Thinking Out Loud | Hi, I Have No Internal Monologue & This Is How I Think

Hey, friends! A while back, the internet flew into a frenzy over whether or not you have an internal monologue. Apparently, the majority of people have an internal monologue and are simply amazed and astounded by those of us who just…don’t. And, yes, I said “those of us” because—surprise!—I am, in fact, someone who does not think via internal monologue.

It’s always been obvious to me that people think in different ways—how could we not, given how each human being sees and experiences the world in vastly different ways? So the fact that some people have an internal monologue and others of us don’t doesn’t exactly shock me. I do understand, though, how others could find not having an internal monologue confusing.

The main question people have been asking seems to be “How???” So I figured I’d give a bit of insight. Mind you, this is only my experience. As I mentioned above, I don’t think anyone (let alone everyone) thinks alike, even if we have general trends in how we think. So, with that being said, let’s get into the good stuff!

HOW DO I THINK?

My thoughts tend to come to me via this nebulous “thought cloud” of internal sensations, external observations, and emotions. For me, thinking is a quick albeit very all-consuming process. It involves all of my senses, as well as my emotions. Everything connects and interacts to form a greater picture.

So, for instance, if you said to me, “Imagine a pie,” I would visualize the pie in vivid detail, taste the way a pie might taste, feel the sensation of the pie in my mouth, feel the momentary happiness that the taste of pie might bring. Now, this might seem like a lot of emotional and sensory information for a mind to take in, but for me, this thought would occur in nanoseconds (or less).

I recently learned that this ability to imagine things in life-like, full sensory detail is actually called hyperphantasia, and is, apparently, also not how everyone thinks or imagines things. In the words of a 2019 BBC Science Focus article, people with hyperphantasia are described as:

[Describing] pictures so vivid that they can find it hard to be sure whether an image was perceived or imagined.

For me, this is exactly it! And while it might sound amazing in some regards (imagine having the ability to imagine the fantasy worlds of literature coming to life in astonishing detail!), it can also be frustrating and distracting, if I let it go unchecked.

For example, I remember a little while back a friend and I were having a conversation where she was relaying an experience to me and mentioned in passing getting a paper cut on her finger. I remember wincing and grimacing in pain as she said this. My finger had stung and ached as she’d spoken and I’d imagined the paper cut. It subsided after a moment, but it still reminded me of an important point about how I think, imagine, and perceive reality: my mind is as powerful as actual, real life is when it comes to creating the things I experience, and I have a responsibility to myself and others to remember that not everything I perceive is actually reflective of the truth of life.

Now for most adults who’ve had a philosophy or a psychology course or even just gone to a therapy session or two, this realization might sound rather obvious, but I cannot stress how impactful experiencing such a lesson in such a physical way can be. It’s one thing to know in concept that our realities is mostly a construct of our minds and another thing to actually experience that fact first hand.

Apparently I’m not the only one to pick up on this fact, as scientists are reported to be studying people with hyperphantasia in an attempt to find out more about consciousness (which, call me biased, but I think sounds like amazingly cool research!).

HOW DOES THINKING LIKE THIS IMPACT ME?

Now that I think about it, the way that I think actually has a startlingly large impact on me. I’ve always been a fairly emotional person who’s very sensitive and empathetic. Although I’m extroverted, I do fall into the category of being a “Highly Sensitive Person” (a.k.a. an “HSP”) and I think that can largely be attributed to the fact that I think in the way that I do. It’s very easy for me to become fully immersed in my thoughts, emotions, memories, and imaginings in a very visceral way—and that can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

On the one hand, I think my way of thinking makes me incredibly intuitive and empathetic, which is great. But on the other hand, I think it can also exacerbate my depression and anxiety, as well as my ADHD. This is because, for me, mental “scenes” are as vivid and as emotional as if they are actually occurring in real life. Which also means they’re equally as emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelming and draining.

The way that I think also allows me to understand, analyze, and manipulate systems very well and very quickly, as I’m good at understanding connections between things because of the all-encompassing way that I think. This definitely comes in handy in my fields of study (which are physics and anthropology) because such fields are all about global systemic analysis rather than linear understanding.

All in all, I’m glad for the way that I think, even when it’s draining. I think it allows me to do far more than it inhibits me from doing. And, that being said, I think it’s fascinating that we all think in different manners and with different methods! I personally would love to look into more research and findings on the patterns in how humans think! But maybe that’s just me being nerdy, lol. Regardless, reflecting on the topic does make you think about how unique we all are and yet we’re still connected by these amazing patterns of nature. It’s amazing! Anyhoo, dear friends, I should probably get back to my regularly scheduled reading, but thank you for stopping by to read this random deep dive of mine. Until next time, pals…

MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON THINKING & IMAGINATION AS IT PERTAINS TO READING…

  • Ashleigh’s video about being a reader with aphantasia
  • Naemi’s post exploring the question of what you “see” when you’re reading

SPILL THE BEANS, FRIENDS!

  • How do you think about and imagine things?
  • Do you have an internal monologue?
  • Do you have hyperphantasia?
  • Or maybe you have aphantasia (the lack of the ability to imagine things)?

Posted by

Lila is a 25-year-old college student studying physics and a lover of literature. When she's not busy reading or saving the world through science, Lila can be found singing jazz and blues and obsessing over hedgehogs (a.k.a. the cutest animals in the multiverse!)

6 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud | Hi, I Have No Internal Monologue & This Is How I Think

  1. Okay, I literally did NOT know this was an entire discourse online. I actually thought there weren’t many who thought as monologues and am pleasantly surprised to find that I’m in the majority here! Listen, I have entire conversations with debates and music playing in the background. I often talk to myself and refer to myself as “we” in my mind. As in “ok Sumedha we need to get up by 8am tomorrow!!!!! we HAVE to. stop being lazy!” and more. Often I’m so lost in my head with thoughts and conversations, plus slow background music acting as a noise buffer that I don’t realize people calling my name or my mom sitting right in front of me. I was under the impression that not everyone is extra like me haha. Your way of thinking is quite cool, although imagining pain vividly isn’t a good trip. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I obviously loved this post, and related to so much! 😍 You already know that I have hyperphantasia, too (Thanks for the shoutout, by the way! ❤), so that paper cut example could just as easily have been me. And don’t even get me talking about people describing serious injuries to me 😂 – sometimes I’ll get so nauseous picturing them that I’ll cover my ears until the conversation has moved on to some other topic. Though weirdly enough, my dad, who probably has aphantasia, also struggles with this, so maybe it’s due to our general fear of blood and not my vivid imagination 🤔 But I do think the mental pictures, pain and smell are the worst part of it for me!
    That being said, I can also switch on an internal monologue if I want to. I won’t use it without conscious effort, but sometimes, when I need to make difficult decisions, I can turn it on and debate with myself inside my head… Though I’ll always simultaneously see images and the like anyway. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that I tend to use internal monologues a lot more in languages I’m currently trying to learn and am not fluent in yet. I’ll just start a conversation in my head in order to practice, and then it escalates into a fully fledged debate 😂 So I guess which ever way you put it, my way of thinking is a little weird 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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