Hearing voices ~ mental health and other issues

Hearing voices is a much more common experience that many would imagine and may occur in up to ten percent of the population.  

Research carried out at Auckland University indicates that there is a direct link between trauma and the onset of hearing voices in seventy to ninety percent of cases.

Attitudes to the hearing of such voices are gradually shifting, with more people insisting that such voices be accepted as aspects of those who hear them, an involuntary coping mechanism for surviving insurmountable odds.  Seen in this light it makes perfect sense that they be listened to with respect.

Wikipedia provides a good overview of the Hearing Voices Movement

New Zealand has its own Hearing Voices Network

Jacqui Dillon of the U.K. Hearing Voices Network, and Rufus May, clinical psychologist, have both recently been interviewed about their work in this field. 

In the following Radio NZ interview, Jacqui gives an insightful view into a child's response to abuse by offering her own experience.  She relates how this has continued to affect her throughout her life.  She also talks about the deeply held prejudice she encountered within the medical profession regarding her own hearing of voices, the view that such voices should be medicated away with the use of tranquillisers. 

This document provides further information which may be of interest:

Here is the newspaper article Chris Barton wrote about Rufus May: "Speaking for the voices".

This BBC web page about mental health includes lots of interesting articles, including a clip of Rufus working with a client.  The audio clip on the same page featuring Peter Bullimore talking about his hearing voices experiences is also well worth a listen.

Those interested in further reading may find the following reference useful:
Angels at our tables - New Zealanders experiences of hearing voices

There are a lot of strong emotions and conflicting beliefs about this field from health professionals, voice hearers and the general public alike. Surely the bottom line should be a focus on finding the approach that is most helpful - which is likely to vary from one person to another.  Whatever one's point of view about treatment, individuals still have to be helped to live their lives as fully as possible.  I would think that the best long term results are likely to be those in which the person in crisis is helped to get back in charge of their own life, helped to make their own decisions about what works best for them.  We all deserve that.

It should be noted that the voices we may hear in our heads do not necessarily indicate mental health problems.
     Dennis Gersten, psychiatrist, looks at this subject within a broader perspective in his book entitled "Are You Getting Enlightened or Losing Your Mind? How to Master Everyday and Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences". This perspective is re-iterated from a slightly different angle by Ingo Lambrecht in his 2009 article Shamans as expert voice hearers.
    I am not a voice hearer.  My chief interest in this subject lies in exploring the distinction between voices which are considered to be parts of ourselves, and those which are experienced as part of shamanic or related work.  According to Ingo Lambrecht, voices heard in the course of shamanic activity are considered to come from separate entities, usually those of ancestral spirits.

Both ends of the spectrum are important and need to be recognised for what they are and given their proper place.  In the middle of the spectrum there is a great deal of room for confused 'channelling' which, if taken seriously, can be both misleading and harmful.  I will talk further about this in a separate article.

To go to the next article click this link:
Positive thinking pitfalls and medical prognosis


slouisepapp said...

Maybe the criteria should be the content of the voices. I have heard that most voices are harshly critical of the one hearing the voices. Sometimes they urge the hearer to hurt other people (such as the the Texas woman who killed her five children). Also, voices can be constant and severely disruptive of the hearers life. If people hear voices that are helpful to their life and urge good actions, then I could believe that they might be the voices of angels or of God.

Leigh said...

Thank you for your comment. This is such a challenging area. Dennis Gersten explores both ends of the spectrum in some detail in the book mentioned and draws similar conclusions. This leaves us with the grey area in the middle which can be particularly dangerous to clients of 'healers' who 'channel' and which can be a credible platform for outrageous and damaging pronouncements. I'm sure this was what happened in my case in at least a portion of instances, I wouldn't like to say how much. My guess is that it was probably well over half of such 'information', probably more. The worst aspect of this kind of thing is that it is pronounced not as possibility, but as if it were factual, which really is crazy. One sees in retrospect how foolish this is. These sorts of assertions need to be roundly challenged and probably discarded.