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troubleinharlem's avatar

What does it mean if someone does not have an internal monologue?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7966 points ) December 4th, 2012

Hey guys, long time no talk! Hopefully you’ve all been good.

Anyway. I have a friend that I was talking to the other day, and he told me that he doesn’t “think”. He explained it as just “accepting” what happened and not feeling an emotion to go along with it. For example, he didn’t get into a Psychology program at his school, but he wasn’t sad or upset – he just accepted it.

To go with all of this, he also told me that his mind is just blank. He doesn’t think in his head like most of us do, I don’t believe. When he talks, he just talks. He doesn’t think to himself. So when I wake up in the morning, I think “Oh, I don’t want to get out of bed. I’ll have to move the cat, and the floor is cold, good grief.”

Is there a meaning when someone doesn’t have an internal monologue or just doesn’t think? I know this is a vague question, but I’m curious. I tried to research it but it just gave me stuff about schizophrenia.

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30 Answers

janbb's avatar

When I used to ask my ex what he was thinking about, he woud say “nothing.” I couldn’t really understand that; some people just seem to be wired so differently.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would like to think that that sort of thing isn’t possible.

syz's avatar

Not knowing the person, and not having any particular knowledge of psychology, neurology, or philosophy, my first impression is of intellectual and emotional laziness.

“I just say whatever” sounds like abdicating responsibility for accuracy, sensitivity to others, accepted social norms, repercusions.

picante's avatar

Long time, no see! Welcome back, stranger!

I have a hard time envisioning this . . . my inner monologue is quite active. In fact, I’d call it more of an inner dialogue or conversation, since I actively play other people’s roles as well.

My first reaction to anyone who says that they have no thoughts is that they’re either drugged, despressed or both.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@picante: I get the feeling that he’s somewhat depressed. He seems moody, he’s not hopeful for the future, etc.

@syz: Intellectual laziness… that could be true as well. He doesn’t think that emotions are important, it seems like. He’ll be happy or upset, but he doesn’t recognize them as actual emotions, but instead as annoyances. It’s like he’s completely neutral to a point where it’s almost scary.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I’d like to think so too… I thought that everyone had an internal monologue but I suppose not?

Bill1939's avatar

Though I find it difficult to believe that your friend does not experience emotions, I recognize that not all internal monologues are verbal. While he may not be conscious of the process of working through emotions that arise from unexpected events, the process exists. If his affect is usually appropriate to situations, laughs at jokes, has empathetic responses to another’s losses or successes, and the like, then I think that there is little reason to be concerned.

tranquilsea's avatar

I have a hard time understanding why someone’s goal would be to be emotionlessness. Our emotions play an extremely important role in how we navigate our lives. I suspect your friend has lots of emotions that he either doesn’t recognize or that he actively suppresses or, perhaps, both.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@Bill1939 : I think that he experiences emotions as well, but maybe they just aren’t verbalized. He is empathetic at times towards me and he laughs at jokes, so I know he has emotions, but I was just concerned because I had never heard something along this nature before! Thank you.

@tranquilsea : Suppressing them would make sense… I might be over reading into things (as usual) but he does sometimes try to appear emotionless as a coping mechanism, perhaps? Maybe because he doesn’t want to be hurt? Who knows.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’d wonder what happened in his life to make him believe this.

I used to believe that I never got angry. Internally, I believed anger was a “bad” emotion so I got rid of it. lol This outward belief hid something about my life that I was trying to ignore. I had a LOT that I needed to get very angry about and I was afraid of how that anger would come out. The anger that had been modelled around me was anger out of control.

My struggle has been reintegrating anger back into my life in a healthy way.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@tranquilsea : He has said that he “never gets angry”, actually! I don’t ever believe him, though, because I can tell when he’s upset at something or annoyed with a situation. He might just be ignoring it and suppressing it. How have you been reintegrating anger back into your life in a healthy way, if I can ask?

Thanks so much for your answer.

tranquilsea's avatar

Therapy. My constant efforts to squash everything into nothingness eventually led to problems.

But I needed to get to a point where I understood I needed therapy. No one could have pushed me there before that time.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@tranquilsea : Yeah… I’ve suggested therapy for him, but unfortunately he’s a firm believer in that therapy would make him “less manly” and less of a person. He thinks that men should “tough it out”. For example, he recently broke his hand and when the doctors said that they could prioritize surgery for it (it wouldn’t heal properly on its own), he refused their offer. He said that he would deal with it.

I guess time heals, however.

tranquilsea's avatar

Sometimes time heals but if you have false ideas about dealing with life then you could just be creating maladaptive ways to cope.

janbb's avatar

@troubleinharlem He sounds quite a bit like my ex-husband. It can be hard to deal with someone so well-defended. It was.

tranquilsea's avatar

It also sounds like he buys into the myth that men need to be stoic no matter what and being so makes them more manly. That’s sad.

glacial's avatar

I also have a hard time believing it. Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk about what he’s thinking; maybe he’s embarrassed by his thoughts?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@troubleinharlem I guess not. @janbb may be right.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@janbb: Tell me about it. He’s like a fortress that no one can break into.

@tranquilsea: Well, he hasn’t had a father figure so maybe that has something to do with it. It is sad… he doesn’t live in the US. I don’t know much about different perspectives where he lives (Germany) or if that would have anything to do with it. I kind of doubt it, however.

@glacial: Could be. (Love your username, by the way.)

jaytkay's avatar

@picante My first reaction to anyone who says that they have no thoughts is that they’re either drugged, despressed or both.

Having been intimately involved with a couple of depressed people taking anti-depressant medication, I agree.

They were often emotionally flat.They were no longer despairing at normal life, but they were also not much interested in normal life.

zenvelo's avatar

My first reaction when I read this was “he is present now” rather than living in the future or the past. He focuses on the moment, not on what will happen later or how others will react. H is accepting the reality of events.

Perhaps I am completely wrong, but maybe he has a low stress way to move through the world.

burntbonez's avatar

He could be the Buddha, or something like that. They don’t “think” the way we normally experience it. They think in the subconscious brain.

But most likely, he is unaware of his thoughts. He doesn’t watch his thinking the way most people do, so he doesn’t see the thoughts happening. It takes training to become conscious. He is like an unconscious being. He acts and reacts, but does not become aware of his thinking. He works from his gut.

glacial's avatar

Thanks, @troubleinharlem – I like yours, too.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I can’t understand how someone could “not think.” I babble a constant stream to myself. I can hardly shut up long enough to go to sleep. Maybe he “thinks” in the abstract instead of words (like thinking in pictures), and so he only thinks that he is not thinking.

flutherother's avatar

My ‘thoughts’ aren’t always in the form of words. Sometimes I think visually of landscapes and pictures or of the sounds of voices or music and if someone asks what I was ‘thinking’ it isn’t always easy to explain in words.

Kardamom's avatar

I have not yet read the other responses, but will do so after posting.

In my experience people with no internal monologue just say and do things without thinking about the consequences to themselves or others. They are unable to put themselves in check. Subsequently, those types of people often have no sense of obligation towards anyone but themselves and they are rarely tactful or polite. They tend to leave a lot of hurt feelings in their wake.

ucme's avatar

I’d say that leaves a person open to the accusation of being a bit narrow minded, shallow even.

BBawlight's avatar

I feel like I’m not thinking sometimes… I just do what my body says. I go where my body leads me. I don’t think in words because it’s not needed sometimes.
Maybe he doesn’t recognize his own thoughts, like I don’t recognize my own body some of the time. So maybe he feels his body acting, but is numb to emotion like I’m numb to feeling…

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Coloma's avatar

Maybe he’s enlightenend and doesn’t know it. Our minds are a tool and they are to be controlled not allowed to run rampant. The master of the house does not let his servants run the show.
I too am one of those accepting types, no need for a bunch of mental dramatics, what is is, and fighting reality is the root of all suffering. He sounds exceptionally healthy to me.

Bill1939's avatar

I think that @Coloma might be right. Not allowing emotion to govern his behavior is very Zen. I wish I could do the same. Unfortunately, especially during this time of the year, my emotions elicit very neurotic responses to minor frustrations.

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