Our beliefs about the voices we hear and the way in which they present are a powerful influence on, and in, the hearing voices experience. How can we simplify our understanding of the wide variety of beliefs that we form about this phenomenon? How do our beliefs relate to the phenomenology presented?
Our beliefs often get in the way of sense-making. In part, this is because we form beliefs in spaces where we lack good evidence. In order to move forward, we select the evidence that we choose to act on, often dismissing contradictory evidence. This works because we can accept that contradictions exist and still navigate our way toward the belief we have adopted, in effect making it self-fulfilling in the world we live in. Our cognitive bias confirms our belief and we sometimes adopt the belief as a truth, without realizing that it is nothing more than a working truth — a functional idea rather than something that is also true for others or in other circumstances.
The hearing voices experience presents an unusual case because it presents evidence in extraordinary ways that leads us to particular themes of belief. We have a proliferation of beliefs and hypotheses (the only difference being the conviction with which we hold them) that clearly cannot all be true.
Our beliefs about voices are different because we have different evidence and different frameworks of explanation.
For starters, I hear them while most others do not. I explain them on the basis of how I experience the phenomenon and how voices behave. For those who do not hear them and cannot conceive of an unseen source, the reasonable assumption is that it must have something to do with me — my brain or events in my past.
Yet many of us locate the voices outside of ourselves (where we ordinarily experience voices that are ‘other’) because the stimuli go way beyond words or voices, with effects that I equate to body language — distance, clarity, direction, tempo and style deployed in tactics that display sentience and intent. This seems unbelievable to others and is readily dismissed, introducing conflict between hearer and non-hearer beliefs.
Let me illustrate by way of example, showing how my own beliefs developed as my experience progressed and I gathered more information. I will show how the phenomenology as presented led me to locate voices in particular ways that shaped my beliefs, narratives and sense of agency.
At first, I had no concept of what “hearing voices” meant, other than glimpses from occasional news articles which were clearly not good sources of knowledge of the phenomenon or experience, and I interpreted them as people in my everyday environment.
Located in My Everyday Environment
My experience began when I heard two people talking about what I was doing, when I was home alone. It was unexpected (the prompt that got my attention), so I needed a reasonable explanation (answers). I heard voices that were distinct and quiet — as if at a nearby distance speaking softly. It had to be people, and two comments led me to conclude that it had to be my upstairs neighbors and rationalize why it was them.
Voice 1, female sounding: “He seems to be OK.”
Voice 2, male sounding: “Hmmph,” somewhat disinterestedly.
Voice 1, “He eats better than we do.”
They could see what I was doing. The only place from which that was possible was from the external fire escape. The only people with access were my upstairs neighbors. The fact that my upstairs neighbors were a couple offered corroborating evidence.
This was rather unusual and I needed a rational answer for why they would be observing me through the window. I had hurt myself that afternoon and made a lot of noise. I inferred that my neighbors must have heard the commotion, that they were concerned enough to feel the need to check on me and did so from the fire escape because we did not know each other. Also, they seemed to display different levels of interest or intent with some tentativeness in their style.
No other plausible explanation presented itself. In other words, the phenomenology (content, distance, clarity, personalities), in context, led me to a very specific and reasonable ‘belief’ which located the voices as people nearby, which I identified as my neighbors by a logical process of exclusion of alternatives.
In my case I ran upstairs after I had eaten to let them know I was OK. There was no answer to my knocking and I left it at that, satisfied. My chain of evidence was intact — the process of reaching a conclusion or closing off questions was complete and stable.
Instead of describing this as delusional, how can we analyze it differently? I simply asked the obvious questions that the unusual stimuli provoked. Let us examine how the questions led to beliefs.
The stimuli prompted the basic what? question (two voices nearby, the evidence). This led to how? (from the fire escape, the means) and who? questions (the upstairs neighbors, a logical inference). The why/why me? question (I had hurt myself, the rationale) was actually based on an answer to when/where?. I now had a logical chain of answers that “made sense,” by which I mean one answer led to another question and answer in a logical series that was complete and coherent — there were no nagging questions remaining. If anyone else had challenged my reasoning that day, they would have accepted my explanation as entirely logical, not delusional.
This is the belief “system” I refer to — a logical series of basic questions to which we seek stable or coherent answers that make up our picture of an object in flux. In another context my answers might have been different, but the questions would have been the same, which gives us a different way to systematically examine our beliefs.
When I heard my neighbors’ voices the next day, instability crept in to my why? answer — they now seemed a little nosy. A few days later when I began to hear them in my bedroom and bathroom, there was no reasonable why? answer anymore, which closed off paths of action — approaching them would now simply yield a denial of their unacceptable behavior.
They now seemed to be spying on me and I spent some time exploring the how? question, assuming it had to be technological means (also based on the location context) — cameras on my own phone and PC, or hidden cameras. The only reasonable course of action open to me was to find evidence of their bad behavior to confront them with. Notice how a simple change in where I heard voices destabilized the chain of evidence and created a new experience — of being spied on — simply by opening up basic questions to new answers.
I now call this a soap opera narrative, where the villain is someone known or unknown in my life, based on the ‘proximity’ with which voices presented which located them in my personal world. With this location as the context, the only plausible answers to who? and how? questions were the neighbors and cameras. Variations on this how/who/why chain proliferate in the hearing voices community, with how answers derived from the way the phenomenology makes its presence known and who/what based on other behaviors of the phenomenology. Since we cannot fathom why, we tend to find an answer for why me to complete the evidence chain.
A Location That Tracks My Movement
The next change came about when I began to hear the voices outside of my apartment — this new presentation meant that my how answer no longer made sense and the whole evidence chain opened up.
First, I began to hear them just outside my front door, then on the staircase, then in front of the building and finally along the street. It did not seem reasonable that my neighbors could somehow be following me on the street. I needed a new answer to how? and who? and the only plausible answer was likely to be some organization, unknown and with unreasonable intent, such as the CIA — any organization that might also plausibly provide a how? answer, which must now account for the experience of being followed on the street.
I now located the voices in the world at large, with a belief that ‘they’ were acting with greater malice than, say, my neighbors, because their apparent technology was now inexplicable to me. I had no idea what powers they had and my questions shifted to what does this mean for me, or others? I was now assessing the implications based on a chain of evidence made unstable by a weird presence that could not be ignored. This is the basic mechanism underpinning paranoia — a bad actor, out of reach, assumed to have power based on the weirdness of the phenomenology experienced.
I call this a conspiracy narrative because voices later used this “following, knowing and anticipating” experience to claim I was caught up in some conspiracy.
Locating Voices in the Brain
A day or two later I went to see my doctor, who described what I was experiencing as ‘auditory hallucinations’. I had a new and apparently well-accepted answer to the what? question. I interpreted this to mean that my brain was somehow misfiring and I located the voices inside my brain, as the only plausible explanation.
I could not observe a source for the stimuli even though the experience of the voices was external and I was forced to confront the plausibility of the “mentally ill’ narrative. Nothing in my history supported the idea of mental illness or unusual distress or trauma. The term ‘hearing voices’ was and is an inadequate description of the stimuli presented, which were quite unlike anything experienced before. I could not fit the phenomenology to how I imagined hallucinations might be — they were too complex and behaved in sentient ways that I could not accept as me. Nor could I see how trauma could cause such traumatic stimuli. Mine have even composed songs for me with mellifluous music — even though I am not musical at all.
None of the clinical or psychosocial explanations made sense in that none offers a reasonable, or frankly even plausible, hypothesis of a mechanism by which the brain can create these complex stimuli. I lacked good how? and why? answers to what made these stimuli so provocative and bullying.
Locating Voices in an ‘Other’ Supernatural World
At about this time, I developed what is called a thought echo. The effect is to bring one’s own thoughts into focus in the same bandwidth as the voices I could hear — lending itself to ideas of telepathy or other supernatural how? answers.
There were now about ten voices with distinct personalities that responded tactically when I ‘thought’ back at them. I was in control of my thoughts — and voices were heard in parallel. My thoughts were suddenly experienced as having consequences in this interaction with every thought expressed and shared, beyond my control.
This interactive to-and-fro in the phenomenology made me firmly locate the voices as external to me once again. Now with only questions, no stable answers in the evidence chain because in an ‘other’ world, inexplicable, anything becomes plausible, even possible. The only evidence is what voices say and how they behave. And our cultural beliefs come into play.
Soon voices began to suggest and assert answers. They claimed to be people who had died, trying to connect with the fairly common belief in some sort of hereafter to locate themselves in specific cultural beliefs involving good and evil ‘spirit’ entities, as most do. Soon they claimed to have a hold over members of my own family, torturing me by placing my thinking in the middle of a battle between good and evil, wrapped in religious themes. Worse, I experienced it as downright evil.
Soon, one claimed to be God. Then, as I pushed back, the devil. Then an evil God — behaving as threateningly as they could and deploying special effects to try and back up those claims. Of course, each of these was designed to assert maximum power over me and lead me to beliefs that give them power.
Cultural beliefs accept only the good and are more likely to blame the hearer than accept a challenge to some cutesy belief from which they gain social acceptance. Broach this topic and you are branded as a heretic and threatened with the modern equivalent of being burned at the stake — it must be something the hearer has done, is the inference made.
This ‘other’ world location makes the most sense in the experience of the “supernatural “ (as in as-yet unexplained) phenomenological special effects. The lack of evidence or provenance means that voices can assert answers to what/who? and why? questions, with how? simply a fait accompli that can not be ignored. They presented themselves as supernatural beings with power. They engaged me in scary ways to encourage beliefs in their power and their evil intent — and made threats backed up by aggressive phenomenology.
Locating voices in another world supports spiritual and cosmic narratives — what I call cosmic opera. A space in which what/who and so what? answers can take on any characteristics — and here we see many ‘unusual’ belief systems. Including our cultural interpretations.
Note that even here we can analyze our belief system using the basic questions that the unusual stimuli provoke. Doing so helps show that voice claims can be rejected as without evidence.
We will find a how? answer based on our experience of the phenomenology, the what? evidence we observe and experience. It might be someone in the next room, telepathy, voice to skull technology or some supernatural means — made plausible in the way the phenomenology is experienced. The how? answer leads directly to where we locate voices.
The fact that we so often find a who? answer when asking where the stimuli come from shows that we experience the stimuli as sentient entities with intent, most often experienced as being harmful in the sum of their interaction, even if sometimes ‘pleasant’.
It is first the phenomenology that leads us to locate the who/what? in self, my world, the world or an ‘other’ world. Each location fuels themes of beliefs and shapes our emotional response to them as well as our sense of agency.
A my world location leads to soap opera type narratives, locating in the world leads to conspiracy narratives and locating in an ‘other’ world easily leads to spiritual themes and cosmic opera.
The exception is the location in the brain as brain malfunction or some psychosocial cause, which derive from accepting one or other clinical-based narrative which locate causality internally.
It is relatively straightforward from here to see how each defines a relationship with the phenomenon and how it interacts in our world, and how it affects our relationships with others, through conflicting beliefs and rationalizations of causality.
Start with the answer to how? and we can examine the logic of our so-called delusions. Doing so requires the suspension of beliefs and a focus on the phenomenology. That way we can find a path to using the same evidence to figure out what this phenomenon is all about.
Everything flows from the phenomenology.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thank you Greg. I appreciate your wisdom.
It seems important to me that we are all able to define ourselves and our experiences and find ways to understand our humanity that accord with what we know and understand ourselves. Depriving another of this sovereignty and believing we have the right to impose out own experiences and understandings on another, and setting about doing so is more than disempowering – it is dehumanising.
It seems to me anyway, that to interact and to take our place in the common humanity we need to be able to locate and express our selves as individual fragments of that whole. Arrogantly taking away the right to do so, feels to me to be synonymous with taking away our ability to be able to part of humanity and the physical world as ourselves, and that is bigger than any other theft we can inflict.
Thanks out. Whilst I agree that we all define ourselves I also know that we can learn from the experiences of others. I have found that there are many similarities in experiences that arise from characteristics of the phenomenology.
So, when the characteristics of the voices I heard were:
– a male and female voice speaking nearby, as if they did not want to be overheard (the ‘evidence’ voices presented),… it was inevitable that I would make the logical inference that the voices belonged to the couple upstairs, since at that stage I had no idea what ‘hearing voices’ even was
– when voices feigned a new capability of following me, an experience created by a progressive shift (over a few days) in where I could hear them (non verbal cues), at my door, then just outside my door, on the stairs, at the door to the street, then on the street… AND deliberately WITHHELD responding to my questions about what they were, it was inevitable that I would form a belief about what/who they were that accounted for i) their ability to follow me and ii) other malign behavior… a believe that GAVE them power commensurate to their observed behavior… AND later
– when they began to ASSERT that they were spirit entities, supported by a now telepathic like interaction with my thoughts (as opposed to voices I could hear at a distance), regardless of whether or not I accepted those assertions (I didn’t, mostly), my brain still TESTED those hypotheses to create experiences that were pretty extreme.
It was voice behavior that shunted my frames of reference to each of the three worlds, populating each with new villains, by sharing, withholding and asserting information that LED my belief formation in predictable ways, based on how the brain functions. Function we all share.
It was clinical professionals that led me to test the idea that voices were somehow generated by my brain, an idea that for me was not consistent with the strategic sharing, withholding and asserting evident in voice behavior.
My responses to the unusual information presented was quite natural – in fact the formation of these unusual beliefs RELIES on my brain to function as one would expect it to respond to weird info presented in an inexplicable way.
I am hoping that others will recognize some of these characteristics of the phenomenology in their own experience of it and see that their response is often just their predictive brain doing it’s natural thing.
You wrote this so well I get it.
I think this might be whats going on with a friend of mine. When she says “they are trying to ruin my life” but won’t tell me who they are. There is other stuff I am not writing out as I try to be loyal to freinds and even though this is anonymous screen name combined with an almost zero chance she would be reading this website betrayal is betrayal as she highly values privacy.
How the heck do you ask someone if they are hearing voices ?
Anyway again good job explaining what this is like, never heard voices but I definatly got a better understanding.
And my own experience with ‘other worlds’ pergatory-hell. I don’t think it had much to do with my existing cultural beliefs, I think people had these experiences first and they were the basis of most cultural beliefs.
I agree with cat that you explain things very well. You’re writing is very informative. I hope to read more.
I have never experienced hallucinations. But after coming off “medication” I did suffer from more serious problems than I had had before. But it was possible to do something about this.
Thanks Cat and Fiachra, glad you gained some understanding from it.
We are reluctant to admit to hearing voices for several reasons:
– we quite literally may not have a clue what it is. I was quite convinced my neighbors had taken to spying on me, until I went to the doctor who described it as “auditory hallucinations” and I discovered that it was a known ‘phenomenon’. At first, I was relieved that my doc had heard of it, that it happened to others and that there may be a solution (turns out later that the drugs did nothing for me)
– we are afraid of the implications, both in terms of how we see ourselves (my brain / mind has always been my greatest strength, the idea of being ‘mentally ill’ made no sense) AND how others (friends and family) will react, or more importantly, how it might change those important relationships that we rely on.
It was a close friend that got me to go to the doctor – by BEING that close friend. He made it easier by saying – “get some professional advice, you have nothing to lose” (appealing to my logic) and by saying “I am here for you and will help in any way you need” (the emotional appeal).
You help someone by being their friend and making it as non threatening as possible – ONLY a good friend can have that conversation without it being a major problem, so don’t be afraid to address it gently in a helpful rather than challenging way.
To add – there are more forms of help than going to the doctor – since you are in here, you know that.
What I got from the docs “auditory hallucinations” description is that there is such a thing that is known about, that others experience it.
What I did not get is sensible help. Anti psychotics did nothing for the weird stimuli, made me dull (which projected onto life in general) and I gained huge amounts of weight.
Hearing Voices groups helped in that people there “got” what was happening and were more supportive and importantly, listened. They are inclined to fuel more unusual beliefs unless you guard against it.
Early intervention programs offer good support if acessible to the person.
I apply techniques from neuro linguistic programming to own my reaction/response and control the experience. They help people be more objective instead of being stuck in the subjective experience of it.
Available on my YouTube Channel https://youtu.be/GHXbduh9RRQ
Really interesting, thanks for sharing your story
“We will find a how? answer based on our experience of the phenomenology, the what? evidence we observe and experience. It might be someone in the next room, telepathy, voice to skull technology or some supernatural means — made plausible in the way the phenomenology is experienced.”
Thank you, Greg, I think you are the first blogger on this website to have mentioned the existence of voice to skull technology. I do agree, a major problem with the psychiatric DSM theology is the psychiatrists total disinterest in etiology, or how and why a person experienced a particular phenomenon.
To psychiatrists all “voices” are caused by “bipolar” or “schizophrenia,” because other etiologies are not billable DSM disorders. It such a mind bogglingly simplified and stupid theology, it’s almost shocking so many can believe in it. Thanks for sharing your perspective.
…like in Medieval times.
Thanks Someone Else – I will check out that link.
To be clear, I do not believe that Voice2Skull technology has anything to do with it. Humans have heard voices for millennia, V2K is recent.
The point I am making is that a belief about what voices are gains credence when we can hypothesize a ‘how?’ answer that is itself credible.
– when I thought I heard the neighbors, the ‘how’ that gave it credibility was “from the fire escape”, which was the only place from which I could be observed
– when voices created the experience of following me using non verbal cues, in the form of bringing my focus to where I could hear them as a progression from at my door, to outside my door, to on the stair case, to at the door to the street, to on the street… I needed a NEW explanation for ‘how’ this could happen, and I changed my belief about what/who voices were accordingly. We might believe that V2K is a PLAUSIBLE ‘how’ answer, which could make us belief that some government or secret agency is doing this – but as I say above, this is simply not a logical answer.
– similarly, when voices began to claim to be spirit beings, the phenomenology was now a telepathic like interaction at the level of thought, that made the idea of interacting with a spirit entity SEEM more plausible, BECAUSE it offers a (supernatural) explanation for how.
I had to account for ALL THESE…
– the neighbors ‘from the fire escape’, then
– the neighbors, using cameras to spy on me in my bed/bathrooms, then
– who knows who, following me on the street (voices were encouraging me to think conspiracy theory and the CIA) and then..
– spirit beings, CAPABLE of interacting telepathically at the level of thought
The point I am making is that there are characteristics in the phenomenology (the ‘how?’ “evidence” we try and account for) that shapes how we characterize the ‘what/who?’ answer… and that we form a belief system that connects these answers and locates the villain/voice in a particular way.
I am not saying there isn’t a phenomenon…. I am simply saying that we DO NOT KNOW what it is, we experience as external because it behaves sentiently…. and in attempting to explain it we are asking questions that shape a belief system that connects how, what/who, why and why me answers together that SEEMS reasonable (at the time)…. only because we struggle to find better answers. The belief I accept is based on
– the phenomenology I experience
– the HYPOTHESIS that seems to provide a good answer to one of the basic questions in the logic chain
– the ‘how’ answer is closest to the phenomenon and is a key factor in making the belief ‘unusual’ to others, because it accounts for the ‘unusual’ evidence the hearer has and others do not
I had many beliefs – each de-stabilized by a shift in one answer in the what/who, how, why, why me logic chain.
My first belief, “It’s the neighbors was a very logical inference, strongly held as a result. The distress arose from the fact that neighbors should not behave that way.
My second belief was an “I don’t know who/what this is, but any answer must account for the fact that ‘they’ (there were now many voices) can follow me”. At the time, I had not seen that the experience of ‘following’ was a trick, created by non verbal cues. And that by WITHHOLDING answers to who they were, voices were LEADING me to self populate my answer with one that gave them the ability to follow and anticipate me.
My third belief was “auditory hallucinations”, which to me meant my brain misfiring. This didn’t hold as ‘true’ for long, because it did not explain how well voices were deceiving me, or why they were so cruel and aggressive.
My fourth ‘belief’ was in fact DOUBT about what voices were, because they made a string of ASSERTIONS about who they were, OBVIOUSLY designed to create confusion and doubt about who/what they were, becvause that gave them a greater hold on my mind. This is in part a result of my response, which was to reject their assertions. Either way, my brain tested every assertion as an hypothesis and created the extreme experiences associated with each assertion of power as people who had died, then minions, to god, then god, then the devil, then an evil god, then aliens.
Since their strategy was to scare, deceive, confuse and make complex, the assertion that “made sense of” all that awful behavior was the assertion that one was the devil – from whom that kind of behavior was to be expected.
This does not mean that the voices is the devil or that there is a god or even a life herafter…
it simply means that there is a strange phenomenon that sets out to deceive us into believing (or having doubts about) ‘something’ about them that GIVES them power, until you learn to rject it all.
Apologies for the length of this answer – it hopefully gives another slant with more emphasis on the experience of it, which includes my response.
I love this further explanation/slant.
I understand that people seem to draw lines between voices and thoughts.
But honestly, it is all about trying to reach conclusions?
The concepts of realities boggle the mind and I wonder how for instance a psychiatrist “rationalizes”, after all, his thoughts are about others, not himself. He too frames what he sees as odd and applies belief.
Honestly Greg, I see you as having potential to be a psychiatrist. Would it not be most helpful to have within psychiatry many visions of possible experiences? To further greater understanding or efforts to understand and accept the myriads of minds not as pathological but as bridges?
The biggest mistake I continue to see and a reason why I am anti-psychiatry is the extremely narrow views of the practice, and to APPLY those views onto the great landscape of life and experience.
It kills ability of communication, with no room to flow and could be viewed as extreme short sightedness.
I think your take on it, is one of the ‘healthiest’ that I have read. It brought a calm to me, and it is something I am learning about myself is that a great deal of stimuli is not calm inducing and so dependent on my experiences, which I know not all of, the stimuli can for sure bring me down.
I realize that often I considered my reaction the pathology when in fact the stimuli I am experiencing is the pathology. It could be said that the processing is the problem, yet at some point, we know that we are not alone on earth and that our interactions indeed matter.
Thank you Sam,
My approach has been to stick to language that ‘makes sense’ as much as possible so that when you think about it later, or ‘voices’ provoke we at least have a ‘platform’ that is stable.
I found it hugely beneficial to separate:
– Stimulus (And to note which characteristics I was reacting to)… from
– My cognitive ‘reaction’ – the immediate processing of the stimuli (the available info)… from
– How we GIVE meaning to the stimuli as they unfold, which by nature includes where/when I experience it and MY response to it.
That way we can see that ANYONE who:
– Overhears two people talking about their activity will infer that
— They are nearby (near enough to be heard)
— They have line of sight (to observe activity)
— And in the physical location they are in, they will hypothesize how this interaction is coming about
— And since the topic in conversation is me, my activity, I will ask why and why me… and find the best answer we can.
… in my case the stimuli mimicked my upstairs neighbors, convincingly.
i.e. our cognitive response is entirely as expected and the answer is ‘believable’ even if the ‘people nearby’ are behaving outside a social norm, as people sometimes do.
It is as the stimuli progress that ‘apparent’ confusion sets in.
When those same stimuli mimic ‘learning’ how to follow me onto the street, start talking TO me (vs about) and comment on my movements in an anticipatory fashion (he’s going to the supermarket…)… my interpretation of what “is happening” = the ‘mimicked’ scene I am actually experiencing as ‘real’ or as ‘real’ as everyday stimuli = a group talking to me about where I am headed…
My cognitive response has to account for that and unless I have a ‘better’ = more ‘probable’ way of making sense of it… I will “speculate” until I find a ‘plausible’ answer, which is simply better than none at all. Note the shift from probability as my standard to plausibility – a simple facet of the ‘availability’ of evidence… and now we are edging into ‘belief’ territory rather than probability.
The actual probability has not changed… but who cares… I am the one experiencing it, it is ‘possible’ theoretically that it could be some clandestine group (fill in CIA. Mossad, Freemasons… any one that you have some picture of)… so we ask why / why me… what would make the ‘victimization’ of me by ‘the CIA’ ‘plausible’
… and all ‘voices’ have to do is make a barely plausible suggestion – “You shared a post about Ed Snowden!! It’s the CIA!” and voila, there is an ACTION I took that is evidence that the CIA (who are monitoring ALL phones, incl the one I posted from, per Snowden, of course) and the dots have connected on…
“It’s a conspiracy” and everyone you know who shared Snowden after you shared it with them is in the poo.. too. And it’s all my fault! Those dots connect and we experience it as real before we get a chance to step back and say
…wait a minute… to discover we can’t DIS-prove it, or prove that it is NOT the CIA
.. and then later.. voice fella says “I am God, greggieboy” and I have CHOSEN you to be my second coming. Will you rewrite the bible?”.
In this case my reaction was to dismiss it (I’m pretty sure I am not the second coming (it’s improbable), though it is pretty easy to convince oneself one could be (plausibility), lol)
.. but in the ‘wait a minute’ stage when you zoom out for big picture ‘sanity check’… you can’t ask yourself “Why would the CIA…??”
… because asking why would ‘God’… shows.. I have a history and a back story… in human history. I have a build up, a purpose, a job to get done and there is a plan for it… foretold
God voice says “You ARE the second coming greggieboy… because I will MAKE You the second coming”.. and now DIS-proving everything voices claim becomes a bit more difficult. And clearly ‘God’ as ‘revealed’ (i.e. his own version of himself which is unpleasant to say the least) is not a figment of my imagination or my personal history or brain dysfunction – I have to account for ‘him’ and his story (stories more accurately), somehow. There is baggage to deal with!
… and this ‘narrative’ still ‘makes sense’ as in is coherent or follows from earlier experiences in a way that each phase makes sense of the previous as the story unfolds, without necessarily making sense as ‘true’ or to anyone else.
As long as the dots are connecting ‘plausibly’ in my BRAIN, I am experiencing it.
We are social mammals working together ‘socially’ to create a ‘greater’ good, as in greater than we could achieve as an individual. We are ANTICIPATING those around us to find partners in action to create something ‘better’.
To do so the brain is projecting – asking ‘is this ‘plausible’ before we work to create the conditions in which we can make it ‘probable’.. In the mind, plausible is a good starting point… in the world, persuading others, we need to show ‘probability’ ‘if’ specified action.
In the ‘other’ worlds ‘voices’ drag us into, plausibility is a good enough standard for things to ‘make sense’, a simple precursor to ‘making a reality’. When we understand our narratives as a function of an evolved mind programmed to anticipate and speculate in order to create… they are much easier to make sense of.
Lol, that was practice and I got a bit carried away – I am writing up a next step to this ‘Where we locate voices” article, which talks to about how our cognitive responses and narratives are pretty logical, when you understand:
– the characteristics of the stimuli that
– shape our cognitive response defining the ‘characters’ (from where they are located) in our
– narrative of what we experience, as the stimuli progress over time.
Everything flows from the stimuli and the where / when of them.
And Sam… thank you for your comment “I think your take on it, is one of the ‘healthiest’ that I have read. It brought a calm to me” – that is a great compliment that is very much appreciated.
Thanks Someone Else,
I also hope the article shows how phenomenology creates experience and that the experience can be described as a natural response to unusual stimuli.
Psychiatry ignores the phenomenology, without seeing how it causes other so called symptoms.
Psychology is inclined to psycho analyze me, also without seeing the relationship between phenomenology and experience.
I have no idea what “causes” ‘voices’ – I do know that by seeing how these weird stimuli provoke the mind, I can learn to manage my reaction/response and prevent the recurrence of psychosis or extreme states.
If the sound-voice is real it can be recorded or amplified. If the sound-voice is real there is a direction to it like a left or a right direction. If the sound is real you CAN get away from it, its only a matter of time and distance. The voice can help and/or trick, you never know which it is going to be. You can wear ear plugs in both ears or just one ear. You can play music (louder than the voice) , you can go to outdoor places that are quiet and only have sounds of nature (too quiet for the voice to manifest).
Take photos take notes as in the passage of time we can and do forget the past.
I have never been a fan of the term “hearing voices” because it does a poor job of describing the characteristics of the stimuli. Whatever it is (we do not know), the most common experience of it and one that makes it distressing is that we CANNOT walk away from it, nor do we have any sense of it’s origin.
You see this in the nature of the beliefs that we form:
– in accounting for the presence (the what/who answer) it is something external that has it’s own volition and is present/absent by it’s own choice. i.e. we experience it as having agency
– descriptions of how ‘voices’ behave mostly assign bad intent, in part because of the above (making it unwelcome and intrusive) and because of it’s behavior (commanding, cruel, making assertions of influence, claiming to intervene)
– even amongst those who describe some voices as friendly, by far the majority add a “but” that qualifies that statement. You see this in the descriptions of the relationship – it’s like living with a psychopath – sometimes loving (manipulatively, sometimes cruel. It is a fairly typical abusive relationship.
– some who cast the voices as a spirit entity, BELIEVE that ‘spirits’ are helpful (because this is more closely associated with our belief IN a greater good, questionably, in my opinion) and they RATIONALIZE bad behavior as having some unknown, hidden, even unknowable “meaning”. This is finding a rationale that fits a belief – a poor process for evidence seeking or evaluation.
For a thorough discussion of the hypotheses that look for a physical (brain form or function, chemistry, genetics) read Simon McCarthy’s “Can’t You Hear Them?”. He discusses over 50 hypotheses, none of which does a good job of describing the phenomenon, let alone how it arises.
A good piece, illustrating how delusions come to be, in this case, as an attempt to explain the reasons behind the appearance of certain audios and their proliferation.
Thank you bcharris, glad you liked it.
Hi, I have a few James Hillman’s quotes here – (James Hillman is THE ONLY ONE FAMOUS PHENOMENOLOGIST OF THE PSYCHE).
To mythic consciousness, the persons of the imagination are real.
Psychological awareness rises from errors, coincidences, indefiniteness, from the chaos deeper than intelligent control.
Something always has you in mind.
Is there a reality that is not framed or formed? No. Reality is always coming through a pair of glasses, a point of view, a language–a fantasy.
The word “normal” comes from the Greek norma, which was a carpenter’s square, that right-angled tool for establishing straightness.
The horizon of the psyche these days is shrunk to the personal, and the new psychology of humanism fosters the little self-important man at the great sea’s edge, turning to himself to ask how he feels today, filling in his questionnaire, counting his personal inventory. He has abandoned intellect and interpreted his imagination in order to become with his “gut experiences” and “emotional problems”; his soul has become equated with these. His fantasy of redemption has shrunk to “ways of coping”; his stubborn pathology, that via regia to the soul’s depths, is cast forth in Janovian screams like swine before Perls, disclosed in a closed Gestalt of group closeness, or dropped in an abyss of regression during the clamber up to Maslovian peaks.