There are a number of reasons why people talk to themselves, for instance
- to provide some company
- as a tool of survival
- to make us feel comfortable
- to help organise thoughts
- to go through instructions out aloud
- as a way of making us feel calmer
- as a form of therapy
- to be a source of reassurrance
- to process feelings and thoughts by speaking out loud
- to help us when we need to concentrate
- to aid memory
- as a way to drown out the chatter of the various other parts of the brain
Talking to ourselves does not mean that we have a mental illness!
When we remember something in public and make a sound e.g. "oops!", it may be a way of trying to demonstrate to others around that one is sane, but have just forgotten something.
In the 1970s, the American psychologist Julian Jaynes proposed that humans stored information in the right side of the brain. He thought that the left and right side of the brain were more independent than we now think, and that the information in the right side of the brain needed to be transferred to the left side of the brain via the bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum.
According to Jaynes, the message was transmitted in the form of language, and people tended to perceive this as a voice coming from outside of themselves, as an auditory hallucination. These external voices were often attributed to leaders, the monarchy or the gods.
Jaynes later acknowledged that the voices were not always from outside of the self, but could come from within ones self in the form of an inner critic.
When we are young, the people around us give us lots of rules to follow and they influence our perception of who we are and who we think we ought to be.
When someone is traumatised, they may try to protect themselves by disassociating themselves from their inner critic or internal voice, and instead believe that it is the voice of an other. This is otherwise known as an auditory hallucination. The difference between someone who experiences inner speech and someone who is mentally ill and has auditory hallucinations is that those with mental health issues believe the voices they hear are outside of themselves as opposed to from within. To complicate matters, not all inner critics are heard as though they are coming from the head. There are some people who hear their inner voice from their stomachs or elsewhere in the body.