• Voices: What if they're here to help?

    Most of us are aware that "hearing voices" or auditory hallucinations are a major feature of many psychotic illnesses - particularly schizophrenia. As an industry, psychiatry is no closer to really understanding why this occurs and how it occurs. We just know that it is a frequent experience of psychosis. Several people I have spoken to with a diagnosis of psychosis report that their illness began with hearing voices - perhaps just one in the beginning, but this appears to be the first indication for them that things weren't quite right.

    I am fascinated by the concept of hearing voices. I would never tell a professional (out of fear of being given a diagnosis I don't want) that I hear voices, but in all honesty I do. I know that mine exist within my head (rather than externally), but I do need to emphasis they are not MY voice. Ever. They aren't simply your typical "self talk".

    When really sick, and even when not, I have a running commentary of several "identities" that assist me in my decisions day in, day out. I can recognise them to some extent as being an extension of myself, or even belonging to someone influential in my past. To illustrate, the voice that tells me no one is to be trusted, I'm to be suspicious of all people and careful who "let in" sounds very young and very afraid. Conversely, the same voice can be extremely convincing and not infrequently, malignant. I find the reasoning of this voice extremely convincing and she is very good at bringing evidence to my mind that proves her point. The voice that tells me I am worthless, won't and can't amount to anything is a masculine and tyrannical voice - he is also hard to ignore and I have stayed in the house with the doors shut and the phone switched to silent many times because of him. The voice that tells me all my mates are shit and should be sacked - she's female and sometimes she has been spot on and I thank her for that. The voice that occasionally speaks to me in a loving way is again a male voice, but this one is much older - like that of a kindly grandfather. Oddly, the voice that tells me I CAN amount to something, is the only one that sounds like my voice - or a braver, wiser, more knowing version of me.

    So you've read this and think I probably need more help than I'm getting? I don't think so. I can attribute a face and a name to each of these voices - I know where they came from. While on paper and perhaps in a black and white sense these voices and their particular "pitch" seem extremely unhelpful to you the reader and to me the experiencer, I believe that the intent behind them is actually to serve me. Their approach may be slightly twisted now, but there was a birthplace for each of them in my past and actually, they were usually valid in their summation of the situation back then. So while the risks of harm and the perceived dangers are no longer as fierce as they may have been at five, 10 or 15, the point is, they were born to serve a purpose and serve it they did. WELL. Maybe I need to sack them as no longer relevant, maybe I need to Acceptance and Commitment Therapise them as they are redundant now I am an adult. But the point is: I don't want to. They get louder and more insistent when I try. Every attempt to acknowledge, thank then ignore them just makes them stronger. It is exhausting. However, if I give them validity try and work out what they are afraid of or angry with, they pipe down much more quickly.

    I would say that 100% of the time when I listen and then think about what is being said, there is often truth to their words. At the end of the day they're as much a part of me as the colour of my eyes and the sum of all my experiences. Even the tyrannical voice has served me well: he has certainly given me a humility and smaller ego than I might have had otherwise and I really like that about myself.

    My belief leads me to really endorse the work and results coming in from the Hearing Voices Network and VoiceNet. They suggest that the voices heard by many people with diagnoses of psychosis, bipolar, psychotic depression, dissociation coupled with a history of abuse, are powerful parts of the self that need to be worked with rather than against.

    Several decades of attempting to silence voices does not seem to be improving outcomes for individuals so I concur with the Hearing Voices school of thought. What if the voices are manifestations of the self born out of trauma and perhaps a conversation with them, rather than medicating them, will actually facilitate recovery to a better place? How hopeful is that? I think it's brilliant.

    Eleanor Longden is a major proponent of the Hearing Voices movement. Her fantastic and only recently released talk on TED gives an account of her own experience with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia and the voices she hears. I ask, does this woman seem mad, or does she seem on to something?

  • Comments on this post (2 comments)

    • Heidi says…

      Hi Liz

      Loved this blog.
      Those of us who have a christian worldview believe what you say for sure.
      Our whole life revolves around hearing ‘the still small vioce’ of God.
      We plan and use our time in order to assist us in this quest. Believe the Holy Spirit is givent to us as our conscience to speak to us via our internal spirit and heart felt soul.
      At work it my view that much of the psychosis we see is actually ’Spiritual warfare and history of ocult etc often presipitates ….the vioces and psychosis.
      Just saying…this is my view but not scientific or factual.
      FAITH is what we call the thing that gives powers us, it is God that gives us the energy!
      Thanks Heidi

      on October 09, 2013

    • bung says…

      good one love,x

      on October 01, 2013

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