”, said nobody ever who wasn't born the day before.

So, yeah, I'm sure you can see all of that, and (rightfully imho) thought it wasn't much "philosophy" material.

HOWEVER! there's level-2. For the "woke" people among us, you know, those who "get it" like Neo. (I'm joking but I think it's a little bit like that, there's a smugness to Matrix fans, even those who seem to indeed "get it".)

This is my liberal interpretation of level-2. I've looked at YouTube videos analyzing the movies because frankly I didn't get it, like you. And then I had my own "awakening" in life, but it's much less glamorous than Neo, it means shitty experiences for stupidly long times and then somehow emerging the other side and being alive enough to tell about it. Long story short, I kinda "get" what they possibly mean. It's as old as the oldest mythologies conceptually, e.g. the "Maya" in Hindu (Sanskrit: “magic” or “illusion”).

So the matrix is an image for "whatever you think is impossible", the opposite of what is sometimes termed "abundance" mindset — I can't do this, I'll never have that, this is impossible for me, etc. It's a veil on reality, and critically self-imposed, of our own doing in a modern interpretation, more agnostic about gods if you will.

Anybody who does something in this world must at some point on the way remove such limiting thoughts, usually much wider than the mere topic — whether business owner, moviemaker, musician, scientist, etc. In HN of all places the sample is skewed as hell, but some of us probably see that most people are self-imposedly very limited in their "possibles".

I could elaborate but you get the gist. Everything else is filling with analogies and good moviemaking, probably, or not, whatever, who cares at this point.

Level-3 exists, some people do that: they take pop content and slap philosophical references because "quotes" and "easter egg". But then they elevate the easter above the egg and we're all dying of an empty brain because Matrix is now officially better than the Odyssey and La Comédie humaine combined.

Did any of this speak to you, should you have read even just 1 paragraph? :D


I think you made a very fair interpretation of what I mean. But then, I saw the Matrix seven times in theaters the first year (1999-2000). Then I saw it many more times on DVD/streaming. But it took until I was about 40 before I realized that it was about something more than just the story. My meta-cognition seems to have been stuck in the early teens level until my 40s.


>superheroes are creatures/concepts as old as stories though, from the oldest myths of Ulysse

Ancient/Mythical "heroes" are not like our modern superheroes which are kind of a mix of gods/demigods and christian saints. Superheroes are people with superpowers plus a drive of serving justice, helping the weak, protecting mankind, etc. Plus always ready to sacrifice themselves for others. Classical heroes range from purely self-motivated (Ulysses), selfish and self-serving (Achiles) to literal assholes (Gilgamesh). Achiles values are very similar of former-gangster rap stars (or at least the characters they built of themselves). Fighting is most important. Only fights for himself and his glory. Top dog of his culture. Has a particular sense of fairness in regard to his own selfishness.


I always thought the Matrix missed a huge philosophical opportunity.

Instead of humans feeding the Alien/AI need for energy (batteries), they feed their need to be human.

They tap into the dreams, and lives of humans, not for energy, but for their souls.

They need each individual human, and through infinite permutations of life, with infinite combinations of love and hardship, through infinite Matrix's, are the ultimate voyeurs.

They're trying to analyze what makes life worth living, because they don't feel anything. Or, they have been God like for so long, they feel nothing, and need to feel something real again.

So, they limit their own senses inside the construct of human existence, which is less, but in ways they can't understand, much much more.

Ultimately, the Matrix is the AI/Alien search for life.

Neo's path to victory is the only path anyone wants. Every heroes path is the one that makes him a hero, not a loser, and is the only path that matters.

Anything else is a lesser permutation.

It is the path of the soulless, to search for their soul.


This sounds a lot like Robert Monroe's Loosh idea.


"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." - Gen. James Mattis, USMC


Me too. My mind is always going off on different tangents playing out various scenarios, even ones that almost certainly won’t happen. I haven’t been formally diagnosed but I suspect I have some level of ADHD as well.

On the other hand the random thoughts if I can stick with them long enough do help me form a coherent train of thought. It’s a bit hard to explain, but sometimes my mind is not “clear”. I’d be noodling on a problem (typically not a technical one, more like social or life problems) and feel like there should be a solution but it’s just out of my reach. If I keep focusing on that one issue it have a hard time coming to a conclusion. If however I follow the random tangents a bit then some how the various tangents converge on something useful.

Of maybe I’m just weird.


Same, ADHD and everything, but overtime I've learned to control it. Now I typically use my internal monologue to work something out. Sometimes it still gets away from me though and I have to purposefully refocus my thoughts onto work or something constructive.

Honestly, I no longer view ADHD/ADD as a disorder, but different brain functionality. It doesn't typically fit in with our modern schooling systems so it's treated like a disorder. It certainly has some handicaps to be sure, but it's benefits, hyper-focus (when you get it working) and creativity are very helpful sometimes.


Without any insensitivity towards ADHD, another thing that I think contributes to a heightened sense of internal monologue and constant self-excruciation is the expectations and stresses of society.

I have found that in Southern Africa, if you take the time to understand many of the fusion and native cultures, you can learn a lot about stressing less. In my personal case, I do have an internal monologue, but it gets worse with stress.

My one Mozambican friend for example (notwithstanding his amusing "selfishness" with money) has made me realise that not all people handle progress (esp. technological) with underlying anxiety. Sometimes you really are allowed to suck in and enjoy life, appreciate the progress that has been made, and look to our challenges with grace.


I used to constantly think my mind wandered from subject to subject. I never thought of it much (ironic?) until I read an article about meditation. In meditation you make a conscious effort to not think.

As I got older I found I lost that fire as I call it. Now I find most of the time my mind doesn't wander and it feels wrong. I used to be incredibly creative just from the sheer volume of thoughts.

I do think I have mild ADHD I can't concentrate even the slightest noise ruins my thought process. A friend of mine who has been diagnosed as having ADHD has traits I see in myself. Headphones with brown noise, caffeine, night time (now) are the only ways I can concentrate.


Christ the brown noise really hits home. Coffee and studying at night seems the only way I can do it to be honest.


Also ADHD and experience the world in a similar but slightly different way. All my narratives are about potential immediate futures and how they might tweak the longer term outcomes. It's interesting but insanely draining and often depressing. Since I've noticed this about my self I've been intentionally trying to take steps to slow my thoughts and be in the moment, but when I do I'm constituently thinking about how doing that will effect my future self, lol. Still, I think I've found that intentionally trying to take moments has been helpful and beneficial


Another thing that happens is that when someone else is talking a lot of the time I've already thought through what they are saying to the point that they don't even need to say it for our conversation to continue and keep track. This makes me extremely annoyed by people I deem long winded. I used to try and hurry the conversation along, but it turns out people don't like that and it definitely makes me look like an ass hole. Also, sometimes I'm wrong and I not only look like an ass hole I definitely feel like an ass hole. As I've matured I've gotten better at listening and not looking annoyed, but my mind wonders as soon as I know where the convo is going. Haven't quite figured that one out yet


I have this problem. My mind is obsessed with modelling /predicting other's thoughts and words, continuously testing predictions, improving models. Listening to predictable people is exhausting, and if I zone out they will belabor their point even further.

I have found one strategy in which 'cutting people off' can be mutually agreeable, maybe this will be helpful to you:

While 'listening' to their predictable words, I try to determine then summarize the vital aspects of it. You already know the 1,000 words they will speak, but can you summarize it well in 50?

This can apply to practical problems that need to be solved, information to be conveyed, or emotions to be heard.

I then politely interrupt ("I just want to be sure I understand, are you saying...") and summarize my predictions.

Many people are delighted to have their own rambling thoughts rendered in a concise, well ordered manner, and/or relieved to have solid confirmation that communication was successful.

Even people who are processing their emotions, and who value 'feeling heard' above all else, will often take pleasure in this response, provided I've done a decent job of capturing the essence of their experience. We can then move on to more nuanced aspects of their emotional difficulties.

Edited to be less long winded. :)


"Get to the point, will ya?!"

Vice versa, for the past couple of years I've started practicing verbally walking people through my entire thought process from beginning to end. I found that this has been useful in eliminating misunderstandings. It's tiring though, I'll give you that, so I only do it when I believe that it will have long-term positive impact.


I found mindfulness meditation to be extremely effective at allowing me to control my inner monologue. I highly suggest giving it a serious try


I’ve been meditating regularly for about a year and a half and have found it’s one of the most helpful ways to slow down the inner monologue as well


> I constantly have something in my ears to tune myself out, podcasts or music

Careful with this, hearing damage or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are both dangers. They often come along with each other.

*weird to get a downvote for warning about these dangers... I have both of these and want to help others avoid my mistakes.


My thinking was...

1. Each time I review a concept or memory it lost information, so the most "honest" conception of something I could have was an unblemished impression lightly touched.

2. So can I just let feelings and thoughts flow around without letting it turn into words?

3. I found that while my comprehension didn't appreciably decrease, I still did fine in classes and homework, I had more trouble explaining concepts to other people.

So I conclude that for certain kinds of thinking it is important to recite it to fine tune your presentation. For others, for most, it is best to let them flow without much attachment.

I now tend to use writing for formal thought consolidation since it's less lossy and forces me to follow things from beginning to end. It required me practicing for half a year to stop myself from trying to formulate my opinions in words. Now I only do it if it's an opinion I want to express.

I don't know if it's possible to train in the other direction, though I've never heard voices other than my own internal voice so maybe I'm in the minority. Maybe a subset can hear only one voice, some hear nothing, most hear many?


I hear voices and see visuals of other people with extreme clarity in my head. I thought everyone had that given I couldn't comprehend how you would discuss and/or reason about things without conjuring up a representation of that thing.


I can only speak for myself, but I use pen and paper if I need to reason about "complex" things generally approached logically. Like I wouldn't do math in my head, at least beyond arithmetic.

I might visualize code in my head if I'm programming, but I don't see words. I know they're there, but they're not helpful to me in reasoning. I'm thinking through the steps of an algorithm which I wrote and how it changes the state of my mental model for the data on the computer -- but I don't literally have a picture of the variable states in my head or anything, nor can I see the code.

If I need to reason in a more intuitive way about why I think things or how I feel about things in the first place I think adding a dialog or visualization makes my reasoning worse. I'm rationalizing rather than feeling, leading to me reinforcing beliefs that aren't... quite... what I actually believe. I find this dangerous.

I want to understand why I feel something, but I also recognize that the feeling is what's true and any narrative I put together is imperfect because words pidgeonhole your much more flexible abstract concept into the constructions available in the language you think in.

I managed to get a PhD in an engineering field, so clearly I can still reason about things ;-) But I kind of... train my intuition and then make better guesses based on intuition, and then go back and use slower verbal/logical reasoning to find problems or do tactical changes. On the other hand, my method of "memorizing" fourier transforms was to do the proof a hundred times and then do the proof on my exams since it was not practical for me to actually memorize a formula. And why I'd make a terrible biologist or doctor or chemist where fluency and memorization play a much bigger role.

Or another way, I use no words for strategy, I rely on training my intuition with practice and then trusting my intuition with verification to improve my intuition later. When it gets to the tactics of how to connect A to B to C I use a rigorous approach but I still wouldn't say that at any point I've experienced something like a discussion in my head between multiple distinct voices. I do have a running monologue of me asking myself questions when I'm in rigorous mode, but it definitely never feels like a distinct entity questioning anything.

When you read a book, do characters have different voices? My partner has no voices since he claims he was taught to read by memorizing what words look like whereas I learned to read from sounding out words. I have exactly one voice, the same internal monologue as for anything else. But that's for books I'm enjoying reading, if I just want to get through something I'm not sure I actually have a coherent voice in my head at all anymore. But my reading comprehension is markedly lower.


My mind races just like that, but without using words. I have to use a lot of noise canceling to drown out other noise to hear myself think at all.


Don't worry with age your brain will deaden. My mind raced, I learned somewhat how to chill it right out, and now it flat-lines far too much.


Almost 44 years, and the hurricane hasn't seemed to calm down. I just have fewer registers. :/


If it's any consolation you miss it when it's gone.


That sounds a little distressing. Have you found a positive?


It took me until my mid-20s before I realized that not everyone thought this way.


I have this "condition". I didn't know it was unusual. I was on propecia (hairloss) medication for awhile, and it took the internal monologue away. I'm now off of it because life was dull and lonely without an active imagination. How curious that testosterone derivative hormones could alter brain activity.


I don't talk to myself in my head, except rarely (usually if I'm scolding myself, or trying to do an accent), but I think you'd be entirely wrong to describe me as not having an active imagination.


It took me until my mid-20s to be able to drink enough to make this go away (at least for a short time).


This is among the many reasons why I almost never drink alcohol any more - easier to learn to manage the problem than to wake up hungover every morning.


It's good to know I'm not alone. Mine isn't that intense; I only do this several times a day, but when driving or in the shower, I am frequently giving speeches in front of thousands, or debating publicly on live television. I constantly call myself out on aspects where I'm weak, and correct myself. I don't schedule time or do this deliberately; it kind of just happens. But what I've found is that is has helped me so much in my face-to-face communication at work.


On the other hand, this probably allows you to put yourself in someone else's shoes more easily.


It also leads to overthinking. You could simulate several long conversations based on wrong assumptions, resulting in wrong conclusions and probably some anxiety.

It also makes it harder to deal with you because only you can react based on those long analyses, everybody else has to react based on your actions.


Definitely but my partner will probably disagree; I've played devil's advocate way too many times for her liking.


It's helpful for simulating different thoughts and feelings from different viewpoints in real or imagined scenarios. It doesn't grant super-empathic powers of comforting, or mirroring feelings in the moment. Moreso it hinders my ability to mirror emotions because I'm dont live "in the moment" as much.


I wish I knew how to switch on this power. As it stands, I seem to be pretty good at grasping the abstract “shape” of problems, in a way that short-circuits words, but I can’t flow forth with conversation or write believable dialogue to save my life. My thoughts are entirely fuzzy.

Sometimes when I’m very sleepy, I can simulate friends and relatives talking to an uncanny degree, but not at any other time.


Interesting, one of the signs that I’m about to fall asleep soon is also that I accidentally feel my thoughts as if they were said by another person.


I know I'm falling asleep when the movie of thoughts and images playing in my head becomes more like watching something play out on its own than thinking it myself. The thoughts and scenarios stemming from myself become more vague and start to come from somewhere else, basically transitioning from inner-monologue narration of images to compiled dreams that I no longer have control of. However, if I think about my own falling asleep as it's happening the self awareness wakes me up.


I don't have "movies of thoughts and images playing in my head" in waking life, but I do start having visual dreams. But I've only once been able to actually observe them beginning, usually I just wake up in the morning with no memory at all of the transition.


I'm not sure if it's the same thing, but I can switch between the two modes, narrated and silent. Most of the time when reading I'll narrate in my head, otherwise I rarely narrate when performing more complex tasks (such as programming - I program much faster than I can speak).

I always find myself thinking out different scenarios, different responses, etc. I too listen to a lot of music and podcasts to drain out that voice - it often helps me work harder.

Also my internal voice is very different from my spoken voice. My internal voice is upper class English and my spoken voice is a rough, course English voice.

Another thing, possibly related, is that my ability to multitask is quite high. Right now for example I am watching a video whilst typing. I can often talk and type at the same time as well, whilst I find colleagues unable to do so.


I feel like this too. However, I've found I can instantly get into non-verbal focus while playing chess. You might want to give it a shot. FWIW I'm not a particularly good, or experienced player either, just someone that enjoys it.


I’ve hadn’t realized it until you just said it, but I am the same way. I’ve played roughly 10-20 games a day for years! That said, I feel I am simply trading one mode of thought for another. I tend to be _even less_ present when playing chess than nearly any other activity.


verbal focus helps my chess. when I think things like "he's trying to mount an attack on my queen's side", verbalized as words, it helps me to understand what I'm seeing in a new way


fwiw I also have ADHD, and certainly daydream a lot, and often imagine myself in situations or doing interesting things, but I would say that I don't have much of an 'internal monologue'. I imagine being in situations, but very rarely speaking is conciously involved. For example, I also sometimes imagine being the leader of my country, but I'm more thinking about issues that might arise and how I might decide to act to respond to them, and how people might react, what obstacles might be encountered etc, but in a more abstract way? Like on an emotional level rather than a linguistic level.

On a tangential note, I was amazed to find that there exist people who struggle to keep geometry in their head, in a sense have no visual "minds eye" at all. I was playing a game with somebody where you have to build a very simple tower while blindfolded, as somebody else reads the instructions, and they had a great amount of trouble imagining that a specific tetris-like shape might look like the letter 'T' even though they held it in their hands, until they removed the blindfold. They were still able to understand the shape of the object in some sense, but not 'see' it in some other sense until they removed their blindfold.

I wonder how well these kinds of simple differences in internal concious organisation map to personalities, or competency in certain areas.


Your first paragraph, I experience that frequently only mine is entirely verbal in nature.

I also have an extremely weak minds eye. I don't get visual thinking at all. If I have a blank page in front of me I simply cannot imagine a user interface. I would have to physically or digitally start drawing something in order to even be able to visualize further changes to the UI. I also have an extremely weak grasp on local geography. I suspect places form a network in most people's heads. For me they are mostly isolated locations which don't connect to anywhere else. I have an ok sense of direction. I can certainly go back the way I've come. But in regular conversations about locations in my city I have been stumped 1000x when certain place names are mentioned. I always ask where those places are. Everyone around me can tell me how to get there by what is close by or what describe the route. I usually don't know where the things the mention are either. Someone else usually chimes in to help me understand where something is by giving another example. Unless I pull up Google maps I almost always still end up not knowing where they are talking about even though I know the name of the place and roughly what type of place it is. I'm talking about the major suburbs anyone would know in their city. I worked out my ability in this area was sorely lacking when even my little brother who was 5 years younger than me would always be the 3rd person to attempt to explain where something was after my two older sisters had had a go.

But when it comes to peoples voices I can recall their accent, language patterns and mannerisms perfectly. So I wind up doing a lot of impersonations of people.


I spend a great deal of time worrying about what we'd do if a few hundred thousand exact clones of me appeared. Should we congregate, maybe seize an uninhabited island or form a town, or should we scatter to the four winds? How would we deal with our darkest secrets or quirks being public knowledge? Would we cooperate or conflict violently?

I think it's all my internal monologue voices feeling trapped living in one head. At least we're self-aware..


Daydreaming?

I have internal monologues, talking to myself as I write this, and when I was younger I'd play out stories in my head. Still do it sometimes when I'm bored or stressed, or particularly upset about something.

Example of a story: something very much like The Watchmen graphic novel, before I had read it (movie and show didn't exist, or were even talked about.


Interesting, that's what I'd typically think of as daydreaming, but it definitely doesn't feel like an always-on thing, as I definitely don't verbalize a lot of things internally. Which does pose the occasional problem when I'm asked to explain something :)


Thank you for this, I have been diagnosed as ADHD at 4/5. But nothing came of it since I maintained a good grade throughout school. My mind is exactly like that, I’ve always discarded that diagnoses as bogus but now it makes more sense.


Having conversations with yourself and re-playing conversations is different from narrating things like a voice over though. I do the former, and I believe that's quite normal, but not the later.


I don't think many people literally narrate things, which is why this joke is funny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZwib_JvtCM


I also have ADHD, but my thoughts (multiple and distracted they are) are “flashes”, not a fully dubbed voiceovers. They would be much slower if they would need to be “pronounced” mentally.


This is exactly like me. Never knew others with such internal dialogues. Though, I don't know about ADHD. Have a focus problem a bit...


This is 100% me. I kind of think of language like an operating system for the brain - a really chaotic operating system.


This is the plot of Snowcrash loosely. Great book.


Neal Stephenson? I haven't read it, but I remember really liking Cryptonomicon.


The book "The Untethered Soul" is very good if you're ever interested in breaking free of that.


MDMA was great for that, but the weeklong comedown is a bitch


Consider a vipassana


This topic (comments here, the OP, and comments in threads elsewhere) exposes some conflicting definitions of what an "internal monologue" is or means.

- Some people describe hearing their internal monologue, which I take to mean something like: they have an internal monologue, and it manifests as a voice that only they hear. These people are analogous to those who see things they picture in their mind's eye.

- Some people describe not hearing their internal monologue, which I take to mean something like: they interpret "internal monologue" as a metaphor for their train of thought or stream of consciousness; they think of themselves as having an internal monologue (i.e., they are thinking in language), but don't experience it as a voice. These people are analogous to all of the aphantasics surprised that the mind's eye isn't just a metaphor.

- Some people describe not having an internal monologue. I suspect these people are a mix of those who think in language but interpret the term "internal monologue" as requiring hearing a voice, and people who'd describe their thought process as nonlingual in some way (visual, abstract, etc.)

Across these characterizations, different people describe their thought process(es) all over the place WRT to how compulsory/voluntary/consistent they are. Some of the people who "see" things do this consciously; others can't help but picture things they read or think or hear. Some people describe a conscious/conditional train of thought, while others describe one that is racing/intrusive/incessant.


For people who experience having an internal monologue: Suppose you see a bagel on the kitchen table in the morning and decide whether or not you're hungry enough to eat it. Does that process involve an internally experienced stream of words (whether "audible in your mind's ear" or not) like "I'm pretty hungry" or "I bet that bagel would taste good"? Is this what it would be mean to have an internal monologue? Because I certainly could decide to eat a bagel without experiences any words. Subjectively, it would involve me imagining the pleasant feeling of satiation and the annoyance of cleaning up and weighing them against each other, with no words involved.


I think it's more related with conflict situations. For example, imagine you are on a diet. Then after the first impulse of eating a bagel you think "but I started a diet a week ago" and then you justify yourself "a single bagel won't matter that much" which creates another thought "you said the same last time. You are going to regret it at the end of the month" and so on.

In fact, this internal monologue can be used in psychology when you are dealing with bad experiences by dividing your thoughts into an entity who suffers the pain and another one who is logical and supportive. For example, acting towards yourself the same way you would do for a friend.


The considerations I mentioned were conflicting. (Satiation vs. cleanup.) Maybe you think it's about the degree of abstraction.


For me it really depends. I have two ways of representing my speech.

1) experience the words as if I'm saying them out loud but don't vocalize them. This is similar to how a lot of people read, so I figure I'm technically subvocalizing them.

2) especially when doing math or programming I simply know what I was about to think using method 1) without any specific words springing up.

I can't figure out if method 1 is me having an auditory internal monologue or if it's non-auditory. But at least you have a second experience to contextualize with.

EDIT: I would also like to add that sometimes when programming my mind switches to a graph-like representation that I start to manipulate physically. That is, I'll actually move my fingers in the air and move around the idea of this graph to "view" it from different perspectives and at different levels "Minority Report"-stye. Yes, that is something I try not to do anywhere but at home.


You just made me realize that internal speech is, I think, a better way to understand the internal monolog (at least in my case) than internal hearing. I guess I can hear my internal monolog, but it's more about 'saying' the words in my head than 'hearing' them.


> Does that process involve an internally experienced stream of words (whether "audible in your mind's ear" or not) like "I'm pretty hungry" or "I bet that bagel would taste good"?

Yes. I can also do this:

> decide to eat a bagel without experiences any words.

...but I prefer to think consciously about my actions. Doing too many things without internally verbalizing the decision-making process makes me feel like a beetle.


What if it’s something more nuanced than what words can express in a concise way? Do you have to slow down your train of thought? E.g. the first bite of that Proust’s madeleine probably didn’t last several minutes...


If I'm trying to consciously evaluate my actions, then yes, I might pause to think before continuing. This doesn't usually happen with something as simple as eating a bagel, though I've certainly contemplated the nature of cream cheese once or twice.


Ahah makes sense, this is very interesting, thanks for replying


For me it's more a discussion or dialogue with one speaker. The same an old theater play would act it a convicted character - s/he will say one position/argument, then the other. There's no description of the bagel (so it's not as if images are replaced by a voice), but there might be (not always) a discussion what to do with it in my head, where I'm trying to formulate my want/choice. So it's the facets of the thinking procesd that might be played out. It's also not always a discussion, it could eg be a commentary or critique (both positive and negative) of what I'm doing. ("One more pushup, come on."; "I think I had too much tea already": "will she notice I've gone to the bathroom three times in the last hour?" ...) Other days or eg when I'm busy/in the flow there might be much less dialogue.


I don't think so (because this can be a short, impulsive decision), but it wouldn't surprise me if some experience it like this.

My personal experience (in the non-audible group) is that the "role" this voice is playing is a bit more supervisory/executive. It thinks about what I need to do tomorrow, or the next three steps on my current project, or that I really need to carve out time to go to the cleaners some morning.

This voice might think about getting food, but mostly when hunger is getting in the way of other priorities. Or when I need to game out how to fit food into a tight schedule.


> a supervisory/executive

Yes this is how it is for me. I can eat the bagel without consulting him, but he speaks out the words of this post that I'm writing or any email/report. When I'm on autopilot like driving or playing a game/sport I don't hear him. But if I want to think about plotting a different route or a changing in strategy, the voice will talk me through it.


Mostly what I hear is the internalized "No! Don't eat it! Too many calories!". If I don't hear that (or conjure up that voice) then I end up eating the bagel. It's like that for any bit of food I see laying around.


Additional complexity for me: the prefix "I'm hungry" or "should I have that?" is almost never in inner speech, but the answer upon making a decision always is.


This is why I'm sceptical if the whole thing. It's just way too subjective. I don't doubt that people experience the universe in different ways. But I highly doubt it's as simple as having an internal monologue or not.


I think it's possible that people experience the same things, but observe them differently, so it sounds like they're having a completely different experience. While I can absolutely have a conversation with myself inside my head, I don't "hear" the voice in my ears. Some people might take the "hearing" part very literally.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister as a child. We were both falling asleep in a very dark room. I noticed that with my eyes open, staring into darkness, there was a kind of static noise pattern overlaying my vision. I asked her if she had the same thing. "No", she said. "I just see black". Thinking back, it's likely that we were both experiencing the same thing, but she just wasn't observing the same things that I was.


There have been a few threads on these subjects recently on HN, aphantasia was a pretty hot topic.


FWIW it does not seem like any of the above for me. It is more like I am rehearsing what I would say if I chose to do so. That does not come across as a voice to me.


Say to who, when, why?

I wouldn't include thinking through upcoming conversations, texts, tweets, emails, posts, presentations, or phone calls.

Let's say you need to run three errands and eat dinner on the way home. How do you decide what to do when, and make sure you have what you need?


To no-one in particular. It is as if I were going to speak my thoughts on whatever the topic of the moment is. To me, that seems very different to listening to a voice. Thre's no homunculus, virtual or otherwise, telling me what to think.

I wrote elsewhere that this might just be an illusion - how it seems to me when, and only when, I am paying attention to what it is like to think.


Ah, that clarifies somewhat.

The framing feels odd to me. If I'm rehearsing as if I were going to speak my thoughts, I'm concerned with trying to communicate. I'm trying different turns of phrase, levels of detail, and organizational strategies.

The descriptions I've seen so far make me think people who "hear" the voice loosely subdivide into groups who feel like they're talking to themselves and hear the voice, people who feel like they are listening to their own voice speak, and people who feel like they're listening to third-party narrator(s).

When I'm thinking through something lingually, I'm phrasing out the initial problem, phrasing through what I know about it and testing its rigor with counter-points and what-ifs and does-it-help-tos. Language isn't the focus, just the medium.

It's like working something out in a notebook or text document, minus the pen/paper or keyboard/screen. It's also like talking to myself, without the judgmental glances. It isn't as effective--it doesn't scale up to thorny/sprawling problems as well--as vocalizing or taking notes (or both).


It is not really rehearsing, at least not as you set out in your last two paragraphs. It is more like the first draft of that process, and if it were spoken, it would probably seem incoherent.

When I am doing something specific, such as composing this reply, then go on to rehearsing it explicitly as you describe.

There is also visual imagination, but that seems to be secondary unless I am thinking through a physical process. This might explain some of the incoherence, as my monologue does not to explicitly identify the entities in my mind's eye - I can pick them out indexically.

These issues may have some relevance to the philosophy of the mind, as philosophers often seem to assume they can gain insight into general principles through introspection, but with there apparently being several significantly different ways that people experience thinking, any one person's experience will not be the whole picture.


Anecdata to add to this: In the third grade I took the phrase "voices in your head mean you're crazy" so I actively suppressed my internal monologue (previously expressed in language) and now my thinking is mostly abstract and/or visual. There are two exceptions: imagining a hypothetical conversation or reviewing a previous conversation in my head. Those are the only cases of language in my head. When I read I experience a combination of the two.


I tend to use hypothetical conversations in my head to analyse my thoughts, but otherwise feel my thinking is more abstract than verbal. So I'm not sure I agree with the dichotomy this article is presenting.


IIRC, Chomsky's theory on this is that human language is first internal and is the basis for all human thought. He doesn't mean an internal 'voice', but some primordial, grammatical imperative to producing thought in a certain way. This resulted in all of the world's spoken languages and would explain rapid language learning rates in newborns.


For myself personally, it depends on what I'm thinking about. Thinking about writing this sentence, I hear each of the words I'm going to type in my head before I type them.

However, if I'm working out how to assemble a table, I'm not hearing "And now I screw the leg on" I just abstractly know that's what I'm going to do.

I have to imagine that's the case for at least most people. Thinking out complicated abstract concepts in internally verbalized words just seems like it would take forever.


Came to make the same comment. Normally, I avoid giving the "Me Too!" comments, but I think in this context it's appropriate. If I'm casually thinking about life, the universe, and everything then I typically have a monologue. I don't "hear" it, per say, but I am thinking in sentence structure. If I'm analyzing a problem, working on a project, or trying to digest a situation, then I do not think in such sentence like ways. If I'm performing a low-cognitive-load activity (like a long road-trip), then I've got an inner-monologue going on with words & sentences. If I'm really in need of my focus (driving in Manhattan), there's zero inner-monologue.


I think Ihave control over how I think. An internal monologue is great for remembering in order. But I rebuild as an image of keywords which is great for connecting but the words blur. I rebuild as a map to navigate with a mental car. I rebuild as a shape to trigger my eyes, a sound for my ears...

However the last week I've been stuck on naming "a complete thought", not just a vision which is just an image. But one that breaks through unconnected to any sense. A thought so full that it first needs to be unpacked in language, image, shapes and steps before it can be expressed. Thus like the article: does anyone else have this? Does anyone have a name for it?


To be honest, I’m genuinely not sure what you’re saying.


> However, if I'm working out how to assemble a table, I'm not hearing "And now I screw the leg on" I just abstractly know that's what I'm going to do.

This is funny. I can't imagine anyone doing that. There is no end to that. Like imagine someone thinking while walking down a lane "I am walking down the lane, and now I am going to turn left ... " this is endless ...


This is what I don't understand when people claim things like "language is required for higher thought" or whatever (no link but I'm sure I've seen that claim numerous times across various articles). We necessarily do plenty of thinking without words. Certainly you can be someone who focuses more on the words or less on the words, and maybe word-based people are naturally better at talking because their thoughts are mostly in word-form to begin with, but you can't put all the thoughts in words.


A google came up with this long article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the language of thought hypothesis, which seems fascinating. Mentions Turing, NNs etc..

"The language of thought hypothesis (LOTH) proposes that thinking occurs in a mental language. Often called Mentalese, the mental language resembles spoken language in several key respects: it contains words that can combine into sentences; the words and sentences are meaningful; and each sentence’s meaning depends in a systematic way upon the meanings of its component words and the way those words are combined. ..

LOTH emerged gradually through the writings of Augustine, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and many others. William of Ockham offered the first systematic treatment in his Summa Logicae (c. 1323), which meticulously analyzed the meaning and structure of Mentalese expressions. LOTH was quite popular during the late medieval era, but it slipped from view in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. From that point through the mid-twentieth century, it played little serious role within theorizing about the mind.

In the 1970s, LOTH underwent a dramatic revival. The watershed was publication of Jerry Fodor’s The Language of Thought (1975)."

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/language-thought/#MentCom...


> LOTH emerged gradually through the writings of Augustine, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and many others. William of Ockham

Based on the people mentioned, this theory sounds hugely and heavily influenced by western-christian theology, philosophy, and anthropology, which, since we don't 'know' scientifically, is neither good nor bad, but simply one strain of hypothesis. Other religions have other concepts - eastern christianity followed different lines (cf. 'logismoi', palamas, etc), and of course other religions have differing concepts e.g. chakras, etc.

without being an expert at all, it seems to me that at least on a higher than biological level (e.g. 'proto concious'), internal representation is to some extent malleable and based on ones own philosophy and conceptualization, something which some more esoteric or 'symbolic'/'structural' religious groups focus on - and perhaps (or perhaps not) - one representation may or may not be adaptive or maladaptive to our biology or not..


At least language is a huge help. For me crucial insights won't come readily formed in words, they come as abstract occurrences that need to be converted to words. Some of insight is lost in this conversion, I think, because the mind has to switch over to linguistic mode and serialize the memory content. Still, when putting ideas to words it also makes them more clear and distilled. As they say, you don't really understand the phenomenon unless you can explain it clearly.


This reminds me of an electrician I know. He spends a long time working by himself. Sometimes he explains to his tools what he is doing. "okay mr drill. Now we are going to make a whole here to get the cable through. Ready?". Occasionally his customers hear him.


> This is funny. I can't imagine anyone doing that. There is no end to that. Like imagine someone thinking while walking down a lane "I am walking down the lane, and now I am going to turn left ... " this is endless ...

Funny you say that. Growing up, I was almost exactly like that, though thankfully, the habit has shifted elsewhere.

By elsewhere, this amounts to active subvocalization of distinct physical attributes of the person in front of me: shape of head, type of eyes, (ir)regularity of teeth, cut of jib, unusual piercings, color of clothing, etc.


I don't do that with most thought but if (hypothetically) i dropped the screw and had to reach down and search for it, and that took some period of time, i might actually think "I have to put this screw in the hole i just drilled" to remind myself what i was doing.


I am also somewhere in between these two extremes, and I actually find that the process of taking an abstract thought and forcing myself to form it into words is a great way to find out how well-conceived the thought is.

In other words, I may find that I can't easily put it into words and that will indicate to me that I need to put more time into thinking about it and deciding what I really think.


I think almost entirely in images, usually moving and relating to each other in 3D space.

There are words mixed in, but when they come up they are usually just single words or a phrases which are attributes of something I'm thinking of, or an action I should take.

Sometimes I think more in words, but that's usually when something is really unclear to me or if I am obsessing over something.

I think that years of training myself not to obsess over things probably reduced my internal monologue almost to the point that it would be good to have a bit more of it sometimes.


I'm pretty much the same, but my internal monologue sometimes manifests itself as, I don't know how to describe it, but, as "feelings". This is somewhat usefull, but I need a more formal method sometimes to explain me to myself.


I'm starting to think that I have a weak minds eye. I can not easily mentally visualize ideas, but I do feel them.

When I am thinking about something new there are no words, images, etc. just feeling my way through ideas. It feels kind of like acting on instinct. For example if I am wrestling with an idea I get an impression of "resistance". Feeling my way through the path of least resistance from impression to impression.

I do say words, or see flashes of images but only for ideas that I have already felt out. Words are kind of a breadcrumb trail so that I can retrace the exact train-of-thought that I had taken before and images like mile-markers.


Now, I am super self conscious of the otherwise ignored voice which reads everything I type and see.

It is much sexier though than irl. I wonder why is that?

On the other hand, I can speak much faster yay. Why?

Is your voice reading this comment too? Maybe.

Do you feel like you are conversing with an oddly being? Maybe.

I am alive. Where is my mind reading tech?


There are some theories that the brain may effectively contain more than one "proto-consciousness" (or perhaps some of them are actually "fully conscious"). Maybe 2 or 3, maybe a whole lot of them.

If this is true, then when you have an internal "dialogue", you may be literally conversing with different sapient "beings". If so, who's actually the "you" there? Are you one of them, or all of them, or just kind of observing them all from above? Are you able to switch between those modes, intentionally or otherwise? Are "you" a microservice architecture, a monolith, a monolith orchestrating microservices, or all, or none?

We intuitively feel like we're a single voice and "manager" of everything that's going on. That could still be true even if there are other consciousnesses at work in there. Or it could be an illusion, or sometimes you are and sometimes you aren't, or maybe consciousnesses can somehow merge into a true single whole.

Or maybe it's closer to what we think, perhaps with multiple "intelligent" subsystems exchanging information, but only one actually conscious, sentient system.

There are a myriad of puzzling possibilities. We still know very little about how the brain and mind truly work, so this is all blind speculation. But it's interesting to ponder.

I actually suspect we will someday have pretty definitive answers to questions like these, or at least answers which apply to 90%+ of humans. But those answers may not come in any of our lifetimes.


Wow, as I'm aware of the idea, that our brains may indeed host several consciousnesses, I did not expect to be freaked out by any of this. But if my inner narrator is another consciousness, holy.

Just at the realization struck me, my inner voice said knowingly "Heeeellloo there". Ahaha, I'm going to bed now.


You should read up on tulpamancy. There is a subset of people who would argue that the consciousnesses in your brain are just as much deserving of a life as you are.

There is a subreddit (r/tulpa) that deals with questions about tulpamancy. They are very very insistent there there is a difference between mental illness and tulpamancy, primarily because tulpas are not supposed to bring you any harm.

I don't practice tulpamancy, but my mind was just so blown by this other perspective that I've been passively observing them for the past few months.


I'm not sure what level of contrarianism this is, but my armchair speculation is:

- "Tulpamancers" are mostly not mentally ill (beyond the ailments shared by a lot of nerds, like social anxiety), and probably very few actually have psychotic conditions

- Some variation of a multi-consciousness theory or adjacent theory has a decent chance of being true

- Even if one of those theories is true, and even though tulpamancers aren't mentally ill, tulpa construction is still basically bullshit self-trickery and not an actual other consciousness you're dealing with

Humans are good at creating fiction and myths. Maybe constructing a tulpa is kind of like when you write character dialogue in a novel. You can really embody the characters and hear them talk and make choices, and they basically start to write themselves. If you spend enough time with your characters, you'll start to feel they're real.


Or maybe it's like a first-person novel (for example, ASOIAF), where the narrator is a different person at different times. Not to freak you out more...

If I were to purely guess, my gut feeling - which of course means little with complex, unintuitive things like this - is that your inner narrator / monologue-giver really is just one single consciousness the vast majority of the time.

That is, I think there's a pretty good chance it is just "you". Phew. But I think there's also some chance it communicates in some way with other conscious entities, and it can be influenced by them as well. Different states of mind (for all meanings of the word "state") may cause those systems to temporarily "corrupt", or perhaps even substitute for, your inner narrator. For example, these could be systems that evolved well before primates, like things involved with fear, anger, sex, etc., that can partly or fully hijack the narrator, but only for limited periods of time, and usually infrequently. Maybe some guys really do, literally, occasionally think with their dick. Maybe some people guilty of "crimes of passion" really were different people during those moments. Maybe certain psychoactive drugs can put the narrator in the shotgun seat while some other stuff takes the wheel. Maybe psychotic disorders mess up the communication channels, so people start hearing those other consciousnesses "talking" when normally the neocortex would suppress or ignore most or all of that chatter.

But I think most of the time, it's just the single inner narrator. This may be the highest layer of the neocortex, which is the most recently involved system. Maybe it can tell the other consciousnesses to shut up, or speak up, or ask them to compute something in parallel, and at other times maybe it's just completely overwhelmed by them (which may lead to anxiety, delusions, and other issues).

I suspect something sort of like this is likely true, even if those other systems aren't actually conscious in any way, but are more just like cold information processing systems.

Or if not that, the next thing I'd lean towards is that there are two full consciousnesses: one in each hemisphere of the brain, with similar but not exactly the same behavior, thoughts, decisions, etc. Some philosophers have concluded this after performing studies of split-brain patients (people with their hemispheres surgically disconnected to treat epilepsy). Redundancy can be beneficial.

If true, maybe these are the two full ones, and the others are only "kinda conscious", sort of like having a few different ant brains inside your own brain. Ants are conscious, but not in a very deep way. I believe they are likely aware and sentient, but they only have a limited understanding of what's going on, why they do what they do, etc. They have their own thoughts, but they are very simple, dumb thoughts. Maybe each hemisphere controls its own respective set of one or more ant- or squirrel-like brains/consciousnesses.

Going by evolution, it wouldn't be that shocking to have one or more lower-level, cruder consciousnesses inside our brain, which the neocortex builds on top of. Maybe those are like deep learning models, and the highest executive in the neocortex is like the data scientist feeding data, tuning hyperparameters, and interpreting the output. This could maybe (partly) explain why some people with brain trauma and genetic conditions turn out to be savants - the neocortex is disrupted or routed around, and some of the raw models become more exposed and closer to the highest layer of awareness and consciousness, and they can use their billions of years of evolutionary advancement to compute and memorize things when large datasets are inputted.

Octopus intelligence is an interesting case study. It evolved totally separately, so it doesn't necessarily create a path we can follow to our own intelligence, but it does suggest possible options. And given the commonality of convergent evolution, maybe it could be giving us some applicable options.

Octopi seem to have one central consciousness, and one crude consciousness in each arm. So, 9 total. The octopus can choose to intentionally move all of its arms in synchrony, but each arm can also think and act autonomously. The arms can act autonomously even for a period of time after the octopus has died, and even if the arms are totally removed (or both). If their arms can do that, it's certainly not impossible that lobes or regions of our brain do something similar. If there were some way to safely take some regions out of a person's brain and see how those parts behave on their own (and how the person behaves without them), maybe they'd be a little like the detached octopus arms - autonomous consciousnesses, but able to be directed and controlled by a central consciousness when they're connected to one.


I think that the bicameral mind hypothesis makes sense.

Oh, and the phenomena wherein the disconnection of the hemispheres of the brain results in strange cognitive artifacts such as being able to give two different answers to one question, even questions like "what is your favorite color," points to at the very least some kind of parallel consciousness. Another hypothesis is that one hemisphere is the "speaking" brain and the other is the "listening" hemisphere. That is, only one of the consciousnesses can talk -- and that's the one we call "me"; maybe it should be "us."


Your disconnection example doesn't imply parallel consciousness to me, it implies extreme flexibility of a general intelligence processor in our heads. This theory seems to be field proven with many example of people suffering massive head trauma yet their brain was able to continue functioning.


Both could be true, potentially.


> It is much sexier though than irl. I wonder why is that?

Well, now it is. Thank you (and me I guess for being so susceptible).


Now your read this sentence in Darth Vader voice. Not the first time though.


Seriously, it never occurred to me that you could choose an appealing voice for your inner monologue, mine has always been a neutral version of my real voice. Stranger since I subvocalize while reading, and as a kid, the voice would actually act and change for each character.

Now I wonder if your reading speed can improve by choosing a voice from here https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MotorMouth


Just wanted to comment that I don't seem to be able to do internal Darth Vader voice. No idea why.


Maybe these are easier:

Arnold Schwazenegger: "I'll Be Back!"

Aqua Lene: "I'm a barbie girl, in a barbie world. It's fantastic, it's all plastic!"


The memories of not hearing the voice of professor Farnsworth when reading the meme (from before I watched Futurama) feel very weird.


Can you do anyone else's voice? Friends? Family? SO?

Can you remember someone saying something they said, in their voice?

Start with the memory, and then tack on the new sentence at the end of it.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true. Now you read the rest of this sentence in Darth Vader's voice.


Not the parent, but for me I have to actively remember what the target voice sounds like and consciously alter my internal monologue to match. As soon as I relax this acting process my internal monologue slips back into my neutral voice. So those, "you're now reading this in X's voice," never really do anything for me.

Maybe related, I don't always experience my thoughts via an internal monologue. Maybe roughly 70% of my internal thoughts are abstract and nonverbal.


Can you do an impression of Darth Vader out loud? Just curious, because when I do Darth Vader voice in my head, I get a strong urge to do it out loud. Makes me wonder if they're connected.


I don't necessarily think about all the words, they just appear at the keyboard (I touch type). A bit like if you're speed reading and skip the internal vocalisation, the word is before my mind, but not in a vocal sense. Like when you imagine a square, but don't imagine a picture of one -- or perhaps when you imagine a 5 dimensional hypercube and don't imagine a picture of one (much easier!).


I'm the spell it out type and I don't think it takes for ever. I more or less talk my self though abstractions and visualize the steps in my head. Usually in chunks if it's a complicated thing, but often as a whole. I think a cad model would be the closest parallel I can think of. My inner monologue is talking me through it as I visualize whatever I'm working on. So, it's not saying and.. now.. I.. put.. the.. next.. leg.. and so forth, it's this is how these 4 legs are going to fit


> Thinking out complicated abstract concepts in internally verbalized words just seems like it would take forever.

I do this but the internal monologue fits the time it takes me to do the thing or I go onto the next thing. It gives me a good sense of progression, what I have accomplished and the goal im focused on.

If the task is routine like buttering toast the monologue is about something else.


As with the ostensible Aphantasia I believe that this is a problem with people being able to describe their inner experiences accurately. It makes way more sense to me that >99% of people fall into the behavior category that you described, rather than that 10% of people don't have an internal monologue.

FWIW, my experience lines up very closely to yours.


I dream up movies and songs and all sorts of rich fantasies in my head, and I do this constantly. As a consequence of this, I never get bored as I've got an incredible imagination to lean on.

I think about movies I want to make, startups I want to create, the change I want to put into the world. New songs on my commute, goals I want to accomplish, what I could do with time travel. I'm always working on the structures of my different dream worlds, modifying the rules and the characters, exploring how they interact. The languages they speak, and the rules of the magic and science systems that form the bounds of their existence.

I have never once in my life been bored. Not once. I can sit in an empty room and just daydream.

If I play music or walk or run, this imaginative power is supercharged and becomes a transcendent experience. It's why I love running and headphones. I haven't taken drugs, but I imagine it's something like that. It's a pure, unfettered deluge of dopamine. I can also walk in circuits and circles around my house doing this and can waste hours in fantasy. Entire weekends can be "wasted" this way.

I think this is a source of my ADHD. I've got instant dopamine fixes from my raw imagination and it's incredibly hard to do anything else as I can always give myself something better to do by just daydreaming.

As an aside, the dreams that I have when I sleep are almost like movies. They have intricate (but often nonsensical) plots, and I'm seldom even involved.

The main thing I want to do with my life is to create tools so I can get this out of my head and out into the world.

I wonder how many other people daydream like this and have a vibrant inner creativity?


I used to have such an imagination when I was young: before going to sleep, I would always reimagine the movies I just watched or the books I just read, factoring myself into the story (often as a coprotagonist, not particularly OP but helpful in many ways), sometimes going a bit meta trying to explain my presence to the characters, tweaking their response, trying not to trigger the obvious self-doubting panic that would ensue if someone told you your reality isn't actually "real".

I even had a cross-universe canon for my character: I often had wings (watching Winx club as a kid helped), and sometimes took characters on a multi-dimensional ride in my magic hyper-technological flying car, big as a house on the inside, capable of traversing space and time.

I absolutely feel the same way about music, it manages to turn any world, even a simple concept into a fantastical and magical music video of sorts.

As I went on with my life I somewhat lost this ability, possibly due to the highly technical nature of my job and hobbies, however I still love reading and watching good fantasy stories, and sometimes, when I feel like it, I still fantasize by joining the story and aiding the main characters in saving the world (and music still can transport me away to another world, like before).

I have often considered the enormous power, and just as enormous limtations of modern creativity tools.

I honestly can't wait for neural interfaces: when everyone will be able to extract images and audio directly from their brains. It will truly be a revolution for the media industry, a change as big as the introduction of computers.

It will also give way to haunting new aspects of copyright law: what happens if someone publishes a YouTube neural video that uses copyrighted characters, do we prohibit people from even thinking about copyrighted IP?

Do we beam films using widevine L0 DRM directly to people's brains, immediately removing all memories of them after they were seen to avoid copyright infringement?

Those will truly be interesting times, and I would really love to live to see them.


The first part of your comment reads like my own thoughts. I still find myself incorporate new fictions into my mental canon. Over time the framework has changed significantly, but its roots are still noticable. Some of my earliest memories are of me playing around with this fantastical dreamscape. Nowadays I generally dive into these sorts of day dreams whenever I'm walking/biking alone, or showering. Music or white noise can help me get into it more.

Neural interfaces will be a game changer. I'm so excited for them.


Have you read "The Continent of Lies" by James Morrow? I can't remember how I came across it, not quite my normal reading fare, but it delves into some of what you are talking about.


I have not, but I will most certainly check it out, thanks for the tip!


> I would always reimagine the movies I just watched or the books I just read

When I was a teenager, I went through this phase where I would dream of myself as the hero of a book I just read. And if I knew the hero would die at some point, I would always modify my dream so I didn't die :)


I believe I am similar. I have often thought that I would not consider locked-in-syndrome to be as bad as others express as a worse-than-death fate. I think I would just happily continue wandering within my meandering mind.

I think it is detrimental to achieving things though. Actually doing things takes far more discipline and that's time that could be used for coming up with more internal ideas.

As a side note to this, I also have aphantasia. So I don't get any images. Just concepts,dialog, connections etc.


While discussing lucid dreaming with my partner, we both learned that she has aphantasia. I think it blew my mind more than it did hers. Things like, "I pictured that character so much different when I read the book" after watching a movie-- she always thought people were just saying that because they had different ideas of the characters mannerisms, or the text conveyed something different to them... Not that they could actually play out a scene in their head.

It got me thinking about a lot of ways we go about teaching. Math for example - my partner struggled with calculus in uni when presented an equation she hadn't seen something similar to before. It never occurred to me that people couldn't attempt to "graph" something in their head.


Yeah, if you don't have images you probably don't have sound. Thinking mind only.


Yeah, I don't know about that. I definitely have aphantasia but have a strong inner monologue and can (roughly) hear things in my mind.

The only reason I have an understanding of what a "mind's eye" might be like is that I do dream visually. This is apparently not uncommon among aphatasics.


I don't have images but I can easily play back a song in my head so I think I have sound.


I had the same thing. The more anchored it became to reality through supportive others and responsibility and commitment the quieter it became. Writing out my ideas and then really thoroughly and deeply exploring one that means something to gave a weight to bear on my psyche that quietened the others.

Ze Frank has a good video on this where he quotes Jung's work. https://youtu.be/u2cMjeSvZSs?t=184 Artists say life begins when you leave your comfort zone, in regards to making good art.

I find it still an important driver in life to follow that burst of ideas. The only way for me to raise up an idea structure or skill is to follow that buzz upwards. My capacity to imagine is jammed packed with meaningful content now and it grows a weight of it's own.


Same here. My “inner world” never stops unless I force it too (I like meditating occasionally for some mental-peace-and-quiet.)

Other than forcefully pausing it that way, it runs 24/7/365 and is incredibly vivid.

I can also have multiple “tracks” running at once internally, but I generally have one “in focus” and another 1 or 2 sort of there in the background dimly. I’m aware of what all tracks are currently up to though at any given point.

Generally it’s just brainstorming ideas, playing back memories, imagining fantastical worlds/stories for internal entertainment, or wondering about things.

It’s not always positive, and keeping it all under control can be difficult, but I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons.


This isn't healthy. You should go on a meditation retreat. Or drop acid. This is what Buddhist monks call the monkey mind syndrome.


It is not only healthy, but a great ability to be respected and cultivated. It is also good to learn to not do this. Saying it's unhealthy is like saying /dev/random is unhealty, but /dev/null is, or stars are bad but empty space is good. Both are quite useful. (let's please not have that talk about cryptographic qualities of /dev/random). My experience is that if you can easily tap into endless creativity and also experience the calmness of no-thought at will, you will have greater abilities than average in most situations. Meditation, among other things, can help you be more adept at either.


Your comment has helped assuage some fears of mine regarding meditation. I've been meditating most days for the past month now, and plan to continue to do so, but just within the past few days I've realized that I no longer effortlessly see amazing colours and shapes whenever I close my eyes. I'm worried that meditation is diminishing that creative aspect of my mind that produces such vivid imagery automatically. Ideally I want to keep my creativity intact, while also getting my neurosis under control.


No free lunches. You want creativity? Ok, go let your mind be feral like Van Gogh's or Kurt Cobain's. You want sanity? Become a perfect meditator and let those branches of thought die out without reacting to them. In return you can think like Spock.

If I could press a button, I would trade almost all my creativity for sanity/logic.


> see amazing colours and shapes whenever I close my eyes

Are they fractal shapes, or like you'd see in a kalaidoscope perchance?


Not fractals or like a kaleidoscope. I'm not sure I have the words to explain it in any understandable way, and I'm certain that I lack the skill to do it justice. Usually it starts as blots of colour/brightness, as well as gradients (both radial and linear), and some more exotic images. Then if I keep paying attention they'll start to morph into all sorts of different things. These can be abstract imagery (not entirely unlike a kaleidoscope I suppose), but more often the abstract imagery is just a backdrop or peripheral image. Where I'm looking I'll see the images morph into objects, people, locations, etc., and most strangely, concepts. I'm not sure how to explain that last bit, but sometimes in these visualizations I'll just see something that is very clearly a concept/idea itself. I don't have much control over what I see like this, unlike daydreaming where I have almost complete control, or sleep deprivation induced hallucinations where I have control proportional to how awake I am. What I can do is when I see something that I like and want to see more of, I can focus on it. This generally helps prevent it from morphing into something different, but it only works for so long as I can maintain a strong focus on it, so I inevitably lose my grasp on it after some time.

Typing this all out now I realize it sounds strange, and I haven't heard anyone else talk about this in particular. For reference I have low-grade synesthesia (among a whole host of mental abnormalities compared to my peers), my family has a history of mental illnesses, and I'm just about the most neurotic person I know. I have never used any illicit drugs (including marijuana, which is fortunately now legal in Canada). I've considered trying LSD or psilocybin, but I'm worried about having a bad trip. I have however experienced many sleep deprivation induced hallucinations, as well as several fever dreams, dissociative episodes, and panics attacks. I've been told by a trusted source that fever dreams can be somewhat similar to using psilocybin.


I've heard about that sort of thing be experienced through yoga/meditation (and have seen stuff myself on occasion), but who knows what our brains are doing in those states. Perhaps you're naturally inclined to be able to experience those sorts of things...


It's very healthy. This buzz of ideas and fantasy is where new forms and structures come from. It needs to be applied, not medicated.


LSD only gives temporary relief and is hard to get. Shroons might be a better route.


Luckily legal prodrugs of LSD exist, compounds which metabolize into LSD before reaching the brain like 1P-LSD and ALD-52. In the United States, you can order these off the clearnet without fear of legal repercussions, unlike shrooms. (although psilocin has its own collection of legal prodrugs available including, for example, 5-MeO-DMT and 4-HO-MET).


A lot of that stuff is toxic. People take these drug analogues, get sick, then blame the base molecule their government scared them from getting. Anything that's a prodrug has to be processed by your liver first. It puts extra strain on your liver, whereas the original molecule is already what you wanted.


The amount of material needed to produce a dose of LSD is so tiny that even if every liver cell involved died, no one would ever notice.


I can relate, as I do this all the time, being inside my head, a mashup of multi-verses, projecting myself in alternate realities, being able to time-travel in to the future and opening a conversational 1-on-1 portal to my present self, to answer the question like Dr. Banks from the movie Arrival or when Brand reaches out to her past self in Interstellar, all while taking bus home, or while taking a long shower.

I can watch an entire movie inside my head from another character's point of view or vantage point.

I'm also able to on the spot improv storytelling, something that I was able to do easily as a teen during summer camps and recently I got introduced to the world of DnD which got my mind racing and volunteered to become a DM.

Loneliness is a rarity for me as I feel content wandering off, writing and art is my way of projecting to this world, which I have plucked out from the sea of infinite realities through dreams and daydreaming.

When someone talks to me, asks me a question/opinion or solution, a whole mindmap/flowchart,timeline appears before me which I can navigate spatially in 3d.

When someone asks for direction or trying to find out where I am, I literally see a 3d flyover or bird's eyeview from where I'm standing.

When I dream, not only that I dream in colors but they have a feel to it like watching something nostalgic or when I travel. Sometimes dreams has visual filters as a part of it. Have you dreamed being inside a cartoon/comicbook, painting or noir movie?

I do have a hard time turning my brain off which sucks when trying to go to sleep.


I can do all the things you mention. I do also have a hard time "turning my brain off". Actually, I don't think I can do it. But I do have a way to sleep quickly.

It may not be the same for you but you probably can adapt it to whatever suits you. It's about coziness.

There are several cozy scenarios that are ideal for me to sleep. I just teleport myself there and I do stuff.

My favorite by far is the one in the wilderness. I read a book once about a guy from the neolithic who had to run away from his village with his dog. I imagine myself there. There's nothing around me. Only several small villages kilimeters away. I'm alone with my dog. The sun is almost set and it's getting chilly. There's a little cave nearby where I can take refuge for the night. I'll go gather some wood and make myself confortable inside. Then I'll sit by the fire eating some of that smoked meat I have left and I'll just rest my head down. At that point I'm already sleeping.

If you try this, report back.


I have the same thing going on in my head. Sometimes I think that this has a negative effect on me, because it's very easy for me to procrastinate, because all I need for that is to daydream.

It helped me through school though. I cannot imagine going through classes without daydreaming. It sounds like torture.


I also do this quite a bit and recently I noticed it's been getting more intense. When this happens it's usually because someone's been talking to me for 10+ minutes straight without me saying a single word, and I get this physical feeling like they're getting further away or their head is getting smaller. Does anyone else experience this?


I do exactly the same. Started when I was 6, walking around in circles, just imagining things. Music makes it even easier. It also helps deal with frustrations and anxiety by imagining catarthic scenes.

I still spend an hour each day doing that during my commute.

I've found that improv theatre and writing books really helps with the "getting it out of my head" part.


I do this all the time, too. I always have like 3 or 4 movies or books going on in my head that I'm working on.


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