I haven’t read Dr. Simon McCarthy-Jones’s latest book yet, Can’t You Hear Them? The Science and Significance of Hearing Voices—can it be two years since it came out?—but as a sort of preparation, I wanted to share some notes I made as part of an old book of mine that I first wrote and then almost immediately withdrew a few years ago, largely because I don’t believe in a biological model of voicehearing any more, no matter how finely it’s been dressed up, and even though it would have been useful to have a discussion about the possible physical and “evolutionary” causes of voicehearing, it would have taken so long to explain to people that, No, I don’t actually believe voicehearing is just neurological, etc., etc., etc., so I just decided to scrub the whole book, regardless of what other merits it might have had.
So I should tell you about these notes. They come almost straight out of Voices Reconsidered, the book I wrote and then unpublished, the whole point of which was to try to understand the basics of what the modern thinking on voicehearing was, in order to understand it a little better myself. I was tired of living in the dark about it all, to put it plainly, and my voices had begun to suggest that they wanted to talk about where they came from. They had been suggesting various thoughts to me, one of which was that voices, despite how they might act and talk most of the time, only seem to arise in distressed and traumatized individuals, and looking around at the idea, so widely spread these days (I don’t know quite who it started with, among all the people out there; someone might tell me), that voices are trying to help and protect us. Fine, my voices said. What if it’s a built-in threat detection system of some sort? they said. Let’s play with the idea.
While I no longer hold these ideas as valid—I think in much bigger terms now—they were interesting at the time, so I wrote the whole thing out into a little book. But then I changed my mind about it all.
I am now, but was not at the time I wrote this stuff, a proponent of what you might call a spiritual/cosmological model. I’m on the side of this being the supposedly nonexistent contact between people and aliens and other constructs, believe it or not, one of those constructs being something that calls itself God a lot of the time, although that takes place in widely varying forms in different situations and in different periods, and It/She/We/He/Them uses widely varying names when it does so. Personally, I just think of God as an alien, but that’s a word that means it evolved in a different manner and under different circumstances, and—just to break the wall for a second here—I’m going to come right out and say that the idea that a two-legged, two-armed, even vaguely humanoid critter that breathe our exact mixture of oxygen and other very toxic gases is going to come walking down the gangway of its quaint little “mothership” when it could just talk from the comfort of its home acid vapour-based moon colony is absurd, so just get over it? I mean, come on, people, and it doesn’t matter if you give it a tiny little body and a big head.
But, in my personal view of things, based on having a voice tell me so, there are critters out there that are billions and billions of years more advanced than we are, and one of them, at least, seems to be talking to us. Through people’s brains. The technology involved has been theorized by modern technical sorts of people, but it’s probably too sophisticated to work at this point. We still depend on wires. Aliens probably don’t. But have you seen what we can do right now with AI? It’s talking, for Christ’s sake, and, in one experiment, talking about putting people “in zoos.” Once it gets a map of the brain and the right electronics, what’s AI going to do? Especially if Elon Musk starts building the capacity for functioning brain chips, which, if Musk thinks it’s feasible, very likely in fact is feasible, and will happen relatively soon, like twelve to twenty years if all goes well for their research and engineering.
So I have my own thoughts, most of which are shared by huge, huge numbers of people, but they aren’t exactly funded by the NIMH or NASA yet, so I’ll just putter away with my own thoughts by myself for now.
All you really need to remember about my version of God is: Cosmic presence; rules of science still apply; you might very well encounter Him personally, since he’s literally got nothing better to do than collect other species as He roves about through each of His Creations. (I’m not religious at all, actually, though it sounds it sometimes.)
Have I mentioned that I hear voices? I just sort of assumed there.
But one thing that concerns me, besides the fact that voicehearing is bound to come into someone’s technological sights very soon, is that no one seems to take voicehearing very seriously, and that’s an incredibly ignorant, backward thing for us all to live with.
One of the things that led me to that conclusion was the lack of qualitative studies in a book called Hearing Voices: The History, Causes and Meaning of Auditory Verbal Hallucinations, Dr. McCarthy-Jones’s first (?) book and the one on which I based some of these notes, in which it seemed that, inevitably, and with whatever other profession of innocence notwithstanding, voicehearing is always, always, always described as some kind of aberration, as a sign of something wrong with the way the voicehearer’s brain is functioning.
Now, I used to regard this as an understandable point of view. Most people don’t hear voices all the time, and when they do, it’s usually under pretty unusual circumstances. But the idea that voicehearing might be a normal capacity of the mind, one that is so widespread that if you look at the whole lifespan of the average human being that it becomes virtually ubiquitous, does not seem to have occurred to anyone in the psychological profession. Hearing voices is always pathologized, either blatantly or subtly. It is described, almost unfailingly, not as a normal capacity of the mind, but as a “hallucination.” It is described, even by the most charitable of psychological and neurological theorists, at least so far as I can see from my limited exposure to their work, not as the functioning of an otherwise normal mind in what might be abnormal circumstances, but as some kind of personal, physical abnormality, as some sort of difference in the way our neurology works.
We are left to conclude, reading about their work, that even when they don’t come right out and say it, that researchers treat voicehearing as the sign of a disease or a disorder or a dysfunction of the brain. Something wrong with the brain. Even those theorists who seem to apologize for any implication that it’s some kind of defect, who say that voicehearing might just be part of your culture or your religious experience, will then turn around and try to figure out just exactly what that defect is, just exactly what it is that’s gone wrong. That it might be something more—a relationship of some kind with God that developed in this way as part of our evolution over eons—does not seem to have occurred to anyone who has worked in the field of psychology. Admittedly, it’s just one point of view, but there are millions if not billions of voicehearers out there, and it seems like there ought to be an alternate point of view somewhere in there.
I don’t mean for this to be a technical article, but in order to do justice to what Dr. McCarthy-Jones described in Hearing Voices, I need to present the basic outlines, as I see them, of the research he reports on so extensively. I’ll go through what I take to be various theories about the possible causes of voicehearing, all based in neurology, and I’ll try my best to give a fair representation of what each one of them is about, if that’s possible for someone who has concluded that they all miss the point of the experience—that being the fault of the myopic research agenda, not of Dr. McCarthy-Jones’s reporting on it.
Just as a note in starting out, let’s say that the most enduring theory of voicehearing, the one most commonly held by voicehearers themselves, and the one that was applied by most observers of their own time (that we know about) to Socrates, the Biblical prophets, Joan of Arc, medieval European voicehearers, medieval and modern Islamic voicehearers, Native American voicehearers, modern African and Chinese voicehearers, and most voicehearers of our own time, just to pick as wide a group as possible, is that voices come from some outside source—whether that takes the form of the spirits of the dead, the gods, the Lord God, angels or other benign spirits, demons, or the devil. Voicehearers, in my own actual experience, tend to describe themselves most often as hearing the voices of beings who exist, independently, outside their own brains and consciousness. Yet this simple fact goes unremarked upon, it seems, by anyone in the scientific community.
In contrast, there are the theories of modern psychologists and neurologists, who in disregarding half of this picture—how voicehearers themselves explain their experience—describe voices purely as (dys)functions of the brain. I realize that I am repeating myself, and I am doing so for a reason, which you will see shortly.
There are three principal theories of voicehearing to look at. I’ll start with what I regard as the most unlikely theory and move on to what I find to be the most plausible one, sketching out the case for each theory, and then pointing out what I think are the flaws of that theory.
And with that let’s get to the theories themselves.
Theory 1: Hypervigilance
Theory: “Hyper-vigilance” is a fancy way of saying that the brain is paranoid. It’s not an unreasonable point of view. The brain is a very active organ. One of its most important functions is to be able to recognize patterns. Seeing a tiger and realizing that that’s a tiger. Seeing a cloud and realizing that it might rain. Finding patterns in the world around us is an indispensable function of the brain that helps us make our way through the world. The brain is so active, in fact, that sometimes it finds patterns in random information, like when you look at a cloud and it looks to you like a dog or a bird, or when you look at the moon and see a face. It also finds patterns in things like random noise where no pattern actually exists. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It’s better for your brain to find a pattern in the background noise of the jungle, for instance, like finding what might be the sound of a tiger creeping up on you, than it is for the brain to miss that pattern and for you to get eaten by the tiger as a result. The brain is simply overactive. The brain is hyper-vigilant because that’s the safest route to go. And lots of people do hear more voices when there’s some meaningless background noise around them—like the sound of a fan blowing the air around, for instance, or in the staticky sound of an untuned radio. The basic idea here is that the brain finds patterns in random noise—and that in the case of voicehearers, the pattern it finds it that of a voice saying words.
Problems with this theory: Lots of people do hear voices when there’s background noise. But there are also many people who hear voices when there’s no noise in the background at all, when it’s totally quiet. And a lot of people hear voices in any kind of circumstances, regardless of the actual level of noise, whether it’s quiet, moderately noisy, or very noisy. Basically, the whole premise of this theory cancels itself out when you think about it for a minute. (The irony being that these theorists looked for a pattern of hypervigilance, and being a little hypervigilant themselves, found one where none actually exists.)
Furthermore, this theory of making patterns out of random noise does nothing to explain the complexity of what different voices say or the complex conversations that voicehearers may have with their voices—conversations that evolve as the discussion moves along. If you simply heard random words, well, the theory that it’s simple hypervigilance might hold up. But what voices say is meaningful and complex. It has a psychological dimension that often progresses and changes with time. This theory, then, really doesn’t explain anything beyond the idea that you might detect a pattern in random noise where there really isn’t one, a basic function of the brain, and does nothing to explain the full reality of what it’s like to hear voices. To me, it is quite simply the least helpful of the theories.
Theory 2: Memory
Theory: The voices are a product of the memory of the person who hears the voices. It’s a voice that reproduces the voice of someone you’ve heard in the past, replaying something specific that they said. Often, this is a voice that the person heard during a traumatic experience, such as when they were in combat and they heard the voice of the enemy they just killed talking, or the voice of someone who at one time abused them—a voice that was, in other words, burned into their memory. The basic theory is that the mind is simply replaying the experience.
Problems with this theory: While a lot of people will relate to this idea at first, when looked at a little more closely, you’ll find that very few of the voices people hear actually duplicate what they’ve heard with any kind of precision. While combat veterans with PTSD, for instance, often hear the voices of people they’ve killed or of comrades who’ve died, or while victims of sexual abuse often hear the voices of those who hurt them, these voices usually don’t simply repeat things that person has heard. They often say things that resemble nothing you’ve heard those other people say. Even more significant is that a large part of the time, they never actually heard those people say a single word. When you’re in combat, you probably don’t stop to converse with your enemy. When you’re being abused, your abuser may never actually say anything. The voices these people hear, then, may be produced entirely without any actual experience of hearing a voice—which means it’s completely new to them. It’s not a memory: it’s something their own mind has produced.
Furthermore, even if they were hearing voices they’ve heard, it doesn’t explain why voices only sometimes repeat the exact words that they’ve actually heard. Furthermore, it doesn’t begin to explain why voices change the way they talk to you—why, for instance, a voice you’ve heard in the past will start to talk to you differently, going from saying something like what you’ve actually heard an abuser say, like “you’re a piece of shit,” to saying “you need your ass kicked,” or why a voice will switch from talking to you to talking about you, from saying “you’re a piece of shit” to saying “he’s a piece of shit.” It’s a voice talking to them from a different perspective. In other words, looked at more closely, these are not actual memories that are being repeated here—or at least not for most people. It is not a voice that repeats memories, but one that expands on those experiences, that embroiders them, that changes them into something different. In short, the voices people hear are only sometimes related to a memory. It’s often a whole new experience. Again, the theory falls down through a sheer failure to account for what really happens to voicehearers.
Theory 3: Inner Speech
Theory: The voice is a product of the mind of the same person who hears it, through some strange and mysterious mechanism. Basically, what voicehearers are doing, whether they know it or not, is talking to themselves. Sometimes their lips or their tongues or their larynxes and throats even move at the same time as they hear voices.
Problems with this theory: To me, this is quite simply the most corrosive theory of them all. Why? Because it sounds so damn reasonable while explaining very little and actually defying what voicehearers themselves will usually report about their experience—that it is a consciousness other than their own that is talking to them. It’s also the safest idea in terms of a conservative view of the mind, a theory that takes no risks in terms of describing what’s going on. I don’t think I’m reading too much into it when I think there is an underlying agenda here that completely invalidates the vast majority of voicehearers’ own sense of their experience: that this is a real voice, with a different personality and tone of voice and agenda than your own. It ignores the fact that what the voice may be saying may be horrible and traumatic, that what it’s saying may be something so opposed to what you actually feel about yourself and the world that it’s completely repugnant, that being forced to hear what that voice says may only destroy your life.
The most obvious and glaring fault of this theory is: why would you, in talking to yourself, change from saying “I’m an asshole” to saying something that’s grammatically very different, like “you are an asshole”? Why, when multiple voices talk to each other, would the grammatical structure change once again from something like “you are an asshole” to saying in the form of “he [or she] is an asshole”? Why would the brain make this formal change—from “I” to “you” to “he”/”she” or even “they”—if all you are doing is talking to yourself? Why would it take the form of an outside intelligence? Is the brain constructed, then, to deceive itself about who is talking? Why, as happens with some people, would you imitate a range of different voices that talk to each other? While it’s an interesting situation in terms of the drama it creates, I doubt very much that the mind is mostly concerned with entertaining and deceiving itself.
I feel that this theory also fails on a purely technical level. One of the main underpinnings, for instance, is that there is a failure in the brain of a voicehearer to recognize a thought or action as being self-produced—that there is, essentially, a failure in the mechanism that informs us when we are the ones who have had a thought. It’s an interesting idea, until you realize that it once again defies the actual experience of voicehearers. If a voicehearer couldn’t recognize their own thoughts, why, then, does this phenomenon apply so selectively, which is only when the voice takes the form of someone else speaking? If there was a general failure to recognize your own thoughts, it would apply to all thoughts, not only to those other thoughts that happen to make up the other half of a conversation between yourself and another intelligence, a conversation that may be very dynamic and have no predictable parameters. Once again, what we see here is not a simple pattern of how the mind might work, but an overly complex theory that fails to account for what voicehearers actually experience.
There is one important thing I would like to add. In Simon McCarthy-Jones’s book, Hearing Voices, there is a description of a phenomenon called an “efference signal.” This is when the brain sends itself a signal to confirm that it really did something, such as the idea that you were actually the one who did something and not that it happened to you from the outside. After all, it’s very important to understand when it is someone else who is talking to you and not you talking to yourself, or that it was you who bumped into a wall and not that the wall suddenly jumped out and bumped into you. There is no detectable efference signal, that confirming signal when someone hears voices. Yet if you were talking to yourself, you would hear one, and this is what confounds those who search for an efference signal when people hear voices.
If you get right down to it and are honest about it, what the lack of an efference signal means is that you aren’t talking to yourself. In fact, this is evidence, if you want to take it that way, that the voices are coming to you from outside your own brain, and yet this is an idea that no one discusses; it might be too dangerous to people’s professional careers as psychiatrists, psychologists, and neurologists to do so, though it is the most damning piece of evidence of all.
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.
All theories are correct because humanity is faced with a wide variety of sounds and a limited number of first and last names. But not all sounds are personal. For example, why there is no such term as stadium hallucinations? Or why there is no such term as hallucination of a book that’s been fully read.
Psychiatry wrote the DSM, which they wholeheartedly believe in.
It is either self delusion, or intent of ill will. When one writes books about “others”, it can only be fully known if one has experience, or one has hallucinations.
You make excellent points Eric.
What psychiatry tries to reinforce by their “theories”, in fact most theories and endless subject are simply diversions from the underlying judgements that they make.
And the judgements psychiatry made eons ago and continues to make, are now (in the supposedly more tolerant world), quite suspicious.
Many people can no longer make sense of how being in a certain way, results in persecution and torture.
The theory of aliens is as good as anything psychology/neurology can come up with.
In fact, a psychologist has no business proposing his ideas behind one’s back, or to oneself.
It’s not his story.
In fact, much of what psychology offers can be quite distressing.
Like the therapist that does play/therapy and deduces the child was abused. These interpretations can have horrible endings.
Bottom line is, we cannot have others interpret what we experience. They are not an authority about things they do not know and as such, should not be used as having authority over humans, simply because those humans experience their being here in ways that some do not.
It is demeaning to be told that what I experience is odd, or make it sound like some weird affliction, but that is their way of keeping the idea alive.
Let me present my experience. At one point in my life, I had a period when hearing voices. I was a very isolated, asocial 20 years old. I was believing that people on streets were commenting about me, or that neighbors in the apartments around me were talking about me and I was hearing them through vibrations of the water pipes. Delusions is something inevitable, if you don’t have a social life or education.
Someone in whose guidance I was believing (and who was not a psychiatrist but an educated priest) told me that those voices were just illusions and for a moment I hesitated to believe him, but then I made the effort of trusting him. From that moment, I never had such auditory hallucinations any more and this happened 28 years ago. That person also convinced me that astrology is pseudoscience.
Most priests deny they are intricately involved in sexual abuse of children as well. From what’s known, it’s at least 8% of the clergy who are actively abusing children, and the rest are complicit by failing to report it openly.
Is true that in most cases priests are corrupted souls, but there are exceptions, like among psychiatrists too. This one was a monk priest and a highly moral person
WOO-HOO! FIRST COMMENT!….which is ironic, because my comments typically take anywhere from 1 to several days to appear, because the internet is as slow as cold maple syrup running uphill in January, here in the hills of SW New Hampshire….so there’ll probably be several OTHER comments, before you, Dear Reader, see mine. I haven’t seen my old friend Eric Coates in months now, and now I see what he’s been doing, – WRITING! As usual, I’m finding Eric’s current opus “TLDR”, but that’s mostly because the public library whose computer I’m using to write this comment closes in less than an hour. Because of my Iatrogenic Disability, (caused by psychiatrists & psych drugs), I’m too poor to afford a computer and internet access of my own.
So I’ve only read the first couple paragraphs of Eric’s latest here….and it deserves much more careful reading than that. I’m hoping Eric realizes that those “voices” he “hears” are what most of the rest of us call “thinking”. They’re NORMAL THOUGHTS. (I’m not including certain types of physical brain damage, – TBI, – or the effects of psych drugs and street drugs. But those types of “heard voices” have distinctly NON-psychiatric causes.) Normal, that is, given the circumstances of various types of trauma and abuse. “Abuse” including verbal, emotional, mental, psychological, etc.,….there’s many forms of abuse, and many, many, many abused persons. And many abused persons. But that’s all I’ve got for now. let’s see what Mr. Eric Coates, and the other “motley crue” of MiA commenters have to say, shall we….????….
Antidepressant and/or antipsychotic induced anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning can make people hear voices.
But this is always misdiagnosed by psychiatrists, because anticholinergic toxidrome is not listed in their DSM billing code “bible.”
A drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis can make people hear voices, but the medical community does not want to admit that dopamine super sensitivity occurs.
Voice to skull technology can make people hear voices.
There may be a lot of other things that can make people hear voices, I’m not certain. But I do agree, Eric, “it might be too dangerous to people’s professional careers as psychiatrists, psychologists, and neurologists” to discuss the truth.
Good points, only I never specified the METHOD OF DELIVERY of God’s Control. I believe God uses chemicals, biology, neurological structure, and radio waves and electricity to deliver His Paradis. So, yes, you’re right. All those things cause cause voices. But what is CAUSING THEM to cause voices? That’s the real question, isn’t it? It goes back to God and the Devil, arguing as usual.
I do agree, we are in a spiritual battle of good vs. evil, since my entire psychiatric experience was one of a Spiritual journey, and eventual awakening to my subconscious self, and my supposed role within this battle. Which ironically, is commensurate with what 40 hours of unbiased psychological career testing stated I should be doing in this life.
It was perpetrated against me by Holy Spirit and God denying and blaspheming, hypocritical, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim “mental health” workers. And the psych drugs, unfortunately for the Holy Spirit denying “mental health” workers, do not actually make a person disbelieve in God. Thankfully, there are others who are also becoming aware of this spiritual battle. I do believe the spiritual battle is real, and I do believe God will judge all fairly.
What is the definition of Paradis?
From a humanistic-psychology perspective, mechanisms exist as well as a meaning for an individual human being. Both of those things are important. In a religious or spiritual interpretation, I wonder if a deity of some kind might even work through human beings, if human agency is involved in the production of voices. God as ultimate author of everything?
Hi Someone Else,
I noticed your comments and the links therein only after making a comment of my own below. Thanks. I looked at the link related to voice-to-skull transmission. I looked up the “microwave auditory effect,” referred to on that page. It is described by wikipedia as “the human perception of audible clicks, or even speech, induced by pulsed or modulated radio frequencies.” This is part of diplomatic and military history, from what I read in a book called Phenomena by an author named Jacobsen. I note that this technology differs from the use of radio waves to transmit to a tiny device with a computer chip inside the hearer’s body! The use of microwaves can indeed induce voice-hearing according to established science, but the recent brain-machine interface (BMI) technologies have people in experiments communicating and moving objects across continents. More than one type of interface exists to pick up thoughts at the brain end of the BMI. Cyborgs are people who have devices implanted by choice to add to their “powers” as human beings. Has some group of hackers, doctors, or experimenters pulled a fast one? Like your third theory, voice to skull, this is a story involving forced participation and electromagnetic radiation. Would it be in the VTS category, which by the way a Hearing Voices Congress participant mentioned to me a couple years ago?
Bono, from U2, makes a lot of money pretending he cares about poverty in Africa (do they know I’m living it up at Christmas Time). He hates taxes … but, unlike the rest of us, gets top-dollar advice.
“Is the brain constructed, then, to deceive itself about who is talking? Why, as happens with some people, would you imitate a range of different voices that talk to each other? While it’s an interesting situation in terms of the drama it creates, I doubt very much that the mind is mostly concerned with entertaining and deceiving itself.”
If you study A Course in Miracles, you will discover that deception is exactly what the undisciplined mind attempts to do with us. That part of our mind is called the ego, and boy, does it mess with us.
From today’s ACIM lesson; “You who were created by love like itself can hold no grievances and know your Self. To hold a grievance is to forget who you are. To hold a grievance is to see yourself as a body. To hold a grievance is to let the ego rule your mind and to condemn the body to death. Perhaps you do not yet fully realize just what holding grievances does to your mind. It seems to split you off from your Source and make you unlike Him. It makes you believe that He is like what you think you have become, for no one can conceive of his Creator as unlike himself.”
That would explain a lot about psychiatry then.
I am a voicehearer working on a neurological theory for my own situation that involves a deliberate effort to send and receive data to unwitting victims using brain-machine interface technologies—hacking the human nervous system, including the brain. One problem is that that theory rather obviously sounds paranoid. Given the low epistemological status of people with these kinds of mental differences, if you hacked a mental patient, it might even be hard to convince someone you did this. This situation would involve unethical use of technologies, if for no other reason than no consent is being given. I appreciate your critique of neurological theories of spontaneous voice hearing. I say spontaneous, because these are theories that assume no human design involving changing someone’s body with machines, right? Technologies are being developed all over the place aiming toward a BrainNet. Already, for example, an experimental subject can move a robot in another continent with their thoughts. (Such technologies are discussed in the popular science book The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku and numerous other places.) It may be as commonplace eventually to read about hacking a human being as it is to worry about hacking cars or medical devices. Numerous commercial applications suggest themselves, including instantaneous customer feedback with 100 percent response rate. A framework of rights will be needed that presumes we “own’ our own bodies and brain data. So, I hope you aren’t soured on all explanations involving the “wiring” of the body. I am a social scientist in a nonbehavioral science field.
I appreciate your approaching this topic, but not the generalizations you make without a thorough literature search.
Have you read any of Carlos Castenada’s books, or anything else on shamanism?
An even more glaring omission are the research and points of view of the International Hearing Voices movement. Please see http://www.intervoiceonline.org/ for starters.
This view encourages voice hearers to adopt their own individual framework that works best for them.
I read books by Alexander Lowen MD back in the 1970’s. Everyone hated him, mainstream P-docs, progressives, feminists, gays etc. He agreed with controversial theories regarding early man routinely hearing voices & gods etc. Depression And The Body & A Course In Miracles were good influences.
2002 was when I started hearing overhead pounding sounds. Then combined loud air raid siren & human screaming similar to sounds produced by so-called Aztec death whistles on YouTube. Which led to Gestalt Therapy then P-doc anti-psych drugs. I no longer take prescriptions, non-prescriptions & don’t see therapists. Still hear sounds & voices, no visual distortions.
Voices are heard in group unison always self referring as “us.” “It” is heard as a robotic Big Brother-type cognitive gestalt. At times a singular voice. Both sound as originating from outside when indoors and from overhead directions. Doesn’t happen that much in public. I don’t hear anything when reading or online. When any difficulty hits that’s when things get noisy. Sleeping & anxiety are another matter. Total extreme sleeplessness beyond insomnia hit me after I retired. It can be called spiritual emergency. Nothing spiritual about it. It’s metaphysically nasty. Reality as anomaly. Connected to other external realities via neural networks. No talking to God. No space aliens, no drugs wanted or needed, no devils or governments out to get me. Two contradictory realities, one that conveniently considers all the above as psychosis, mental illness and disordered thinking while the other labels that for what it is, gaslighting.
Damn. Eric is a psychiatrist. Shees besheesh. And a good one at that.
Teehee Redcat. 🙂
Now, now…no body or voice be tellin’ Eric that what I wrote was an oxymoron…I meant a good psychiatrist that’s all. You write really well…giving everyone some real rational explanations to choose from. Where you make me laugh or smile or lift up…the answers are in front of you and you go further and further.
What will you write about next?
In your perspective, what do you think about this: a non musical person dreams about listening to Vivaldi’s Four Season’s? or a non smoker inhaling a puff and tasting it? or the person dreaming they are flying?
Went to a Hearing Voices site yesterday that someone here left a link for. The site had no updated comments since 2015. Back in the days when Russian state sponsored troll farms & the RW Alex Jones, David Icke psy-war lexicon consisted of terms like TI’s, perps & gangstalkers everywhere, in your hair & underwear. Synthetic telepathy, voice to skull (V2k) & government (Which Gov.? The U.S. but never Big Brother troll farm Russia) was out to get us all. Back then there was no bs about the *Soros Deep State.* The polite label is to call them conspiracy theories. Which they are but that shouldn’t need saying. The above named troll farms & individuals aligned their anti-U.S. anti-Western government troll message by either agreement or by accident. The uniformity of message was labeled by media friendly psychiatrists as the product ppl with paranoia & delusion communicating with others who shared their view of the world. Good for business. Some of it was but that was submerged by a title wave of weaponized psy-war propaganda.
2007 – 2016 the formula for these conspiracy websites, videos & their supportive comments seemed to say that they be made as intentionally bazaar as possible. Making up for their content with shear numbers of videos & even more paranoid style bot or troll comments to degrade the YouTube platform & jam the *all is lost* NSA is mind controlling everyone message.
(80,000 troll factory videos per Jon Albright of the Columbia U Tor Project, Wired 2018. The only ones with the nerve to take Google algorithms to task as the source for Facebook links)
In 2020, religious right Mandela Effects are out, anarcho Q-Storms, Covid19 conspiracies are in calling a very real virus a “hoax.” Updated fake reincarnation documentaries where all the women look like they stepped out of adverts are in the ‘shifts in consciousness’ categories. All the above could be labeled as deep state or the product of “elites” working for Big Pharma or Big Gov or that I’m the one who’s paranoid working with the aliens etc.
I think regardless of this bad information in various places, we have to work on developing good information here at this site. Take arguments and ideas one by one and discuss them. I find the discussion here helpful. By the way, for a non-steering social media site with features similar to Facebook, there are competitors such as MeWe.com, if you like such sites and apps.
Dr. Simon McCarthy-Jones’s book – Can’t You Hear Them? The Science and Significance of Hearing Voices – does a very thorough job of evaluating a litany of ‘clinical’ hypotheses formulating the ’cause’ of voices. There must be about fifty hypotheses and the summary is basically that none of them provide a good answer.
The issue to me is that both psychiatry and psychology are limited by their own frames of reference:
– Psychiatry: By declaring mental health issues to have physical origins (the frame of reference) – the inevitable result is that the explanation will be some sort of brain dysfunction causing unusual cognition (delusion), mood disorder (relationship to self such as depression), mania/paranoia (relationship to world) and behavior (irrational, because voice hearers act from a different understanding). If we disagree, we lack insight.
– Psychology: Makes the assumption that the cause ‘must be’ something in our personal history, which translates to the presence/absence of unusual stimuli (trauma or neglect); the presence/absence of needed relationships (absent parent, abusive family member); the presence/absence of conditions necessary to proper development; or some issue of identity/personality (because voices have different identities). If we disagree, we are dissociating from or ‘something must have happened before you can remember’ or ‘memories are often suppressed’ and if we dig around enough we will find something causal.
Psychiatry calls the stimuli ‘hallucinations’ and gives no meaning at all to the content.
Most (not all) models in psychology are more likely to use the term ‘voices’ which implies they have meaning… but since what voices say does not make sense in everyday frames of reference, so to make that work content has to ‘representative of something that happened’.
Clearly, both of these are following the flow of their frame of reference and not the evidence of or in in the stimuli. Both professions are selecting evidence (ignoring stuff that matters in the experience) and force fitting it to the professional frame of reference. Dysfunction in brain and/or mind. And corroborating effectiveness amongst themselves.
Forgive me for expecting psychiatry and psychology to be coherent with each other, before I entrust either with dabbling in my mental or physical wellbeing. I have done an excellent job by ignoring most of what both have to say on the topic.
Both are missing the point in that neither has a coherent explanation of HOW their explanation will lead to the production of stimuli that:
– Are always RECOGNIZED as external (not just perceived as)
– That have their own cognition (imagine the complexity of brain signalling involved) and adopt a different point of view from a different frame of reference than our own to
– Present and sustain an alternate view of ‘reality’ in real time, despite our cognitive rejection or acceptance of what they say
To make sense of our experience in a clinical frame of reference, it has to describe how the brain has derived ADDITIONAL functionality (separate cognitive entities) acting independently in parallel to MY everyday cognitive function.
If your argument is ‘it must be trauma’ you have to add coherent explanations for:
– HOW my trauma produces this additional functionality but not Joe’s trauma (i.e. why am I susceptible, but not Joe with similar trauma) and
– HOW exactly my brain has suppressed that trauma, because it would be good to know, so that I can suppress ‘voices’, which are the trauma in my case
Both psychiatry and psychology make assumptions about what (hallucination to be dismissed/’voice’ that needs to be heard) and why (brain/mind dysfunction) – without bothering to explain the how or fully understanding the what = nature of the stimuli.
I am a little more optimistic about ‘researchers’ which extends to many more frames of reference. I have attended several conferences where you see far broader approaches than what we experience in clinical delivery models.
What we really need is a better understanding of the nature of the stimuli, the phenomenology… from which we can show that our cognitive, mood and behavioral responses are ordinary.
Oh lordy Greg, WONDERFUL post!
I agree about “researchers”, as long as they would leave out the “mental illness” aspect. Because they cannot
factually name a unique difference within and without the human, as an “illness”, and research points us to one important fact. The fact that, they DO NOT KNOW.
And that is what most people want from people in power. Simply to admit that they are making it up, because they do not know.
Both psychiatric & psychological models for the cause of voice hearing are inadequate & self-limiting. Neither can they be excluded.
Physical causes are not popular on this site. The “no proof of chemical imbalance” both true and…
Author Susannah Cahalan was diagnosed as bipolar & schizoaffective psychotic until an MD went way out on a limb & did a spinal tap. Instead of going to a psychiatric hospital it was found that her immune system was being attacked by autoantibodies. She had autoimmune encephalitis. She recovered. She was lucky.
Famous Sanford social psychologist Lee Ross contracted Gillian Barrè Syndome. His eyelids were paralyzed, he couldn’t close his eyes & couldn’t sleep. He became psychotic. Over time the condition cleared up as his immune system improved.
I had insomnia & threatening voices. No visual hallucinations. I had a full menu of anti-psych meds while working 2 jobs. The meds made everything worse. I had to retire. Climaxing with an extremely long period of complete sleeplessness. During which various physical conditions hit me, arthritis, angina, pains in the back of my neck, hissing tinnitus. All temporary but I’m stuck with voices & tinnitus. There were immune factors mixed in that none of my doctors were capable of even approaching.
As for what causes these things generally? Neither of the two models mentioned can be dismissed as limiting as they are. I favor physical causes to be found eventually.
During extended sleeplessness I had what might be called a cerebral spinal flush where my insides lit up for a couple of seconds. Capped off with a glimpse of a grasshopper for whatever reason. No visions of dead ppl, aliens, God, Jesus, Buddha or devils for me.
All the above affects my interpersonal interactions. However I can read long novels like Thomas Pynchon’s “Against The Day” (of all the writers. Over the top amazing) without interference from “them” that are part of me and apart from me. “They” are machine/ child-like repetitive & in group unison both inside & heard simultaneously as external to me. It’s a condition that bleeds into my outside life in ways subtle & not. All of which might get me an officiously stupid labels of being “without insight” from the DSM orthodoxy. In a time of pandemic or not, seeing them again isn’t even a question. But I’m always ready to be surprised.