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The Northerner

Thoughts speak the truth

Lenore Skenazy KRT

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Oh PLEEEEEASE let’s not talk! I know EXACTLY what you’re going to say: “How was your summer?” Everybody says that. And nobody cares! You think I care how YOUR summer was? Think again, you old windba-

“What’s that, Ted? Oh, great summer. And yours?”

Welcome to my world – both of them. There’s my spoken world: polite, cheerful, tolerant. And my inner world: silent, snooty, snide.

And while I sometimes think I must have the world’s meanest brain, regularly featuring thoughts like – You have got to be the grumpiest, UGLIEST bus driver in Manhattan. I’m so glad I’ll never have to sleep with you unless – oh my God! What if you WERE the last man alive? Gross! – it turns out everyone is mean inside.

Or honest, anyway. That’s what Norbert Wiley, a Berkeley professor, concluded in his study of inner language. He also concluded most people are pretty salty when they speak to themselves.

And fast. In fact, inner speech is about 10 times faster than outer speech, he says, because unlike outer speech, it’s customized.

To say out loud, “Wow is that guy whiny!” takes an entire second or two. But if your brain just flashes a picture of Cousin Norman, the family whiner, you have nailed that same thought almost instantly.

This gives your brain more time to form your next important thought, like: Can I reach for the biggest cupcake without him thinking I’m a pig? What if I reach while laughing, as if I KNOW I’m a pig? Charming, maybe? And who cares what that whiner thinks anyhow? I wouldn’t sleep with him if … .

Yes, our inner speech can be that petty. And that’s helpful.

“It’s sort of a steering wheel,” Wiley says.

It’s the inner voice that dictates shopping lists and reviews mental directions (I take a left when I see that ridiculously big house, like I’m really impressed by anybody who would waste that much money on a hard-to-heat monstrosity, and just think how hard it would be to find your shoes there … ).

Basically, inner speech tells us what to do next, even while providing a running commentary.

Incredibly repetitive running commentary, Wiley observed. But, as he also noted: Who cares?

“There is no one to impress or please, so one can be as terse, grouchy, repetitive or blunt as one likes.”

This explains why maybe 78 percent of my inner conversations consist of: Put your foot on the brake! NOW! NOWWWWW! even though I know my dear husband has never plowed us into the car in front of us. (Yet.)

My inner voice is harping and carping all the time. You wouldn’t want to sleep with it.

But to me, it is the perfect companion – my own Andy Rooney:

This Pepsi can says, “Cool, crisp taste.” How dumb does it think we are? A liquid can’t be crisp! God do we live in a stupid country.

What on Earth made that lady wear hip huggers? She’d look better in a burka. What a stupid country!

I can’t believe he’s saying we’re safer now that we’ve invaded the wrong country and gotten the Middle East even madder at us. What a stupid …

Well, you get the idea. It is a relief to speak one’s mind.

If only to one’s self.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Thoughts speak the truth