The Devil’s Clackdish: A Column
By HAP MANSFIELD
For many years I have had to explain why I occasionally talk to myself aloud. I guess it appears more than a little crazy. No, I don’t do it in public, although I’ve had a few slips at the grocery store. Everybody seems to talk to his or her self at the grocery store. I hear more people muttering to themselves about butter or milk or eggs and the like. People are embarrassed when they are caught doing it, but I highly doubt it stops the habit.
When confronted with questions about my auto-conversations, I have run through a variety of smarty-pants retorts like, “I talk to myself because it’s hard to find intelligent conversation,” and, “I’m the only one who actually understands what I’m saying.” Sometimes I’ve heard the old standby, “Its okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer.” To which I would retort, “Why would I talk to someone who wouldn’t answer me?”
Really, though, I talk to myself because it amuses me. I crack myself up. I’m amazed at what I’ll say. I like eccentric, strange, whimsical, stupid, boneheaded, dopey ol’ me.
Before you leap to the judgment that I am completely bonkers, consider this: I rarely talk to inanimate objects and, if I do, it is not to curse them or ask them why they are not working. I have seen scores of people cursing their cars. I have watched guys insanely screaming at television pictures of football players. I have heard people say the most horrible things to their computers and appliances. I have seen people strike these objects as if punishing them. This isn’t crazy? Do you think the Dallas Cowboys can hear you screaming at them? Do you think your computer will work better if you curse at it? Would anyone, let alone a computer? (Yes, I know the excuse; they are “letting off steam.” What are they, pressure cookers? Why do people have steam, anyway? I say it’s because they don’t talk to themselves enough.)
I was an only child until I was six years old and I believe this may be where I became comfortable with self-conversation. As a little kid, I talked for and with my dolls, the dog, the birds, the flowers and the buttons I used to play with in my grandma’s button box. I talked for all the plastic army men that my dad bought me so that he could play with them. (Just as an aside, I was very bad at playing with plastic army men. When one of them got shot, I had a long and moving funeral. If one was injured, there was a lot of dialog about how he felt – “Go on…without me, Sarge! The men…need you! I…can…handle…the…pain.” This drove my dad nuts.)
When I hear people scream at inanimate objects, I can only hope that they do not talk to themselves or their children or, indeed, anybody else, that way. If people are beating themselves up verbally as much as they beat up their cars and their computers, no wonder they are so uptight and miserable and full of “steam.”
It dawns on me that perhaps a few lessons should be proffered from a professional on how to talk to oneself. That, of course, would be eccentric, strange, whimsical, stupid, boneheaded, dopey ol’ me.
First off, it’s permissible to chastise yourself but not with too harsh a language. You can call yourself a ninny or a doofus or a goofball or even a nincompoop or a jerk but you should really draw the line at dumbass or idiot. How does it help you to hear such things? If you treat yourself that horribly, it’s a lead pipe cinch you will do it to others. This is not the way to win friends and influence people. Rule one should be, “Don’t make yourself feel like crap. Let other people do that for you. You can always recover from outside criticism but that inside criticism is deadly.”
Secondly, you should talk to yourself like you are your own best friend, because you are that. No human will ever know you as well as you do. As you start to know yourself better, your facets will surprise you. Not everything about you is sweetness and light, but you can deal with this more honestly if you know yourself well.
Thirdly, if you enjoy your own company then, perhaps, others will too. If you do not, why would you subject others to what you yourself cannot stand? Only you are inside of your head — if there are other people in there with you, then they are, actually, also you. Dig that. Don’t like those people? Kick ‘em out. It’s your head. If they won’t go away and you want them to, well, that’s when it’s time for a good therapist.
These three simple things will make talking to yourself more enjoyable and a little less crazy. I would caution you to do it at home, though. Talking to yourself aloud in public is as disturbing and irritating as those people with cell phones glued to their heads.
Jane Wagner once wrote that we should pair up all the wacky people who were talking aloud to themselves so that it looked like they were having a conversation. I say we just give them all cell phones.
That’s what I said to myself, anyway.Email | Print