When You Talk In Your Sleep, Are You Talking To Your Secret Self? After hearing recordings of herself giggling and cheerfully talking in her sleep, Tanya Marquardt, who always thought of herself as tough and brooding, begins to connect with her other self.
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When You Talk In Your Sleep, Are You Talking To Your Secret Self?

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When You Talk In Your Sleep, Are You Talking To Your Secret Self?

When You Talk In Your Sleep, Are You Talking To Your Secret Self?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/533952361/533989435" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Are we limited by who we think we are? Or do our ideas of ourselves push us to do things we never thought we could? NPR's Invisibilia, the show about human behavior, dives into these questions this week. Invisibilia producer Abby Wendle has a story about a woman's struggle to reconcile two very different versions of herself.

ABBY WENDLE, BYLINE: Tanya Marquardt looks like somebody who you really don't want to mess with. For years she had a shaved head, lots of piercings, and she stomped around in black, chain smoking.

TANYA MARQUARDT: My modus operandi for many years was like, don't - you don't get to come close. I never attacked anybody, but that part of me, that was there.

WENDLE: This suit of armor was a holdover from a rough childhood. Tanya's dad was an alcoholic who put his own spin on punishment. Tanya remembers that on some nights, like after she'd broken a plate, he'd give her time out in the corner but make her kneel there for hours.

MARQUARDT: Like - and he would make us pull our pant legs up so that our knees were exposed. And any time you'd turn, get your - you know, he would yell at us or come towards us. So it's, like, terrifying for a child.

WENDLE: Tanya's mom and brother shared their memories of these times, but Tanya's dad never responded to our calls. For years, Tanya's childhood, it just haunted her.

MARQUARDT: Get your...

WENDLE: And as an adult, Tanya became self-destructive. She'd go days without sleeping or eating, get drunk, go home with strangers until she felt like she was all filled up with darkness. Which is why she was so surprised when one day in her mid-30s she woke from a deep, deep sleep and heard...


MARQUARDT: (Unintelligible).

WENDLE: Giggling.


MARQUARDT: (Unintelligible, laughter).

Like, what is that?

WENDLE: Tanya, not much of a giggler. But this giggle, it was her talking in her sleep. Now, she's been a sleep talker her whole life. But recently she started recording herself using an app on her phone called Dream Talk Recorder.


MARQUARDT: Oh, that's great.

WENDLE: These are some of the recordings she's captured.


MARQUARDT: And it was so beautiful.

Oh, wow.

It was very sweet.

WENDLE: When Tanya first heard this voice...


MARQUARDT: (Laughter).

WENDLE: ...She did not recognize it as her own. It sounded sweet, like an affectionate child who enjoys tickle fights, who didn't share her dark past.


MARQUARDT: Thanks, buddy.


Oh, my goodness.

Oh, bugger.

(Laughter) That's weird.

Yes, we did. Yes, we did. Wow, we did.

WENDLE: The more Tanya listened to these recordings, the more she became convinced that when she recorded at night she was capturing the thoughts and feelings of an entirely different version of herself - her sleeping self, a little girl who wakes up when 37-year-old Tanya falls asleep.

MARQUARDT: I mean, do I think there's, like, an actual 4-year-old kid that lives at the space between dreaming and waking - maybe.

WENDLE: Tanya decided she really needed to meet this other self to figure out where all of this innocent joy is coming from and what its message could possibly be for her waking life.


WENDLE: Which brought us to Harvard professor and dream researcher Deirdre Barrett.

DEIRDRE BARRETT: Hi, come on in.



WENDLE: And a lesson in dream incubation.

BARRETT: Have you thought about what questions or advice you would like from the voice that calls itself X?

MARQUARDT: Well, I guess...

WENDLE: So dream incubation is actually a pretty basic idea. Before you fall asleep, focus your attention on one problem or question and tell yourself you want to dream about it. In Tanya's case...

MARQUARDT: I'm ready to hear your message.

BARRETT: OK, I'm ready to hear your message. That's...

MARQUARDT: Does that seem like...

BARRETT: Yes. Yes. That sort of gets...

WENDLE: By doing this, Deirdre Barrett has found that you actually up your chances of dreaming about what you want to dream about. So after the session Tanya heads back home, hoping to encounter her other self in her dreams.

MARQUARDT: I'm ready to hear your message. I'm ready to hear your message. I'm ready to hear your message.

WENDLE: Good night.

MARQUARDT: I meet a short man who's a dream character. He wants to dance. I dance with the dream man, and then I see my sleeping self. She's smiling at me. She's giggling in the crowd.


MARQUARDT: (Laughter).


MARQUARDT: I go to follow her and she disappears. She's tricky. She's a trickster. She likes to play hide and seek. Suddenly I am in the Adirondacks. It's in the middle of the forest. It's completely dark. That's when I saw X.

Hey. Hi.


MARQUARDT: What is your message for me?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Whatever you see, I see. Wherever you go, I am there.

MARQUARDT: What's the next step? What do we do now?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What do you want to do?

MARQUARDT: I didn't know what to say, so we just kind of stared out at the water. And she took me to the foyer. And then she pointed at the shoes and she pointed at these jackets, and she said...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Shoes are shoes and jackets are jackets, and you need both to have an adventure. Go.

MARQUARDT: And she, like, pushed me out the door with my shoes and my jacket on.

WENDLE: Tanya is reading here from her dream journal. And when she woke up, she felt like - yeah.

MARQUARDT: It feels like a message, for sure. It feels like she said something to me.

WENDLE: And recently, while walking alone in the golden hour of twilight, X's message...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Wherever you go, I am there.

WENDLE: ...Clicked. And something inside of Tanya began to shift.

MARQUARDT: There's a place inside of me that I've personified as this little girl that is not wounded and has - can never be wounded. And it's like the idea of that, of, like, getting more of that feeling in my life is an incredible relief. Like, how incredible would that be? That would be amazing. (Laughter) And I think that that's what is being offered to me, actually.

WENDLE: Tanya's started to accept that offer. She has been calling her grandpa in Canada to catch up, going for long bike rides alone just to feel the wind on her face, little ways that she can see proof of X playing in broad daylight.


MARQUARDT: (Unintelligible, laughter). I'm happy.

WENDLE: Abby Wendle, NPR News.


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