Nearly all of us hear voices of one kind or another. My mother hears the voice of her mother criticizing her in her head. Someone I know well hears music in his head – full orchestras. When I do readings, I hear voices describing aspects of the chart to me before I have a chance to notice them. Are we all crazy? Granted, this is nothing like the people whose voices urge them to murder and worse, but perhaps there’s more to this phenomenon than simply classifying people who hear voices as schizophrenics.
An article in the New York Times (thank you Ellie Crystal) asks the question, “Can you live with the voices in your head?” The article cites the work of a group in Britain called “Hearing Voices Network” whose purpose is to bring people that hear voices an opportunity to get together for mutual support. The Times article suggests:
Since the 1990s, a growing number of researchers and clinicians, predominantly based in England, have been comparing voice-hearing in psychotic patients with voice-hearing in nonpatients, measuring the incidence of hallucinations in the general population, and using cognitive behavioral therapy (C.B.T.), a popular, short-term treatment for depression and anxiety, to help them manage their responses to the voices they continue to hear. C.B.T. typically asks patients to scrutinize how they interpret their symptoms rather than focusing on an illness as an underlying cause. “The matter of whether it’s effective, and to what extent,” Lieberman says, is still being investigated. So far, the use of C.B.T. in the treatment of psychoses is much more prevalent in the U.K. than in the U.S.
I’m sure the powerful Big Pharma lobby has something to do with that.
But still, the whole concept of hearing voices opens up doorways that are difficult to enter. We like to think that the voices we hear are from our guides and inner teachers. Could it be that some people hearing voice are actually hearing voices of being that are located in other planes where they can’t be seen, just as we envision our inner guides to be? What if so-called psychotic people are merely tuned in to frequencies that the rest of us can’t hear?
Noted psychologist R.D. Laing raised this question back in the early 1960s when he linked the psychosis with the transcendent:
When a person goes mad, a profound transposition of his position in relation to all domains of being occurs. His center of experience moves from ego to Self. Mundane time becomes merely anecdotal, only the Eternal matters. The madman is, however, confused. He muddles ego with self, inner with outer, natural and supernatural. Nevertheless, he often can be to us, even through his profound wretchedness and disintegration, the hierophant of the sacred. An exile from the scene of being as we know it, he is an alien, a stranger, signalling to us from the void in which he is foundering. This void may be peopled by presences that we do not even dream of. They used to be called demons and spirits, that were known and named. He has lost his sense of self, his feelings, his place in the world as we know it. He tells us he is dead. But we are distracted from our cozy security by this mad ghost that haunts us with his visions and voices that seem so senseless and of which we feel impelled to rid him, cleanse him, cure him.
Madness need not be all breakdown. It is also breakthrough. It is potentially liberation and renewal, as well as enslavement and existential death.
Another leap outside the realm of rational science into the world of magic, this time the magic of the psyche.