"Who Do You Talk To?"
(When You're Alone)
Do you talk to yourself? Do you answer? We’ve all seen people muttering to themselves when they want to work something out in their head, but is it crazy or is it perfectly normal?
It’s a natural tendency for human beings to find like-minded people to talk to when we need to work out the details of an idea. Often we choose a friend, a spouse or significant other, a parent. But what do we do when those individuals are not around? Who do we talk to then?
We might pour out our troubles to the family dog or cat. We whine and moan about how awful our current situation is, or we call up a sympathetic friend and unload on them, much to their dismay. We want to share something wonderful, and there’s no-one around, or the sympathetic shoulder on which we normally depend is otherwise occupied.
Personally, I like to talk to my deceased parents. Their pictures sit on top of the bookshelf right across from my recliner. They’re non-judgmental, always smiling and I know they love me, even though they can’t talk back or offer their opinions — which, to be honest, in some situations is much appreciated!
Or, if I’m really upset, I’ll cuddle my dog, Hunter, and take comfort from the warm presence of another living creature. He knows when I’m unhappy and his goofy personality makes sure I don’t get too depressed.
Though somewhat macabre, I keep both my parents’ ashes on the mantel. Sometimes I’ll ask their advice and, weird though it may seem, I always get an answer. Maybe not the one I want, but a solution always occurs to me.
And finally, I write. The simple process of writing out a question and examining all its answers, ramifications, and outcomes helps me to clarify my thinking.
Some people journal or keep diaries. Most of my writer friends write Morning Pages — a journalling technique coined by Julia Cameron in her book, “The Artist’s Way”.
Morning Pages are a great way to “unpack” our thoughts. It’s a process for grabbing hold of the thoughts that usually fly past so fast that we barely notice them. A writer uses free-association to discover insights and self-revelations about thoughts which are often so fleeting that we miss them in the business of everyday living.
For comfort, I talk to my dog. For validation, I talk to my parents’ photos. And for clarity, I use Morning Pages and talk to myself.
Writing Tip of the Week
There’s an unusual technique called “rubberducking”, that software developers use to try to find clarity and clearly articulate their thoughts about a project. A programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by forcing themselves to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck.
Often we can hit upon the solution to a problem by explaining it to someone else. The process of breaking it down so we can clarify it for another person can point us in the right direction by illuminating our preconceptions and assumptions. Teaching a subject forces its evaluation from different perspectives and can provide a deeper understanding.
Do you have a ducky you can talk to?
Or you could try using journalling or Morning Pages to discover what you’re thinking. You may start out by writing, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” But often that might lead to a question about why you may be blocked. Once you begin exploring questions in your writing, you’ll find that you can actually have a conversation with yourself.
An example for me was, “Why do I never finish anything?” Through a series of introspective examinations of that question, I realized that if I don’t finish something, I won’t be judged. It’s a lot easier to say, “I’m going to do X,” than it is to actually do it, only to discover that nobody likes or wants it.
That conversation with myself uncovered a deeply-rooted sense of insecurity, and the more I explored it, the more I discovered that I’m not alone. Everyone has something they feel insecure about. It helped me to understand that we all have more in common than we think, and it led me to a much more accepting and forgiving way of interacting with people.
We all fear something, even if we don’t consciously know what it is. And talking it out with someone, even a blank sheet of paper, a photograph, or the family pet, can help bring it out into the light where we can do something about it.