Little Voice: An Introvert’s Guide to “Hearing” Thoughts

Social media was abuzz for some time about thinking tendencies. Some people, like yours truly, “hear” themselves when thinking. There’s a “voice” “saying” the words and I “hear” it the way I would hear you talking with me. For those people, that is just how thinking works.

The reason for the buzz is that everyone discovered two main camps. For all of the people that hear their thoughts there was another group who didn’t hear anything. It was strange to them that one might “hear a voice” and we all shared fascinating stories about how thinking worked.

I began to wonder, in a way that lacked the concision necessary for Twitter, what the relationship might be among introversion, extroversion, and these ways of thinking.

I, for example, am a massive introvert. While I do not object to people, I cannot be in the company of others, even people whose company I adore, for too long without running out of energy. I recharge by being alone and retreating within.

As people began to share their stories about these differences in thinking, I found myself wondering (as will become apparent in a moment) if that wasn’t the reason behind my introversion. Yes, I “hear” a voice in my head while I’m thinking. Much the way one can visit a place in a dream that looks nothing like a place one knows in reality and still understand it to be that place, I do not literally hear a sound but know it to be my own voice.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that sometimes while in my deepest thought I externalise this by talking to myself; making the silent thought voice explicit as a means of dampening the sensory overload.

More importantly, I hear this voice ALL THE TIME. Right now, while typing out this post, I hear every word in my head along with a constant stream of interjecting thoughts. It’s like having a partner standing over my shoulder letting every single thought that passes through his mind come out of his mouth.

When you are talking to me on the street, I am listening to you. But the voice is talking at the same time. It repeats every word you say back to me in its own voice like some sort of stenographer, and then it likes to articulate other thoughts.

“Did you hear the tone on that word? That sentence was going along fine until that word, then it got weird. Was that stress? It sounded like stress. Sometimes people hiccup or slur or sort of burp through a word, but this was different. See? Now his hand is fidgeting a bit, too. He’s trying to act cool but something is stressing him….”

Is it any wonder that I’m an introvert? The massive amount of energy and focus social interactions require should be enough to exhaust anyone. It’s not the other person being tedious or droll; it’s this damn voice and it keeps going until I have to say, “This has been fun. I have to take off now and go talk with this asshole.”

For those familiar with my blog or my social media presence in general, you know that I also have a social anxiety and personality disorder component to the piece. That’s distinct from the introversion. Just listening to this voice ramble is exhausting and the possible cause of the introversion.

It’s what he says that and why he says it that relate to the others. It would be one thing to hear someone else speak and have thoughts about it. That’s normal. Perhaps not having a tiny voice articulating those every thoughts, but having the thoughts is. Obsessing compulsively (hence OCPD) definitely is not. It’s further true that doing this in a maladaptive way, say where you begin to fear the other person doesn’t like you or something bad is going to happen, is even worse.

Anyway, I want to keep this short today – a conversation kick-starter. The voice has been going on about this topic for a week now so I thought I would appease him by putting it down in writing and sharing it with you. Feel free to share your thoughts about thinking and how it might relate to your introversion or extroversion.

One thought on “Little Voice: An Introvert’s Guide to “Hearing” Thoughts

  1. I love this exploration! And yes, I did read one of the pieces about internal monologues and those who (surprisingly to me) don’t have them at all.

    Already a student of psychology as well, this is on ongoing curiosity for me, and I appreciate your thoughts on the way this process works. As an ambivert (yes, that’s a describable thing, too, we now know), I find relief from my internal overload in occasional midnights awake, and in carrying a voice recorder on my commute, for when I literally have to dictate some of my thoughts. In proper combination, those two facets are almost like meditation, when I play my recordings (with headphones) while the rest of my house sleeps, typing out – often verbatim – what I have dictated, and then using that as fodder for writing both fictional and non.

    Through all of this, I sometimes crave genuine interaction with people outside of my household, and I can find myself in the moment, enjoying a conversation without the anxiety of judgment and second-guessing every sentence that falls. Of course, that often comes back later, but not every time, and I understand that this is the dichotomy that makes up an ambivert. I still need time alone to process my thoughts and to recharge, but it gets complicated, and the inner monologue – as well as the voice(s) responding to it – are making for a powerfully revealing journey.


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