What is Intrapersonal Communication?
There is some debate as to whether intrapersonal communication is truly communication or not because it doesn’t exactly fit our traditional definition of communication. To define intrapersonal communication is a bit of a challenge as there is really only one “person” involved, and consequently, labeling the communication process becomes a bit skewed when considering who is sending and who is receiving. Interpersonal, of course, roughly means “between people” (more than one). Intrapersonal means “within the person” – one person.
Intrapersonal Communication Examples
So what does it mean to have communication within oneself? What kind of forms can that take? Well, it’s possible, maybe even probable, that you are experiencing intrapersonal communication at this very moment. Do a quick body scan right now. Notice anything? Experiencing any tension, discomfort, pain, pleasure or ease? I’m sure somewhere in that body of yours, some part of you is communicating to you that it needs some sort of attention. Maybe it’s asking you to stretch a bit, to stand up, or to get away from that dang computer for a little while. Our bodies are constantly offering us information – this is intrapersonal communication. Unfortunately, we are often so engrossed in our daily activities that we don’t acknowledge these messages, often to our displeasure in the longer term because when this type of information is ignored, it can escalate and become a major health issue. [The Gestalt theory of psychology focuses on these intrapersonal messages to enable healing when we can get in touch with the source of the messages. Click on the link to find out more.]
What else is happening inside?
Have you ever had a “hunch” about some situation? You just felt something about it, right? Something was telling you something about it. Hey, that something was part of you communicating. Some may call it intuition; others may claim that there are forces outside the body that are sending messages, but until proven otherwise, we’ll refer to this as intrapersonal communication. There are some who claim that fidgeting, doodling, or making (facial or hand) gestures while thinking assist in or augment some form of internal communication process. There are experts who can look at gestures and doodles and interpret them.
As mentioned in earlier articles, we are constantly accosted by communicating forces around us and we have refined a filtering system so that we do not go insane from all of the input. That filtering system also works on the intrapersonal communicating that is going on within us. What about writing in a diary? A diary is written to be read by whom? That’s right, the writer him or herself. And what about those of us who talk to ourselves? Sometimes there appears to be a fine line between acceptable and abnormal behavior. The realm of intrapersonal communication certainly walks that fine line.
I Hear Voices…
The most obvious and noticeable form of intrapersonal communication is the voice inside; the seemingly ceaseless monologue that seems to run inside these skulls of ours. And what is it saying to us? It seems to be an endless parade of comments and judgments about whatever we’re experiencing at the moment. Interpersonal and intrapersonal communication can sometimes be at odds with one another, and we probably aren’t even aware of it when it is happening. When we are, it usually manifests as a dull feeling of dissatisfaction or dis-ease.
Why Do We Do It?
What is the purpose then of all of these forms of intrapersonal communication? In this article, Joseph Jordania explains that when our internal messaging becomes audible that these sounds and gestures are forms of “contact calls,” whose original purpose (we’re talking tens of thousands of years ago) was to maintain contact with the social group. When there was silence, it meant that danger was present. Even today, you can observe this behavior in the wild. When an animal senses danger, the first thing they will do is stop and listen.
As far as the monologue in our heads goes, I will suggest that this is a form of protection as developed by the ego. As mentioned in previous articles, this device was also a form of self-preservation. It was a means of trying to determine whether a situation, a creature, or another human was a threat to us. That inner voice was trying to save us. Since we don’t encounter nearly as many life -hreatening situations as we did long ago (at least I don’t), this ego voice inside has been reduced to offering us apparently inane commentary about people and things and circumstances.
Sometimes this commentary focuses on our own selves and can be a negatively impacting force in our lives. There is an excellent, and very thorough, discussion about interpersonal communication from Pearson Education at this link. They provide a whole chapter of their book, Communicating: A Social and Career Focus, by Berko, Wolvin, and Wolvin.
All of the paths to higher learning, including the meditation techniques of many spiritual practices, focus on the quieting of this endless inner monologue. As it is said, “there are many paths up the mountain.” In other words, they’re all supposed to lead to the same place of peace, oneness, and whatever form of God that you believe in when you get there. An excellent first step (on this journey of a 1000 miles, as it is said) is The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Every sentence of this book rings with truth.
Another book you may find interesting that related to intrapersonal communication is Choke, by Dr. Sian Beilock, an expert on performance and brain science who explains why we experience “performance anxiety” and what is actually happening inside us when “things are clicking.”
That’s all for Intrapersonal Communication. As always, we love to hear your comments and questions.