Talking to Ourselves
by Jennifer Paros
“There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you—just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
~ Shel Silverstein
Sometimes, while out and about, I become aware I am talking to myself. Once I was in the produce section of the supermarket, holding a melon, and speaking my thoughts (quietly) – How long will it take to ripen? Is it good? It doesn’t smell sweet . . and when I looked up a young man had taken notice of me. It was then I realized there was a high likelihood he was curious, not in a flattering way, but in a that-lady-might-be-crazy kind of way.
The realization was sobering. But talking to myself, in one form or another, remains a favored method of communication for me. And though leaking inner commentary about the state of produce rarely leads me to great insights, there is another kind of talking to myself that can.
I’ve kept a journal for years and often written out dialogues with whatever is bothering me – from physical ailments to nervousness, to people I was certain were screwing up my happiness. For a long time, although the conversations helped, I was sometimes frustrated over not getting the answers I wanted.
Recently I realized the value of these inner conversations is less about what is said and more about the connection made. The help I receive while talking to myself does not hinge on getting specific answers, it comes from tuning into the ongoing communication available inside me. In fact, the less I search for answers, the quieter my mind, the greater my sense of wellbeing. Consciously choosing to tap into this communication sets me on a better path, putting me back in sight of a higher, better view.
When my oldest son was just a peewee, he had an imaginary friend named Egg. My husband and I soon learned that Egg wasn’t just a friend to our little boy, she was to be a good friend to us as well. My son, who was often a bit demanding and at times unrelenting, called upon Egg during negotiations between him and us. Each time, I found Egg insightful, calm, and balanced – sometimes to a startling degree.
It was clear, at age four, our son had found a very smart aspect of his thinking, a part with vision and the calm and perspective his young personality couldn’t always manage. And he used this aspect to comfort himself, to see clearer, and even to navigate the world.
Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
When I was in college, anxieties I’d not challenged in high school intensified. I saw my increasing fear of going off campus by myself as burgeoning Agoraphobia. Included in my list of things I didn’t want to do alone was ride the Greyhound bus home. Though the trip was only an hour-and-a-half, the journey began in the dingy, wilted Greyhound station, where unknown, possibly seedy, questionable people might lurk and bother me. Because I was determined not to let fear rue the day, I took a super-hero-type woman from a dream I’d had and invited her into my head to sit vigil with me while I waited to board the bus. I was relieved to find how comforting this was. From then on, I imagined her often whenever nerves kicked in and it wasn’t long before I forgot to summon her any more. I had connected to the calm and security in me – that was always there, just temporarily unfelt because of my focus on worrisome thoughts. There was no answer to my anxiety but I didn’t need an answer; I needed connection.
What our son knew instinctively, and I came to over time, is that there is a helpful stream of communication available within us. The Inner Voice, Soul, Universal Intelligence, Gut Knowing, Love, Life, Egg– whatever we call it - it is here. And once we turn the volume up on the communion between our inner and outer selves, we find balance and perspective. We leave the search for answers behind and the answers we thought we needed are no longer needed. We have, instead, partnership within – an imaginary friendship that might, in truth, be just as real as anything else. The problems we thought we had are now seen and worked with differently, issues unfold and resolve more naturally, and life feels better.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.