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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings


Though I’m aware of the claim that “some people talk to themselves a lot, some never, and some occasionally,” it’s hard for me to relate to those who have no internal monologue. And though my inner voice typically relates to a dialogue, some people report having a chorus in their mind.

Aside from anaduralia—the lack of auditory imagery and a silent inner voice—the majority of people I’ve ever met say they share the experience of talking to themselves within their minds. In its most literal description, this experience represents self-talk.

In my personal life, I find it useful to practice this mental and verbal tool as a means of processing information. For instance, if I’m around other people and choose not to voice my thoughts, I use inner dialogue to determine which course of action may serve my interests and goals.

Here’s a sample of how my mental dialogue unfolds:

Character 1: What was that other item I needed to buy while at the store? I didn’t add it to my list.

Character 2: Was it toothpaste?

Character 1: No, I have plenty of that. It was something else.

Character 2: Are you sure? You may be remembering the last time you checked your backup supply and it was a while ago.

Character 1: Hmm, maybe. I don’t know. I guess I could go ahead and buy some at any rate.

Character 2: Wouldn’t hurt. Worst case scenario, you already have enough and if you buy some today you’ll have more.

Here, I’ve represented different cognitive voices as characters, though this isn’t to imply that I have distinctly separate personalities in my head. I’m not claiming to have dissociative identity disorder.

Uncertain of how other people use inner dialogue, I find that I speak to myself from a first- and second-person point of view. Still, it isn’t unnatural for me to use a third-person perspective when imagining what others may think about me. Here’s how that looks:

Character 1: I really dislike driving in traffic like this.

Character 2: You don’t have to like it, just tolerate and accept it.

Character 3: [Speaking of myself] The dumbass who just switched into someone else’s lane without signaling should use his turn signal!

Character 1: I know, I know! I hate when other people don’t do that, so why am I doing it?

Character 2: Have you noticed how unhelpful you are when talking to yourself while driving?

Aside from an internal dialogue, I sometimes make use of a mental monologue. Here’s a sample of how this is conducted:

Character: Ok, last time I was able to focus on concentric and eccentric overload. The next day, I still felt the effects. Today, I may wanna do something similar. I could also add a brief paused movement when completing a full range of motion. Remember to stretch the muscle and keep tension throughout the evolution of the exercise. Triceps comprise about two-thirds of arm size, so don’t skimp on this training session!

Here, I’ve illustrated a one-directional conversation used to guide physical training. Taking a number of factors into account, and using long- and short-term components of memory, self-talk of this sort allows me to alter my behavior in order to better serve my interests and goals.

Still, I make use of verbal self-talk when able to do so. Sticking with the fitness motif, I find it significantly advantageous to talk to myself out loud during the course of cardio and muscular training.

In this regard, working out at home helps. For instance, when conducting a cardiovascular warmup session on an elliptical trainer, I speak aloud to myself in order to process various topics. Here’s how it typically goes:

Character 1: What didn’t I like about that movie from yesterday?

Character 2: You didn’t appreciate the forced representation of token characters.

Character 1: That’s right! The plot could’ve stood on its own merits without artificial diversity for the sake of inclusion.

Character 2: Can you imagine being the actor who knowingly accepts a role with the understanding that you’ve been hired only to meet a quota?

Character 1: I’d rather be chosen based on merit, not ideology or identity.

Character 2: Get real! The days of equality, competition, and personal responsibility and accountability are long gone, buddy!

Character 1: *laughing out loud* No doubt!

For those familiar with the content of my blog, as indicated by the number of hyperlinks in that last segment, my cardio warmup is what produces the majority of topics about which I write. I speak out loud as a means of sorting through topics of a deeper nature, as well.

One benefit of speaking aloud is that it makes the subject matter real, in a manner of speaking. For instance, when using internal dialogue, other people can’t know an individual’s thoughts or beliefs.

However, once these concepts are extracted from the mind and put into the ether, they become known and interpretable by other individuals. In this way, the content of one’s mind transitions from imaginary to existent outside the self.

This is a form of manifestation, though I won’t go too far into the realm of woo herein. Simply put, internal dialogue is imperceptible or unverifiable to others and external dialogue is perceptible or verifiable to others.

As indicated by my third-person point of view example, not all self-talk is helpful. “Negative”—or what I prefer to call unhelpful, unhealthy, or unproductive—self-talk occurs when one’s inner voice(s) convey(s) information that isn’t favorable to the individual’s interests or goals.

How is use of a disparaging remark, like calling myself a “dumbass,” going to help modify my behavior? Dear reader, do you find that talking down to yourself leads to improved outcomes?

While it’s true that some people appreciate use of shaming narratives to accomplish tasks (e.g., calling oneself a “fat ass” to avoid self-sabotage in relation to a diet), many people find this sort of motivation to be unhelpful. Keep in mind that not always is this style of rhetoric inaccurate.

For instance, if I want to improve my writing and I receive feedback from trusted sources who tell me that my writing style is confusing, I may conclude, “I suck at writing.” The claim isn’t entirely false.

Still, I draw a distinction between saying, “I suck at writing,” regarding my ability, and expressing, “I suck,” in reference to my existence. I’m a fallible human being and I accept myself unconditionally, though at the same time I may serve as an unqualified writer.

Aside from so-called negative self-talk and contrary to the opinions of some, I don’t necessarily view supposed “positive” self-talk to be helpful, healthy, or productive. Use of positive affirmations or the expression of gratitude isn’t behavior I promote.

Staying with the writing example, I’ve been informed by most people in my close circle that my writing is confusing and I communicate differently in written than verbal form. I don’t disagree with this feedback.

Therefore, what utility is there in use of a positive affirmation—a statement used to support a preferred perspective—by lying to myself? I could say, “You’re a great writer, Deric,” though this encouragement doesn’t comport with evidence received from others.

I don’t condone self-deception in this way. Likewise, I don’t practice the expression of gratitude in regards to myself—use of self-promotion sentiment in regards to appreciation.

Suppose I said to myself, “I appreciate your writing efforts, because the content you produce is very useful to others, Deric.” Precisely what do I appreciate about confusing other people when aiming to use clarity within my blogposts, and how are my entries simultaneously disorienting and “useful”?

Again, I don’t make allowance for self-betrayal. Instead of motivating myself with lies, I seek truth, and value logic and reason. In this way, I don’t aim to feel better, I opt to get better.

How about you, dear reader? Do you think the tool of self-talk may benefit you? Rather than being dishonest for the sake of emotional protection, do you value authentic feedback that may help with the processing of information in alignment with your interests and goals?

I help people use self-talk as a means of improving their lives. Perhaps you could benefit by knowing more about how I may assist you in a similar manner.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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