He sometimes scolds you with a whisper: “You were so stupid” or “You are not at all attractive”;

He frustrates you, supports you at other times and assures you that you are “strong” and that things will “will be fine”, hums a song stuck in your head, or repeats a password that you do not want to forget. In remembering something lost among the rubble of your mind.

He comes in different situations, supports us or knocks us, but he talks almost all the time, or that's what we imagine, from where does that inner voice come in our heads, that always accompanies us and almost never becomes silent?

Thousands of words in one minute

A study conducted by a researcher from the University of Wooster says that we talk to ourselves at a rate of up to 4,000 words per minute.

Think here of the time it takes to listen to an equal number of words in a news report, for example, and imagine how exhausting listening to self-talk can be, especially given its content, which may be scattered thoughts, ruminations of traumatic events, blame or angry dialogue (1).

In childhood, we talk while playing in separate, unconnected sentences, from which it seems that we are trying to understand the surrounding world, this same voice grows with us and we control it more so that it becomes only inside our heads, no one hears it but us, so everything is quiet outside while the noise prevails inside.

This voice is often our tool for confronting problems and arranging our inner and outer world, and as Ethan Cross, a specialist in neuroscience and experimental psychology describes it, it is “a superpower that we possess that distinguishes us from other species.”

Ethan Cross runs the Emotion and Self Control Lab at the University of Michigan, USA, and works primarily on studying the silent conversations that people have with themselves, and how they affect their lives so that some benefit from relinquishing inward, understanding and dealing with their feelings, While being alone with oneself is hell for others, which raises the question whether there are right and wrong ways to communicate with oneself (2).

The voice of a friend and an enemy

In a 2013 study published in The Journal of Psychology, a psychologist at John Paul II Catholic University identified four different inner voice patterns: loyal friend, ambivalent parent, and competitor. A proud child who cares more about success than he gives support, and a helpless child.

Each of the four sounds appears in a different kind of situation, offering us a special recipe for getting past it (3).

The inner voice often has a significant positive impact on our behavior already, and as a study by researchers from the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science at the Greek University of Thessaly indicates, the inner voice positively affects the performance of athletes, and is considered a strategy to facilitate learning and improve performance (4).

The inner voice also plays a role in remembering and keeping information active. It repeats to you the phone number that you are trying to remember several times, helps you plan for the future, and conducts an ongoing dialogue with you to imagine potential dangers and thinks about how to confront them before they occur. It asks you many questions, which ultimately affect in your choices and behavior (5).

What Ethan Cross confirms through his experiences is that the inner voice has a stronger effect than everything that surrounds us from the outside, and this exacerbates its negative impact if it is discouraging, as it can spoil a happy event you witness, such as being at a party with your friends, for example, just because he decided that He regurgitates with you in those moments a painful event in the past. This is how the inner voice is sometimes an enemy that accompanies us, criticizes us, and undermines our self-respect and confidence in ourselves. It says: “You are not as beautiful as your girlfriend.” It raises doubts about the strength of our relationships with others. He repeats: “They do not like you.” He underestimates our achievements at work, and he repeats: “You will never succeed,” or “No one appreciates what you do.”

Therefore, listening to this type of inner voice often results in depression and anxiety. As Cross explains, stress alone is not so fatal, and stress is not bad. The tension we feel when we are faced with danger is helpful in motivating us to act, but what exacerbates the damage is that voice that keeps reminding you of negative experiences, the causes of stress pass, while The sound keeps regurgitating it and repeating it, keeping the experience vivid in your memory, and putting pressure on the body that is hard to bear; Therefore, some people suffer from mental and physical illnesses as well.

Understandably, talk that regurgitates negative experiences is always alienating, just as you might alienate that friend who only talks to you about problems, and are attracted to the friend who encourages you.

The most important question, then, remains whether we can harness our inner voice so that we can live with it without hurting us from its gossip. The beginning is to know the pattern of the voice inside you to know how it affects you. Simply imagine that you hear this voice from the outside, not from the inside, in a higher tone, to know the value of The effect of that permanent companion (6) (7).

What were you thinking moments ago?

The answer to such a question is often quite elusive. Thoughts, images, and words pass through your mind with a speed and intensity that you can barely catch.

Searching for inner speech is never an easy task, and just asking someone what he was thinking moments ago does not mean that you will get the answer, we do not pay attention to our wandering minds, and even when you try to stand on what you were thinking a moment ago, the thoughts, images and words will be absent to attend In moments, though, scientists have tried to figure out what's really going on.

University of Nevada psychologist, Russell Hurlburt, conducted his experiment on hundreds of people to learn what is going on in their minds. Yes, we think we think with words, but the truth isn't.

The participants in the experiment had to hold a device during their normal daily activities, and when the device made a specific sound, they had to record what was going on in their minds at the time (just before the sound) and what the dialogue with the soul took;

Was it in words, pictures, physical sensations, or something else?

The idea was that the device would sound the alarm only a few times during the day, Hurlburt planned to have a large amount of time between the alarms, so that the person would have forgotten about it so that his thoughts would not be affected by the test, and when the alarm sounded he would have to think carefully about what was on his mind.

It's like parachuting into the middle of a forest, says Hurlburt. Baby animals will rush in and run away, but many of the landscape in the woods can still be observed, described and predicted just moments before.

In the end, experiments have found that our inner dialogue with the self takes different forms, sometimes with voice, and at other times by viewing a huge number of images, things I have seen in reality, feelings such as anger or happiness, and sometimes through non-symbolic thinking, which is a more complex concept, It is basically an idea that does not appear in your head in the form of words or pictures, but remains present in your mind.

The psychology professor noted that there was a clear discrepancy in the time individuals spent talking to themselves, with 23% of the participants occupying 100% of the time in that inner monologue, while the time spent by the other participants decreased to 0% (applied silence). ), which means that some do not have any dialogue with themselves (8).

Quiet brain..a lot of pictures

According to the results of Hurlburt experiments, there are those who engage in visual and abstract thinking, and do not practice this internal dialogue, instead of words, hundreds of images pass in front of them, while the voice rings in our brain to say, for example: “Do not forget to buy bread.” Some see their image while they are in the store to buy the bread.

But those people who used minimal words in their inner voice also encountered more difficulties when explaining their thoughts, which confirms that the ability to "talk to oneself" has positive consequences in terms of self-knowledge and thought order.

In contrast to those who do not hear the inner voice and the thoughts pass through their heads through a set of images and scenes, there are those who cannot see any images inside their minds, which is called “Aphantasia” or “mind-eye blindness”.

This category cannot imagine the face of a friend of theirs, for example, or draw a sunset scene in their minds, and they constitute a percentage ranging between 1-3%.

In a study by researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia published in the journal Cortex in 2018, researchers found that while most of us remember the past through images and scenes that pass into our brain as if it were a movie we were watching, people with aphantasia cannot produce mental images. at all;

Because of differences in how their brain functions (9).

What does the inner voice do?

You can imagine how difficult it is to recognize the characteristics of this self-talk given that there are inner voices in the number of almost all people, however, scientists have tried to discover what that voice that speaks to us at a greater rate when we are under pressure, it repeats answers to expected job interview questions, for example, We hear it mostly in our real voice, so we are always ready.

Our brains tend to imagine a dangerous situation, for example, and rehearse how to cope with it, rather than remembering positive things.

This is because they care more about our safety and our survival than they think about our happiness, so when our brains ask questions like “Are you loved by others?”, the goal is to keep you in a group that protects you, because we can’t live without the help of others, so the question is repeated: Do they love you?

Are you worthy to be with them?

Not to reduce your self-confidence, but to ensure that you stay the group.

In an experiment conducted by Famira Rassi, coordinator of the Internal Speech Lab at Mount Royal University in Canada, to find out why we use internal speech, researchers found that we talk to ourselves about everything, our emotions, others and ourselves, while we perform normal daily tasks such as walking and getting out of bed And that this inner speech plays an important role in self-reflection, problem solving and even critical thinking and logical thinking (10).

Let it be in your favour

The good news is that positive self-talk is something that can be learned and practiced. If the nature of your inner voice is pessimistic and a lot of blame and criticism, you can start changing that gradually, by surrounding yourself with positive people, and resisting feeling stressed, so resort to laughing and watching funny videos, for example, so that your brain stops Remind yourself of negative things. Surround yourself with positive phrases, images, and words in your office, home, and places where you spend most of your time at all times, so that seeing them helps you redirect your thoughts.

In the end, our inner voice is still a big secret, and scientists still ask many questions about why and to what extent there are individual differences in how we use inner speech, does it vary across cultures, and whether types of inner voice correlate with personality types, but it is a time-consuming research.

Nevertheless, it is certain that this inner voice is the lamp that we can use to see what the dark room contains, our brain, and the secrets it holds, and that making that voice a friend that supports us can make a difference to the quality of our lives. (11) - (12)



  • The Rate of Inner Speech

  • How to look past the chatter and manage your inner voice

  • Self-Talk: Conversation With Oneself?

    On the Types of Internal Interlocutors

  • Self-Talk and Sports Performance: A Meta-Analysis

  • How to look past the chatter and manage your inner voice

  • Why your most important relationship is with your inner voice

  • How to look past the chatter and manage your inner voice

  • Toward a phenomenology of inner speaking

  • The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia

  • What the voice inside your head says about you

  • Positive Self-Talk: How Talking to Yourself Is a Good Thing

  • What the voice inside your head says about you

  • Keywords: