LIFE WITH VOICES
Hearing voices is, in itself, not a sign of mental illness. Many people with schizophrenia hear voices, but not many people who hear voices have schizophrenia (and the label of schizophrenia has critical issues anyway). The more current thinking is that voices are a cause for concern mostly based on what they tell you. In a poor voice ecosystem, voices can cause psychological and emotional pain, while preventing you from being able to achieve the life that you want. In a good voice ecosystem, voices can be guides and friends that motivate you. Still, we all could use human help with challenging problems; in that sense, having someone who supports you while you hear voices is definitely important.
Many people’s goals with voices is being able to talk to only the voices that they want, about what they want, and strictly when they want. If you can achieve this, can mute hostile voices, and can set additional rules for your interactions with your voices, then you have a very healthy voice ecosystem. It is, of course, easier said than done, but controlling and influencing your voices is possible.
The ecosystem approach is not for everyone, and some people will want to get rid of their voices entirely. I think that medical professionals have the best overall tools for attempting this, although AVATAR Therapy shows that some people can create a storyline where their voices leave or become less hostile. Many people will not be able to fully get rid of their voices no matter which strategies they use, in which case understanding how to build a voice ecosystem becomes the best remaining option.
Hostile voices tend to force your attention or cause emotional distress with the things that they say. Some people also believe that their voices can attack them or loved ones using abilities, and even control parts of their mind/body. The different defense strategies are outlined in my book Life with Voices and Youtube videos. If you have specific questions, I would recommend booking a session.
Voices can lie to you, but they don’t always do it. So the advice to “not believe your voices” is not great when your voices are saying that you are strong and that your family loves you. Instead, don’t feel pressured to choose what to believe very quickly. Also, periodically write down what you believe and why you do so. Specific tools, again, are in my book Life with Voices and Youtube videos.
This is a hard one. The recommendation is to show them that you are still having a linear train of thought, and are rationally choosing your beliefs. After that, remind them that colors are technically hallucinations, so having stimuli that others do not is not that big of a deal. The metaphor of being stuck in Twitter is my favorite for explaining what the experience is like. Be ready for them to be worried, but let those who you love and who love you be a part of this journey with you.
In the West, most people understand the voice-hearing experience through the medical model. Even Western voice-hearers, however, tend to go back-and-forth in considering the medical model and one or more possibilities. Each framework below has its own nuances and situations, and I am sure that this is not a complete list of possible frameworks.
- Medical Model: That voices are entirely coming from inside the subconscious mind.
- Telepathy Model: That voices represent the conscious or subconscious thoughts of others.
- Spiritual Model: That voice hearers are talking to deities or religious beings.
- Ancestor Model: That voice hearers are talking to those who have passed away.
- Technology Model: That voice hearers are picking up on radio waves or satellites, etc.
- Alien Model: That voice hearers are talking to alien beings.
- Conspiracy Model: That voice hearers’ thoughts are being influenced by the government, through chips or other methods.
I believe that quality-of-life does not revolve around your framework for understanding, or commitment to ignoring, voices. Instead, being empowered and stronger than your voices, and being able to influence your experience is the most important part. For many people, medicine really helps them to achieve this. Others achieve their desired voice ecosystem through other approaches.
Some studies show that culture plays a large role in the types of voices that people experience. In “collectivist societies” people also tend to have friendlier and more helpful voices. In certain societies, voice-hearers are even embraced as shamans. More locally, many psychics perceive voices as clairaudience and have far fewer problems in influencing their voices and building a healthy voice ecosystem.
My first stop would be to check Hearing Voices Network for local groups, and for online regional groups in your area. These groups don’t push any particular framework, but offer a great place to share stories and build community. NAMI is a well-known alternative, although it is more medical-model focused. A good list of these resources is on the Hearing Voices Network.
Introduction to Voices
Voices Can Be Influenced
The strategies in this toolkit have won high praise from those with lived experience, and also from their family members, from academics, and from medical providers. Learn how to avoid confusing beliefs, defeat hostile voices, and create a voice ecosystem with rules and positivity.
“The workshops I’ve taken with Dmitriy have transformed my understanding of what it means to experience voices and visions. He offers practical tools grounded in a compassionate and empowering framework. Dmitriy is a huge asset to mental health consumers seeking assistance outside of the biomedical model.”
Life with Voices
PO Box 150302
Kew Gardens NY, 11415-0302