Learning to Live With Voices
Although some people may have had them since they were young, often a voice hearing crisis can be quite sudden and unsettling. Also, by reading the experiences of individual voice hearers there are similar patterns that can be seen regarding the overall themes and patterns of behaviour of the voices.
Here is a personal account of living with hearing voices from one of our members: My Journey With Hearing Voices
Types of Voices
There are the Narrators, the voices that give a running commentary of every thought and action and it seems that second and third person are more likely to unsettle a person and get them believing in a conspiracy against them. Narrators say things like ‘He is typing,’ or ‘John is looking at the computer screen,’ or ‘Did he say that out loud?’.
There are the Commanders, the voices that tell a person what to do and if the the command does not seem like it’s harmful a person might do it as a test to verify what the voices are telling them. Commanders may gain more influence over a person the more they are listened to. It can be tricky sometimes because commanders may use things you usually do, such as washing or going shopping, as a command. It is important that you stick to your normal pattern of doing things, otherwise it could cause you doubt yourself and commanders might take advantage of your indecisiveness.
There are the Interrogators, the voices that question a person tirelessly while draining a person of their self-confidence and will-power. They may dig up a person’s history and accuse them of things ranging from somewhat truthful to outright lies. The challenge here is getting enough rest because the onslaught may continue while you sleep or when you wake up.
These are just three of the many kinds of voices that appear to feature in voice hearer’s experiences. In advanced cases some voice hearers may also see, feel, taste and smell things that others cannot. This can be a very difficult experience for a person and often friends and family may not understand how the voices may be affecting their loved one. There is hope and it can come from the voices themselves.
There is Hope
Some people live with their voices quite successfully. Some have never felt overwhelmed by the voices. Their voices are quite peaceful and settled. So reading or hearing of their experiences may give a clue as to how to cope with the more overwhelming kind of voices.
The difference between those who cope and who do not cope with voices appears to be about how much power a person thinks they have over the voices and how much power they think the voices have over them. This is what appears to distinguish those who live successfully with voices and those who do not. This is where learning to talk with voices is crucial.
It begins with small attempts to talk calmly with the voices. When we are fearful of something the best cure to fear is understanding and if we can understand why we are afraid of something we no longer have the same kind of fear. Instead it may become like fearing the sea, a sort of healthy respect. But if you are a good swimmer you have less fear because you understand the sea better.
If a voice is harassing you, you could start by calmly but firmly stating:
“I hear you. Thank you for letting me know how you feel. Right now, I need to [insert important task] but I would like to discuss this matter with you later.” Then make a time and keep it. Keeping your word will become very important as the relationship grows.
Be aware that the first attempt may not work. In some cases, it may worsen for a short time. But it’s important that to believe what you are saying and to maintain a calm tone. Perhaps, practicing what you might say with a friend may help. Little by little in proportion to your own confidence levels rising or falling you may notice changes in the way voices behave. When this change occurs it will be the beginning of a new phase for you. I’m not saying you won’t ever have another psychotic episode but you will know there is a way through the experience. This is what is called conflict resolution. By becoming a kind of negotiator you learn to navigate situations increasing your own confidence and control of the experience.
Becoming a negotiator takes practice. Its also important to know that not everyone is at the same point with the voices. But gradually a person can learn to be a good negotiator.
Rufus May has two videos that may be of great help. They are:
Voices may resist this change for a short time by intensifying, but it’s important to stick to the process. Yes, some have been successful without medication, but others still do well with medication. The goal is to learn to live with voices. The approach is not to shut them out but to show compassion, listening and choosing how to act and react. This is done by setting a firm time to talk with the voices and its vital that a person keeps their word. If for some reason the time is not met then apologies are needed and rescheduling made. Gradually, Narrators, Commanders and Interrogators can become Advisers, Instructors and Reasoners bringing out the best in themselves and you. I’d like to conclude by encouraging you to share your experiences with others on our hearing voices forum at Hearing Voices may you find some peace in knowing others have found a way to live with voices and that may be one day you can too.