Talking to Pets
I talk a lot.
The thing about talking a lot is that people generally assume that I’m talking because I want to be heard and listened to. Surely someone who is rambling on – and on – and on wants to be heard, right? That’s what we’re socialized to believe about communication. Why speak, if you aren’t trying to be listened to?
Most times, though, I’m not speaking to be listened to. I’m speaking to sort out how I’m feeling, because I may need to verbally say 100 things in order to figure out the 1 very important thing that my brain is swirling around.
Journaling helps with this. There is a different circuitry in my mind that activates when I’m writing – that circuitry doesn’t need to say something 100 times to get a point across. The path of writing something down seems to circumvent the need to say a bunch of miscellaneous narrative to get to the feeling or idea – it’s like the very act of having to convert my thoughts into something that I am then saying out loud is a juggling act of misdirection.
I think it’s because I can stay on track with what I’ve already been thinking when I can read back what I’ve written. Words that I vocalize are ephemeral, transient, and temporary: a meandering walk through the electrical pulses in my mind, somehow making their way to my vocal chords and coming out twisted, overly simplified, and gone the very next moment. Words that I write are structured, clear, and get the message across.
But yet, I talk a lot.
I’m self-conscious of how much I talk. I’ve been socialized to avoid interrupting people, despite the fact that it’s a common thing for people to do. I’ve been socialized to use my words to placate others, to help them feel better. I’ve been socialized to be aware that not everyone has the same interests that I do, or wants to go as deep into given topics as I do, which means that when I do get a chance to talk, I do. A lot.
I talk for myself, though. I don’t need people to hear me, I just need to figure out what I’m actually experiencing.
I talk because my brain is constantly evaluating and weighing risks around me. As an anxious person, my mind has evolved to be acutely aware of anything that could become a risk, and I can hold so many future possibilities in my mind at once. Those links and lines get crossed, and I talk to line them up. To iron them out. To figure out what my ground truth actually is.
I talk to myself. I talk to my fiance. I talk to my friends.
And I also talk to my cat, Mosby.
Talking to pets can be cathartic. Mosby doesn’t have a view of the world that challenges mine. He doesn’t respond to my vocalizations with words that carry meaning, which means that I’m responsible for interpreting what he responds with my own voice. Instead, what Mosby communicates to me is that I am safe, present, and grounded with another being. Anything that I’m able to fill in to the converation on his behalf is a bonus.
Understanding communication is hard, because it’s so personal, dynamic, and challenging to convey accurately. I’ve only recently begun to recognize the power of having these meta-conversations with the people in my life, and I’m hopeful that I will be able to continue to grow more aware of the inner workings of how people translate their thoughts into something they share with the world (and what they seek from doing so).
With Mosby, I don’t have to worry if he’s understood the actual meaning behind my words. I don’t have the overhead of worrying whether or not I’m monopolizing the conversation, or if I’ve said something to offend, or if I’m annoying him. Pets are a canvas for us to do some of our most vulnerable and authentic speaking, and I don’t think that they mind playing that role all that much.
There are some other tips that I’ve come up with to “talk a lot” at myself. I have a private Discord server where I can message myself long blocks of text and keep track of different topics that fill up my mind. I occasionally will take videos of myself rambling off a stream of consciousness in order to watch it back and listen to myself so that I can really “listen” for the key points that I’m trying to follow along with.