I talk to myself. An awful lot.
When I do this, I’m almost invariably verbalising my thinking about, and processing of, the thing I’m doing at that particular moment.
This isn’t the same as the inner monologue that runs incessantly over everything that I do; the one I hear at every waking moment, but which remains silent, inaudible, to others. This is outwardly-focused. Truly verbal.
My husband calls it my “director’s commentary”.
Most of the people who know, love, or work with me find it irritating, distracting, or downright abhorrent. Of all the stims I indulge in, this one seems to be the one that most grates among other people.
Why do I do it?
Because there are so many other stimuli that are in danger of drawing my attention away from what I’m doing. So many noises. So many lights, flickering images, and movements on the periphery of my vision. So many people.
And because I’m afraid that because my working memory is so poor, I’ll forget even what I’m doing right now unless I verbalise it. I’m afraid my own thoughts will run away from what is directly in front of me.
By verbalising the exact thing I’m doing right right now, I can zone in on it, focus on it, and (at least make a decent stab at) block(ing) out all else. My own noise to cancel out the noise around me, but a systematic, deliberate noise geared towards focusing all the different component parts of my brain on the one task at hand.
It’s a source of pain and frustration to me that working in an open-plan office means I can’t freely use my director’s commentary every minute of my working day. I’m sure I’d be more productive if I could. Of course, when no-one else is in the office, I do incorporate it, temporarily, into my box of workplace productivity tools. But mostly, I must make do with noise-cancelling headphones playing very loud white noise. It’s not quite the same, but it gets me through.
It might seem strange, for someone who finds the processing and use of verbal language difficult, to do something so emphatically “verbal”. But I suspect it’s a different part of my brain taking charge here from those involved in direct communication with others. I do often wonder what’s actually going on in there – the distinct workings of my own brain are an increasing source of intrigue to me. I don’t know; I’m sure a psychologist or neuroscientist would be able to offer an explanation.
In the meantime, I verbalise when I can. And at other times, sadly, I must struggle to remain quiet.
[Featured image credit: ‘Microphone‘ by Matthew Keefe (2008). Used according to terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Image depicts a close up photograph of a condenser microphone, the type often used in the vocal recordings or voiceovers.]