A Scary Phenomena
When someone says "I hear voices" the very first word which pops into your head is.... schizophrenia. That dreaded word, with it's dreaded 5
syllables. There's many good reasons to be afraid of voice hearing: when something happens inside of your mind without your consciously willing it, we
feel we've lost control of ourselves. And hearing voices is the ultimate example of that. They come when they want, they say what they want, and the
only thing you can really do is fight them or tolerate them.
Nevertheless, even though this phenomena is "strange", and for most people, disruptive, there is nothing intrinsically "diseased" about it.
The general consensus about the voices that voice hearers hear is that they are subconscious murmurings. They reflect unconscious thoughts about
others, ourselves, the environment, or life in general. They are not "random", but follow the cue of emotional contents hovering beneath conscious
awareness which the subconscious gives vocalization to. Seen in this light, how different, really, is a voice hearer from you or I (the non
voice-hearers)? What comes to us as feelings, or stay latent in our unconscious as potential drives, passions, fears, phobias, is brought to the minds
attention to the voice hearer. Although it is far more disruptive - a running commentary on whats going on in our external environment can range from
annoying to tormenting - it is not a disease.
The term "disease", simply implies Dis-Ease. If our body is not functioning properly, its in a state of dis-ease. We say its diseased because our body
is being threatened by some endogenous agent, be it cancer, measles or diabetes. But when we say mental dis-ease, I think we should make a distinction
between functionality. The mind of a voice hearer is laden with multiple voices. Is this a "functional" problem? Yes. It's functionally different from
normal minds. However, when talking about "functional" problems in terms of the mind, we more or less mean how does this person function in
If this person cannot operate without a sense of dis-ease, then he is in fact, diseased. But if a voice hearer can control or even
recruit the voices heard without it impacting their ability to lead a more or less normal life, are they diseased? I would say they aren't.
A major problem which our society needs to overcome is our stance towards voice-hearing. One doctor compared voice-hearers to homosexuals in the
1950's: they're an oppressed and demonized group. Just earlier I mentioned to my mother that the book that I am reading, Daniel B. Smiths' "Muses,
Madmen and Prophets: voice hearing and the borders of sanity" was putting me a little on edge (it's not exactly easy stuff to read, although I am
fascinated by it); because it was describing in such morbid detail the etiology and experience of schizophrenia. She replied "oh, those people
scarrrreeee me". I thought to myself, how horrible is this. Its bad enough these people have to suffer, struggle and learn to live with these voices;
the last thing they need is this knee-jerk paranoia about it.
Can we overcome our paranoia? Can we do our part to help these people live normal lives? Or will our scientific need to "diagnose and prescribe"
treatment fail to take into account the anxiety and depression our judgmental beliefs about voice-hearing causes for the voice hearer?
21-7-2013 by Astrocyte because: (no reason given)