Inventing the Self

Sorry about the late post

November 1st, 2013 by Yitian Liao · No Comments

A few months ago, I was taking train 1 and seated opposite a woman with her headphones connected to her iPod, which was presumably playing music, whilst her mouth formed words that could not be recognized. Her voice modulated up and down, sometimes she screamed. I watched her for almost five stops, then I got off. During the five stops, I was wondering if someone was going to do something to her, and, in fact, no one did.

Some people laughed at her, two young college students secretly glanced at her her and whispered to each other. She was seated on the train, and people sitting next to her did not stand up and leave. At that time, I thought she must have a mental disorder, even though I barely knew what that meant at that time. It is only now that I realize that she may be able to hear voices inside her head.

I like the way Hornstein validates her research. She has a strong point to sell, which is that patients problem hearing voice should be treated in the way of helping and guiding by creating a safe space for them to communicate with normal people or others who face similar problems, instead of putting them in the therapy sessions that makes them ‘confront’ themselves. For some people, the fact of hearing voices could be twisted into inspiration to do creative work— for instance Virginia Woof and Carl Jung. These two individuals are well-known authors, and they took the voices they heard and turned them into characters in their books. Either they were being helped out by others or had overcome the problem themselves – people surrounding them, such as friends or family members, must have not treated them as psychopaths. She criticizes some institutions nowadays which force patients diagnosed as schizophrenics to have medication administered, forced to do CBT and be kept thinking that being able to hear voices is abnormal.

Hornstein, in the reading, interviewed two groups: HVN and the psychiatrist Marius Romme. Both of them use very ‘soft’ ways to approach schizophrenia patients by using no drugs, commutations, and reinforcing the message that hearing voices is not a horrible thing. This is one thing I found interesting in the chapters that hearing voices is actually a normal situation that everyone will meet—

“In an earlier period human history, everyone heard voices….For the first time, her own mental life didn’t seem so bizarre; at least at one time, voice hearing had been a common phenomenon (p. 31, Agnes’s Jack).”

There are several points to make a good “therapy method” to treat mental illness in Hornstein’s search by observing how HVN and Dr. Romme treat their members and patients. Most patients have experienced some form of trauma before they start hearing voices. The institution and doctors should create a safe space for patients to express their feelings. Helping them to find roles for themselves in the community is important as well.Instead of questioning them on how they hear voices, doctors need to show respect for “different belief systems” and a diversity of viewpoints. These rules also apply to people who join the safe space.

Hornstein also mentions when she first time attended HVN conferences, people there said the model to diagnose the level of voice hearing is 100% precise. This point is fully raised in McCarthy-Jones’s Chapter 8. He discusses many experiment and methods currently used in treating or identifying voice-hearing brain. However, none of them are prefect, even the most common used one; all of them have limitations or errors. Some of them are not reliable reference due to the insignificant quantities of sample size. And sometimes hearing voice is not totally equal to psychiatric patient.


When I got off the train, I told the friend I was going to meet about the woman on train, he told me not to worry because there were so many wired people in New York.

“So they are just out there?” I asked.

“Well, no one could actually do anything to them, they are not hurting people.” He said, seeming not care at all.

The conversation later on shifted to which train may have fewer weird people and where to eat. And I almost forgot about her. I do not know the reason that woman on the train was not questioned by other people orally is because New York does have many people like her, making sounds that are indistinguishable, and people are used to it. Or simply because people in New York are peaceful, so that if those strange people don’t cause damage, they just let them be whatever they are. Either of the two, I think, it is better than seeing them and overacting. Apparently, that woman was well taken care of: her clothes were nice and clean, plus her iPod was kind of new. I hope her situation would be one where someone in her family knows her problem and still loves her and understands her like nice people Hornstein describes in HVN.

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