Is It Time to Make Peace With Voices?


From the Discursive of Tunbridge Wells: “As with any peace talks, people fear that talking with the enemy will make the enemy stronger. Some people worry that talking with voices will give them more power. However we’ve found that if people have a grounded support network which helps them negotiate with their voices, the voices tend to become less rather than more controlling. The Talking with Voices approach is about communities supporting people to engage constructively with voices. The aim is to help empower them in that relationship and to become more confident to engage in the social world . . .

Engaging with voices is also controversial in the therapy world. For example psychologist Neil Thomas argues that engaging with voices risks increasing their presence in the person’s life and is only beneficial if the voices are benign. Instead, he proposes acknowledging voices’ existence but disengaging from them. I respectfully disagree. If somebody were to acknowledge me and then ignore me I would feel annoyed and disinclined to be cooperative.”

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  1. This approach is a good start, but there really is so much more to it. The thing I observe from the article is that talking about ‘voices’ in the abstract creates for a fuzzy base upon which to act. It’s no wonder there is such wide spread disagreement on whether and how to engage the ‘voices’ when I’m not sure most people, experts and hearers alike, even have a good answer for ‘what are the voices, fundamentally?’ Once you answer that question, the whether and how kind of take care of themselves.


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      • Steve,
        since you put your comment under mine, am I correct to assume it’s directed toward my comment? If so, I think we may be talking about completely different issues. My comment has to do with the question, ‘what fundamentally is a ‘voice’?’ Your reply seems to have more to do with ‘how to handle voice hearing’ on an individual basis.

        How one answers my question will fundamentally affect one’s approach to voice hearing no matter how it is applied on an individual level.

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        • I agree with you. I’m not sure whether I was responding to you or just to the topic in general. I think it’s important not to generalize about how to handle specific manifestations as if they all require the same handling. I actually think that point is quite consistent with yours, as the nature and meaning of voice hearing could also be very different depending on the person in question.

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    • Hi Sam, it sounds like you do have an answer for that question – what are the voices, fundamentally? I’d be interested in hearing your take. I know you look at things from a developmental perspective, so would the voices be those that come from or through our parents/ancestors? Best ~ Susannah

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      • Hello Susannah,
        well, I’ve taken a very pragmatic, humanistic approach, but I would never demean anyone’s perspective that takes a more supernatural or spiritual approach as you seem to have suggested. I just don’t seem to have access to those kind of things no matter how hard I tried to gain access to that realm for most of my life…

        Anyway, when my wife first started hearing voices I remember telling myself they could be A) part of herself, or B) something supernatural that only she had access. And even though I couldn’t disprove B, I thought A was the easier to believe and work with. And so I’ve always followed that course, believing the voices were part of my wife’s larger self.

        Over the course of the last 11 years, my understanding of voices has definitely expanded beyond that very elementary understanding, but I’ve never seen anything in her personal experience that contradicted that understanding. Today I would add the voices are ‘dissociated parts’ of herself caused from the initial trauma. I was also, always careful NEVER to play favorites with the voices: some were kind, loving and easy to get along with, one hated me, others were scared of me…but if they were all part of my wife’s larger whole, then as a husband I felt called upon to love ALL my wife and not just the easy parts.

        I would also add that because of the wonders of the mind, those dissociated parts take upon themselves their own, distinct personalities, and I always honored that part of the ‘phenomenon.’ All but one ‘voice’ had a personal name she had chosen and so I saw/see each by her name and interact with her based on her desire even though philosophically I view them as ‘part’ of my ‘greater’ wife, if that makes sense.

        And so I never wavered from my respectful, gentle and hopefully loving interaction with each of the ‘voices’ and over the course of the last 11 years, the fearful ones became stronger and less afraid. The angry one realized she wasn’t alone anymore and could trust me to help keep the others safe (and eventually she even asked to start dating me). And all of them began to mature and interconnect with each other to the point that they are more a heterogenous group of ‘friends’ than the disconnected group of ‘voices’ that they started as.

        My wife as a ‘whole’ person has expanded as she incorporates each voice into her larger collective self and so we validate the voices rather than having their ‘annihilation’ as a goal which so many experts pointedly express.
        There’s so much more, but that’s some of the highlights…

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