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You Talking to Me?
By Jim Dover

I talk to myself. Not your random encouragement type inner voice, but a full on conversation with time to ponder and reflect on what I just said to me. It doesn't particularly matter where I am or what time of day it is, if I'm in the mood for a little one-on-one conversation with yours truly I just start going. The other day I was walking into work and one of my co-workers caught me in a fine morning conversation I was having about the traffic or whatever I saw in the parking lot, and posed the rather innocent question, "Are you talking to yourself?" I thought about it for a second, obviously knowing the answer, and decided to go ahead and tell her the truth. "I was just going over my schedule for the day," I lied a little. "I do that," she countered. As if I needed her acceptance. The truth is I have no awareness of when I'm talking to myself or what I've been talking about. It's just an inner radio that won't shut up. Now I know what you're thinking. You're a nut job and unless you can play the piano like the dude from Shine you might as well just check yourself into a mental hospital before you start wandering the streets of a remote seaside village.

I'm not saying this habit is anything to brag about, but is the consequence of individual conversation really that catastrophic? What is the exact offense here? Am I wasting good material on myself that I would be better served sharing with friends and family? Half the time they're not listening and the other half I'm just repeating a funny line from Curb your Enthusiasm. Nobody's really missing much when I'm having a spat with my "sister-in-law" alone in my car. It's really between me and me.

My wife however is not a big fan of self-dialogue. And I have to admit there have been times that I'll wander into an internal conversation without her, even when I'm holding her hand. It's a bit uncomfortable, to be sure. But, all I need is a little hand squeeze or a quick, "Hey crazy person," and I'm right back ready to discuss the innocuous rain chances or who Paris Hilton is with this week. I haven't gotten to the point that I prefer myself to the person I'm with. I have yet to say, "Do you mind, I'm already talking here."

But I must say, I'm not the only one out there enjoying their own conversation. As a self-talker I'm always on the lookout for my brethren. The guy at the movie theatre in a thoughtful debate with his popcorn. The checkout girl muttering something to her wristwatch. And my all-time favorite, the new mom with her ridiculous questions carefully disguised as actual conversation. "What are we going to eat today Jackson?" You're not fooling me Lady, I'm a pro, and I've got news for you, you're Jackson, because he's not talking anytime soon.

Though I have to admit, I am getting a little concerned about my ability to curtail my outermost thoughts. Last week while I was sitting alone in my apartment answering a series of imaginary interview questions from David Letterman, I started getting the feeling that maybe I was losing control. What if I can't stop? Do I need professional help?

Since I don't really want to make an appointment at Kaiser and tell the whole world I'm crazy before they recommend a psychiatrist, I do what every lazy person does, I consult the internet. Ask Jeeves gives me several options and I choose which provides, under the banner of a beautiful sunset, or is it a sunrise, four pages devoted to the problem "Talking to yourself."

My free-of-charge cyber therapist explains that we all talk to ourselves and the issue is not "whether we do it, but what we say to ourselves that matters." It's comforting to know that there is a legion of private dialogue out there, but a little upsetting that a skill I thought I perfected is shared by so many others. But what's this issue about -- "what we say to ourselves"? Apparently a lot of self-talk is critical and "one of the best ways to improve our lives is through changing negative self-talk." There is no mention of self-talk graciously accepting an Oscar, or practicing a British accent. It's nice to know that I still have a neurosis not covered on the internet.

But as it turns out I'm not crazy, even though my external thoughts are verbalized far beyond a grocery list or a self-help mantra. I still have a good time hearing myself think out loud, and when I see a person on the street stop his shopping cart in the middle of an intersection and really give the person inside his head a what for, I say to myself, so anyone can hear, "I feel you brother. I feel you."

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