“What do you mean you don’t have an inner monologue?”
Now I must stress how much I love my husband (don’t tell him though, I don’t want him to think I like him, that would be weird) before moving on to my next point. He’s intelligent, funny, good at climbing and excellent with dogs. But that man is a freak.
He has no voice in his head. He has no mind’s eye. He doesn’t visualise things. He does not talk to himself inside his own head. HE HAS NO INNER MONOLOGUE. None. Zip. Nada. Nothing to see here (direct quotation from him). Tumbleweed. He thought internal monologues were devices used in programmes like Scrubs and Peep Show and nobody in real life would be mad enough to actually have an internal voice narrating their daily existence.
Until I came along.
How we ended up on this topic of conversation absolutely escapes me, but his admission totally took me off guard and led to more questions.
So, you don’t really get intrusive thoughts?
When you’re reading a book you don’t hear the words out loud in your head?
What if you’re trying to remember lyrics to a song and you try to sing it to yourself?
You can’t picture your memories in your apparently blind mind’s eye?
What if you’re having a conversation with someone who is quite clearly a twat? You don’t think out-loud to yourself in your own head “wow, this guy is a twat”?
What if you’re trying to make a decision about something? You don’t have a quick chat with your own inner voice about it before agreeing you’ll probably make the wrong choice anyway so just pick whichever option has the most calories?
I’m sure there were more questions but those are the only ones me and my internal voice can remember at the time of writing.
I was surprised how strongly this felt like a massive revelation. Honestly, I’d never really thought about the fact that there’s a voice in my head. I watch shows like Peep Show and Scrubs and just nod along with the totally relatable chats the characters had with themselves. Up until this point in my 30 years and some months on this planet my internal monologue has never fashioned such pearls of wisdom as “I am the lord of the bus said he” or imagined myself as Robin rather than Batman in my own fantasy then thoughtfully dwelled on my own inferiority complex. But we’ve had some pretty detailed discussions about which Thor film Chris Hemsworth looks most fuckable in (Thor: Ragnarock if anyone is wondering) and extensive wonderings about why, despite being one of the richest asshats in England, Jacob Rees-Mogg can’t seem to buy a suit that fits. Good times indeed. I can’t help but feel like Husband is missing out on something.
Although, you can’t just focus on all the good things that come from having an internal monologue and ignore the annoying fact that the voice doesn’t always agree with you. For all the great banter about superheroes and badly fitting suits, there’s the fair share of unkind shit I’ve said to myself over the years. When you have a voice in your head it can tell you that your work isn’t good enough or that you’ll never be successful no matter how hard you try. It can point out everyone else’s achievements yet close its mind’s eye to your own. It can look back on previous decisions with the shiny benefit of hindsight and tell you how painfully obviously shoddy your choice to pursue a career in theatre was as you weighed up whether to continue Maths or Drama at A level. It can remind you how right your husband was when he said “Hey, let’s go see Avengers Assemble again” and you said “No, we should see something new. Let’s go and see Prometheus instead”.
It also can replay in top-notch high definition with quality surround sound the moment you walked into a room and found one of your heroes, Derren Brown, stood a few feet in front of you, squeaked like a soggy Yorkshire terrier having the water wrung out of it and ran away red in the face. I’m sure I’ve done more embarrassing things in my life but I like to think the bit of my brain that doesn’t consult me on things has filed them under the heading ‘classified information’, ‘archive footage’ or ‘deleted scenes’ and put them somewhere I don’t need to worry about them, for both our sakes.
According to Husband his brain doesn’t really consult him on things. If he’s waiting for a slow piece of code to run his quiet brain has already opened a new tab and found a Slow Mo Guys video to entertain him before he has time to verbalise the thought “I’m bored” inside his own head. When he thinks back over happy moments we’ve shared together he just has a general glow of happiness or a small bubbling of resentment as his silent mind remembers the mild discontent he felt at my terrible film choices. His brain never verbally questions his own greatness or decisions because he’s obviously awesome, excellent at everything and never get’s things wrong anyway. Despite the fact I know that he has got things wrong, my brain and I are struggling to come up with an example off the top of our collective head. We’re both a bit annoyed about this.
I’m jealous of how in-sync Husband and his brain must be with each other. How confident he must be in himself and his ability to make the right choices. No conversation required. He trusts his subconscious mind, which appears to be the majority of his headspace, to do what it needs to do and only flag up the most vital stuff that might require the attention of his conscious mind if it seems absolutely necessary. How peaceful it must be inside his head.
When we were younger, stupider and in possession of a more questionable dress-sense I foolishly asked Husband what he was thinking one day. When he replied that he was thinking absolutely nothing I assumed he was lying and my internal monologue and I decided he was clearly thinking I was fat, or something equally stupid with little evidence to prove it was the case.
He even found me an extremely appropriate piece of comedy by Ed Byrne stressing, and I quote, “never underestimate a man’s ability to be completely and utterly vacant”. Wise words my long-haired Irish friend.
I’ve always assumed that Husband had a better relationship with his brain than I had with mine but the thing I never really counted on was his complete lack of a relationship with his brain. Having spent a decent amount of time reading mindfulness articles and books, internally chatting myself through body scans and yoga classes and attempting to make my self-talk more positive the idea of not having an inner monologue is completely bizarre to me.
After conducting some casual research, using our friends as willing subjects, over coffee and beer, it seems there a people in both camps, with slightly more people on my side of the debate than Husband’s. The highlight of this research has to be the revelation from one of our friends that her inner monologue has a different accent depending on who she has recently been talking to (out loud). My voice that everyone else can hear does have a tendency to speak with a Russian accent if we’ve been watching Orange is the New Black or pick up phrases from people I spend the most time with (internal voice just reminded me of the phase at the start of my unsuccessful university career when I started referring to everything as ‘mint’ after living with a Geordie lass for six months). But the voice in my head has always been pretty consistently me sounding with little to no variation.
Who’s to say which one of us is more normal (me, definitely me)? Or who has the better mental health (probably Husband, assuming there actually is anything inside his head other than that cymbals playing monkey that takes up the space where Homer’s brain should be in The Simpsons)?
I guess all I can do is attempt to foster a healthy relationship with the voice inside my head and hope to achieve the level of blissful peace that dwells between my dear husband’s ears.
I’m definitely not aiming for total silence though. What fun would that be? As a dedicated introvert some of the most interesting chats I’ve had have been with myself, or my dog. As with any good relationship, my inner voice and I clearly just need to treat each other with respect, understanding and kindness and bond over our mutual appreciation for Chris Hemsworth’s sleeveless Thor costume and sexy short hair and beard combination. Safe to say we are both very much in agreement on that front.