Speaking Makes It Real

"Candyman" and the slumber-party Bloody Mary dare aren't the only stories in which speaking the villain's name makes him or her come to life. It's a familiar folktale motif.

That's because the stories are true.

Well, they're not true in their particulars, of course. Rather, there's validity in the notion that talking about something gives it reality.

At least, there is for me.

I don't speak a word about a thought or feeling until I'm ready for it to take shape. I thoroughly sort it through in my mind to ensure that it is real—and that I'm ready to give it form.

It could be something as simple as a headache; the moment I mention it and receive a fuss, it's really a "thing." If I soldier through quietly until it goes away, the headache feels milder. (Note: If I ever mention to you that I have a headache, it's probably reached the migraine stage.)

The same goes for things more significant than headaches, too: When I ended a long-term relationship many years back, a few friends marveled that I hadn't talked to them about how I felt long before I ended it. I needed to be sure the relationship wasn't right for me before I said anything to anyone; the moment I spoke a word of unhappiness, I couldn't take it back. What if I changed my mind?

Once a thought is given voice, it lives outside me. It takes separate life.

This is especially true for complaining. If saying something won't ease a situation, I'd rather say nothing. Talking about it just exacerbates my unhappiness and, I figure, diminishes the happiness of everyone around me.

Yet I know there are many people who need to talk through a decision to see clearly all possible avenues and who feel heard and assuaged when they complain aloud. Speaking helps them think more clearly and makes them feel better. For them, talking is just talk. What harm in it?

So I wonder which is more normal: Talking to work through things or staying silent until conclusions require comment.

What's your tendency?