Those Voices in Our Heads

Posted on December 11, 2017

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Life in the Boomer Lane can’t speak for anyone but herself, but at any given moment, she is having at least a dozen different conversations in her head.  These include conversations with herself, with others, with CNN, with presidential Tweets, with the GOP, with the bathroom scale, with cartons of ice cream in the freezer, with Now Husband, and with whatever object she is currently unable to find.

Some of her utterances are as follows:

I seriously can’t believe I did/said/forgot that.  Hopefully no one noticed. But I think they did. Everyone must think I am losing it. Cute goes only so far. 

Seriously?  Can we do some kind of playback to the moment we decided to get married, and I can say “OK, as long as you never say what you just said, in that tone of voice.  Otherwise, I’m going back on Match.com immediately. There was that one guy who was really nice and really hot. I wonder what happened to him.” 

You are stupid, ignorant, smug, thoughtless, self-centered, and clueless. No wait, you are more bad stuff but I’m too upset to think of all the words. And, no matter what you do or say, Hillary always won the popular vote and I hope you go to your grave eating yourself up over that. 

I have taken off literally every single article of clothing, and by so doing, you have just increased my weight by .2 lbs. You are a fake, demented scale. I hate you. No, wait, I used the word “fake.” I swore I would never use that word again. You suck. 

There is no reason in the world why I have to eat you. I’m amending that. There is no reason in the world why I have to finish you. I’m a weak, snivelling person who doesn’t deserve to live. If I wash out your carton now and bring it directly to the trashcan outside, maybe Eagle Eye who lives with me won’t notice. I hate you only slightly less than I hate myself. 

Why is there a search bar in my gmail, when nothing I type in ever comes up?  I hate gmail. No, I hate computers. No, I hate technology. Really. 

LBL has never considered that these internal conversations are of any value whatsoever, except in some mythical land in which everyone did whatever LBL wanted and no one gained weight from eating anything that tasted good.

Now, new research out of Australia sheds light on these most private of conversations, giving answers to both LBL and an entire population of schizophrenics.  According to Science Daily, which published the findings, these conversations do provide a positive benefit.

UNSW Sydney scientist and study first author Associate Professor Thomas Whitford says it has long been thought that these auditory-verbal hallucinations arise from abnormalities in inner speech — our silent internal dialogue.

“This study provides the tools for investigating this once untestable assumption,” says Associate Professor Whitford, of the UNSW School of Psychology.

It was tough for LBL to read any further, since her own internal dialogue kicked in motion at the words “auditory-verbal hallucinations:”

Seriously???!! Hallucinations???!!!  My weight is not a hallucination. The country going to shit is not a hallucination! The fact that I ordered a custom tee-shirt for my son and now I can’t find the order in my email or on my VISA bill and don’t remember the name of the company is not a hallucination. Never being able to find anything is not a hallucination! I hate paying taxes and now I will hate paying taxes about a million times over is not a hallucination!

LBL will attempt to calm herself down and continue.

These internal verbalizations are sent to the region of the brain that processes sound to predict what sound it is about to hear. This allows the brain to discriminate between the predictable sounds that we have produced ourselves, and the less predictable sounds that are produced by other people.

What others say is not predictable, so the brain must listen more carefully.  What we say to ourselves is predictable so the brain can relax and not take things so seriously.  

What others say is entirely predictable! I have friends who will, when I am driving, tell me that there is a red light ahead, as though I can’t see it for myself! Wait, do they think I’m incompetent? I know how to drive!  Maybe I started driving later than everyone else but we didn’t have a car and I was away at school and people always took me where I needed to go!  I know how to drive!

Whitford continues by using the following example: 

“This is why we can’t tickle ourselves. When I rub the sole of my foot, my brain predicts the sensation I will feel and doesn’t respond strongly to it. But if someone else rubs my sole unexpectedly, the exact same sensation will be unpredicted. The brain’s response will be much larger and creates a ticklish feeling.”

Self-tickle???!!! Are you serious???  I can tickle myself!  I know I can! I’ve done it before! Your explanation is bogus!  Watch!  Oh wait, maybe you are right. I swear I’ve tickled myself before. Now it’s not working.

 

What did all this research result in?  The researchers found that, just as for vocalized speech, simply imagining making a sound reduced the brain activity that occurred when people simultaneously heard that sound. People’s thoughts were enough to change the way their brain perceived sounds. In effect, when people imagined sounds, those sounds seemed quieter.

Researchers suspect that in psychotic illnesses, the brain can’t distinguish between self-generated sounds and sounds we hear outside of ourselves. So a thought like “I would like to eat this entire carton of ice cream” becomes a direction to eat the entire carton of ice cream.  Or maybe kill someone. It works either way.

“We all hear voices in our heads. Perhaps the problem arises when our brain is unable to tell that we are the ones producing them.”

Good job, LBL, you wrote another blog post. Done. What is this, like your 10 millionth post?  Now you can sit and wait for people to read it and like it and comment on it, while you pretend to yourself that you are attending to more important matters. The last post you wrote got only one response, which is an all-time low. Is this the beginning of the end? Damn. I seriously hate computer games and yoga. What else do people do with their spare time? I’m fucked. 

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