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November 06, 2008



Hello again.

I've been thinking more about the way in which my thinking occurs and have realised that, perhaps the most dominant form it takes, is through an almost constant stream of imaginary scenes in which I am most often interacting with others in various scenarios.

It's when I hear these others speak, that I'm most likely to describe myself as having 'heard' voices, though perhaps 'experienced' is a better word - since my ears are not involved at all in this process. So, I don't feel that the dialogue takes place very often, if at all, without an accompanying series of images.

There is a wonderful article available on the Center For Freudian Analysis and Research website that very much relates to the inner experience of "voice", which, for me at least, has some really interesting parallels with much of what you say. You can find it here:

I've also recognised some similarities between your work and that of Object Relations theories in psychoanalysis?

Forgive me if I'm stating the obvious, but I didn't want to take it for granted that such theories were already known to you and I have found them very enlightening myself, as a layperson.

Charles Fernyhough

I think that one of the implications of Vygotsky's writings is that thoughts are always shared, always partly social, even when they seem to happening privately, silently and internally. His work pushes us away from a conception of thinking whereby thoughts are private mental products that have to be packaged for transmission to other individuals. Because of the way it develops, our thinking is inherently social. It is intimately connected to the social dialogues we have been having from the beginnings of our lives.

Your comment captures something else, though, that is very special about thinking: it can unfold at a very different pace to normal spoken language. Mind-time is not necessarily like real time. Because of the way it is condensed, a single act of thinking has a great deal of possible language compressed into it. That's why a thought can seem to be instantaneous and yet far richer than a single act of speaking could ever be.


When I was young, my father once told me I was 'a thinker'. Growing older, this began to feel like a particularly punishing curse, something I was doing too much, in a culture where it's valued too little. I’m not sure where that would leave me with Vygotsky, but it seems to me that thoughts are there to be shared. That this sharing forms the basis of communication and that communicating our ponderings helps us feel less alone in the world(?).

These are the thoughts inspired in me by your article. They came to me rapidly in an image, or scene, which I feel was from memory. These were followed by a multitude of thoughts, in English, but faster than I could ever speak them. Those words were then clarified in a much longer process whereby I wrote them down and expressed them to you (whoever you are). But the satisfaction came only at the ability to communicate and share those thoughts. That’s my thinking.

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