Inventing the Self

Understanding the Voices

October 30th, 2013 by Sabrina Smith · 2 Comments

Hearing voices is not normal, especially for individuals who have never had the experience. But for people who live with AVH the interaction of themselves and the ‘voices’ is very real. The initial response for addressing this psychological interference is simple: medicate the problem and insist that the episodes need to be handled aggressively. It’s probably a relief that there are new approaches to dealing with AVH and both McCarthy Jones and speaker/psychologist Rufus May offer empathetic alternatives to the voice-hearing phenomenon.

Let’s begin with May’s discussion. He presents two particular ways that voice-hearers can lean seemingly normal lives, one of them being Mindfulness. The fact that a voice hearer becomes keenly aware of what’s happening and makes the attempt to positively address the voice(s) rather than being frightened or trying to desperately to get rid of the condition assists with the episodes. Even further, he makes this interesting statement that the voice(s) should be treated as colleagues to which the person has to understand their reasoning for existence. This is wildly outside the normative approach of psychological treatment because, frankly, why should an individual make conversation with the voice(s) when literature insists that they take drastic measures to not eliminate the “problem?”

But after listening to his talk, I’m not sure if the voice(s) are actually problematic. In fact they can be considered helpful resources to determining the underlying reasons or causes for why these inner selves are disturbed. The intent to learn and grow from their presence in the mind can certainly be helpful to the voice-hearers even though there is not enough computed evidence to suggest that. The camaraderie of these individuals & voices through means of these networks and movements are enough to allow them to function in their lives and eventually overcome the episodes, in due time of course.

McCarthy gives a bit of a contrast to May’s perspective, even though it is not directly stated. The entire article is dripping with empirical evidence and case studies as to how AVH is developed in the brain. Through stimulation of different regions of the brain, it is reported that certain places, when triggered, produce the gray matter that suggest the presence of AVH. When I was reading this, I thought, if psychologists are able to identify disturbed regions that indicate AVH, there might be an inclination to medicate or perform direct treatment on those areas to remove this so called problem, which is, essentially, exactly how this issue has been addressed.

Which brings me back to the idea that this mindful thinking process looks like a productive alternative. And I’m all for techniques that go against the status quo because that’s the only way this called psychology can potentially progress.


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2 responses so far ↓

  • Adam Wagner // Oct 30th 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I agree. Even subscribing to a biologically dominated outlook on most of life, I feel that the way the HVN and Rufus May, in particular this week in our studies, address the voice hearing phenomena might be the most helpful to date. However, I do believe there could be a biological/medical solution to the voice hearing. The problem with the current state of treating this problem with drugs is that we don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with biologically and therefore cannot properly address the problem. Similar to the common cold, all we can do is attempt to treat the symptoms.

  • Yana Walton // Oct 30th 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I was excited to see mindfulness practice being used as a way to mediate the experiences of voice hearing, and to think about the information that voices can tell us about trauma, memory, and resilience. However, I think it’s risky to romanticize this experience to the point where the experiences of voice hearers are “deproblematized” completely, since some experiences seem painful beyond belief.

    As far as medical/pharmacological treatment of AVH goes, I didn’t know that the antipsychotic drugs used to treat this phenomena decrease dopamine levels in the brain. If dopamine levels are connected to happiness, then do these drugs have the added effect of not only making folks too groggy or disoriented to function, but also add to their levels of depression?

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