This article was shared on social media about two weeks ago and caused quite a stir:
Have to admit, I was surprised that people were surprised. One of the things Suzie and I have been doing for over 30 years now is comparing notes: “What’s it like inside your mind?”
Our minds are quite different. She really doesn’t have an internal monologue. I sort of do, but it’s much more of a cacophony of images and voices and sounds and songs than it is a monologue.
(If you follow me on Facebook you get some of the random things that float up in the middle of living life…)
Her mind was subjected to some trauma do to abuse in childhood that may have led it to adapt, at a very plastic time, in ways it wouldn’t ‘naturally’ have done, but we don’t have a ‘control’ mind to compare.
You’ll notice I’m saying ‘mind’, not ‘brain’. There’s a fair bit of both psychology and philosophy behind that distinction, but for the moment I’m just using it to emphasise that I’m talking about our own subjective experience of our own minds.
It’s often tempting to ascribe differences to gender, but in many ways we don’t fit the traditional gender stereotypes: she’s more logical and analytical, I’m more intuitive, she’s a problem-solver, I’m more nurturing.
I tend to be very self-conscious, and (I hope) that also means I’m aware of my impact on others, and how what I’m saying and doing is impacting on them. Suzie is less so, and therefore is authentically herself in any context.
I do quite a lot of 3D mental modeling and rotation when we’re doing things like assembling Ikea furniture or working out whether a fridge will go through a door. It’s hard to know whether those skills caused my study in physics or were caused by it – probably a little of each.
But, specifically around the issue of an inner monologue, she definitely still thinks things through, but either that happens in her subconscious/unconscious mind and is then simply presented to her conscious mind as a fait accompli, or else it happens in dialogue with other people.
Conversations with others are crucial to hone her thinking. I tend to much more work through things and turn them around in my mind, look at options and solutions, try to simplify and clarify ideas and so on.
I’m pleased that the original article above was posted, though: the more people in society are able to simply recognise and understand that projecting their own subjective experience of their own mind onto everyone else doesn’t get the job done, the better.