Hallucinations are Common


Oliver Sacks writes in the New York Times about the commonality, and even positive and comforting roles, that hallucinations can play in the general population. He advises that engaging with hallucinations without fear – and even with good humor – can lead to different and better outcomes than a diagnosis of mental illness.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. See “A Beautiful Mind” for a film representation of this functionally workable psychological move. As Steven Hayes recently posted in ACT for the Public email listserve:

    A lot of folks think voices are so unusual they work differently but
    a) they are not that unusual, and
    b) they seem to work the same as other experiences (e.g., panic; depressive thoughts).

    Back up, notice them, don’t take them literally (neither comply nor argue back/fight),
    learn what experience shows is useful to learn from them (e.g., notice when they occur etc),
    shift attention to what you care most about, link behavior to values

    – Steven C. Hayes, Foundation Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Nevada

    Best to all, rob purssey

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  2. I’ve read a few of Oliver Sacks’ books over the years. Dr. Sacks is eminently readable, endlessly prolific, and helplessly humane. It would be a dream to have him Op-ed at MIA… In fact, taking that thought further, I could envision him doing a book on MIA culture. I urge Kermit et. al to consider contacting him!

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