Madness Radio: Eleanor Longden on Voices and Trauma

Will Hall
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Hearing distressing voices is highly correlated with traumatic experiences, and many people report that their first experience with distressing voices occurs after a trauma. Making the connection can be a vital step in the recovery process. In this interview with UK psychologist and advocate Eleanor Longden, I learned Eleanor’s personal story with voice hearing and her harrowing encounter with a mental health system that only made things worse.

It wasn’t until the Vietnam War and the women’s movement that psychological trauma became widely recognized as a social issue and responsible for ongoing emotional wounding. At that time addressing trauma meant challenging the social and political forces that cause violence; to look at trauma was to look at the injustice of war, the oppression of women, and the social costs of violence of all kinds. As I interviewed Eleanor and heard more about her work to understand dissociation and the psychological dynamics of trauma, I realized that ‘trauma’ itself is now, as a result of being widely recognized, itself undergoing challenges. New neuroscientific and biology oriented approaches have emerged for trauma theory, and we are seeing pharmaceuticals being used more and more as part of trauma treatment. Trauma as a human experience is being lost as researchers are focusing on trauma as a brain condition.

Eleanor’s story underscores the importance of seeing dissociation and trauma not as malfunctions of brain chemistry, but as natural processes of coping with and recovering from violence and mistreatment. Dissociation and voices may be fundamentally creative acts that reflect the health and vitality of a person, not damage and dysfunction. To understand them this way means putting the story of a person’s experience first, rather than categorizing in terms of neurological and behavioral events isolated from their context and human meaning. As we emphasize the role of trauma in extreme states that get called psychosis, it’s crucial to beware of these new contested meanings for trauma, so that the person and their life doesn’t get lost to another wave of neuroscientific and biological reductionism.

Check the show on Madness Radio here: http://www.madnessradio.net/madness-radio-meaning-voices-eleanor-longden

Here’s the show summary:

Hearing voices is strongly connected with traumatic experiences, but are voices a brain malfunction or a creative strategy for protection? UK psychologist Eleanor Longden survived a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and went on to be a leading researcher around voice hearing, trauma, and dissociation. She is a pioneer in the movement to understand voices as a normal human experience — and truly help people by healing trauma.

A first-class recovery: From hopeless case to graduate
The terrifying ordeal of a brilliant student who started hearing voices and then fell into the abyss of insanity
How I tamed the voices in my head
Eleanor Longden – Knowing You, Knowing You

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, I just solved her manifestation with the hook.

    She was HOOKED by “schizophrenia” and it dragged her soul into Hell (psyche wards are one of many Hellish places on earth).

    She says, “I don’t tell you it to shock you or disturb you” – and she says that because she KNOWS it. She knows what it is to be shocked and disturbed.

    Everything is symbolic. The problem with symbolic language, behavior and other expressions is that it can be seen as “delusional” … NON-REALITY. Hollywood movies are the primary example of non-reality.

    When we develop the knowledge that “delusional” non-reality is symbolic, we can break down the message and interpret it for it’s reality, make sense of it and transcend the disturbia and confusion.

    The hook manifestation isn’t her own creation; it’s something that culture and society feeds to us. We all know that being admitted to a psyche ward is doom and can even be a social death. She knew that before she ever went to a psyche ward and when she ended up there, the horror was born (manifest).

    Look back at those childhood and teenage years. Was she hearing a lot of foul talk and verbal abuse? Considering the punk nature of her classmates, I’d say that her environment was probably hostile and abusive, all along. How many horror movies and bad news stories had she ingested? It’s possible that hearing and seeing those things naturally disturbed her – at a very deep level. Some of the lines (catch phrases and sayings) that we are fed have hooks on them. She began to vomit up the societal disease of terror, horror and abuse that is cultivated in so many of us.

    That should explain the hook. Here is an example of a line and catch phrase and popular saying: “You bought it – hook, line and sinker”. See? None of us created that line. We are taught it and we repeat the saying. We’re HOOKED by the line.

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