|By Shaefer (not a self photo)|
It happens almost every day. Perhaps it happens multiple times a day. I talk to myself. I am not referring to a sentence or two either. I mean a full blown and engaging dialogue. Sometimes after I am finished I change some of the parameters of the conversation and start again to see if the outcome is different. It usually is. Most of the time the conversation contains at least two distinct personalities; mine and one or two other people (that actually exist) I am projecting from within. It could be me and my wife (or rather me invoking the person of my wife), me and my best friend or me and a neighbor. The voices could even be of me and the guy walking toward me on the street who I do not knowyet but for whom I have created an entire life story based upon what he is wearing, how he is behaving and whether or not he has a nice or mean face.
These conversations are sometimes a trial run for a conversation I need to have with an actual person in the future and sometimes they are fantasies of the conversation I wished I had with that actual person. I always sound so good in these rehearsals and reenactments. Yet, I find the reality isn’t nearly so brilliant, quick witted or fair. The reality is sometimes abysmal.
As a younger man, these imaginary encounters were sometimes all I had because I never seemed to have the courage and skill to engage in real-life dialogue. Those I did have were so fundamentally awkward and wayward that I stopped talking for a while my freshmen year in college. I did not have the audacity for brutal honesty which might offend or cause pain, nor did I have the skill to apply a diplomacy that might curb the blunt edges of a raw truth. I wrote a lot more back then as a result, and I talked to myself…a lot.
Yet, over time my competence and confidence deepened with my mistakes, failed attempts, and meager successes to engage in what some term “crucial conversations.” Yet, it is the imaginary conversations that are a constant pitfall. In trying to project or forecast a given conversation what often might begin as a mild assumption about what or how the other party might respond becomes, through the rehearsal of rebuttal and response, an emotional conviction about that other person. I begin to judge or condemn a person for things that have only been said in my mind. Thus, I enter the real version of that conversation with faulty assumptions navigating my logic. It is like entering a peace negotiation with loaded guns.
I have discovered that it is easiest for me to be direct, and while I continue to hone my diplomatic skills my conscience dictates I deal with things head-on. Some people have the gift of taking conversations slow and easy, approaching with caution and great care. I neither have the skill nor the emotional make-up for this usually. I grow weary very quickly of carrying the thoughts and attitudes of conflict within me to take too much time to resolve them. I cannot endure their weight long, so I tarry not. To each their own.
Still, often time and space does not permit a quick resolution. It is in the delaying moments, hours, days or weeks that my mind wonders. In its wonderings it chances upon “theory”; theoretical outcomes of the delayed conversation and all its permutations. That is when I unknowingly begin to load my guns. There is only one solution for this. I have to pray.
The conversation that must be had is the one between me and God, and I have to have it every time those “theories” arise from within. I cannot allow my heart to be tainted toward an individual based on virtual dialogues. It is then I hear the Spirit telling me to “Stop talking to yourself.” It must be that I pray for the person with whom I must broach a dialogue and reason with God on behalf of the relationship I have with the said individual for peace to ensue.