I obviously focus a lot in my posts on the voice and how it affects others but what about the voice we all hear inside our heads? Well, I suppose it’s the voice we are most familiar with and the one that speaks to us without fear. You are probably using it as you read this. In fact, writers of fiction often talk about ‘hearing’ voices of their characters vividly. That voice can help the writer determine how they look and how they relate with other characters. They can literally ‘get them talking to each other’.
The voice inside your head isn’t just useful for reading or writing because scientific research suggests that around a quarter of our waking life involves some form of inner speech. We can use it to help working memory – remembering a phone number for example. It’s also important in motivation – perhaps gearing yourself up for an important presentation or job interview. And don’t underestimate it’s importance in problem-solving: in an experiment when inner speech was deliberately suppressed, performance suffered.
There are several types of inner speech including the voice that talks when the mind wanders. This is not engaged in a particular task, but just verbalising thoughts. Sometimes we call this daydreaming. Inner speech can be made up of several different voices too. Try playing with the voice in your head and see what it will do. If you ask a question in your inner voice, do you have an upward inflection at the end of the sentence? For those of you who are old enough, try thinking the famous opening lines from ‘Star Trek’ – ‘Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise’. Do you find yourself mirroring the tunes of William Shatner?
Perhaps you don’t find it easy to speak with certain accents but your inner voice can be a surprisingly good impressionist. While many forms of inner speech are closely related to speaking aloud, verbal daydreaming does not have a clear equivalent, except, perhaps, a child thinking out loud when they play.
So what does this teach us about the inner voice? Well, it seems to be strongly connected with who you are and scientific studies have found that the more people use inner speech, the greater is their sense of self. And we can can certainly use inner speech to change how we feel about ourselves, which is the basis of talking therapies.
If you found this as fascinating as I did, you might like to read ‘Now You’re Talking’ by Trevor Cox, to find out more about your voice and what it says about you.
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