Practical information for people who hear voices
Voice hearers can find themselves experiencing an overwhelming world and their power of reason may be virtually extinguished making it impossible to go about their lives.
Open discussion with others offers a means of helping you to accept your voices.
Communication between voice hearers gives you the opportunity to share experiences and to learn from one another. This can be achieved by joining or setting up self help groups, such as those established by the Hearing Voices Network throughout the UK. (see Additional Resources page)
Voice hearers say it is important to discuss voices, in the process, it is possible to learn to recognise their games and tricks, as well as their pleasant aspects, and to identify patterns which are specific to given situations. This can help you to be better prepared for future onset of voices. Voice hearers may think they are alone in hearing voices. This makes the experience unpleasant and produces feelings of shame or the fear of going mad. Anxiety often leads to the avoidance of situations which might trigger the hearing of voices, and this seriously blocks self development. Anxiety severely restricts freedom of movement, and strategies of avoidance often seem to exacerbate the problem.
Voice hearers seek explanations to account for their voices. A personal approach to understanding can be helpful and there are many disparate perspectives used by voice hearers. An explanatory theory is essential to the development of a coping strategy. Unless some meaning is attributed to the voices, it is difficult to begin to organise a relationship with them in order to reduce anxiety. Perspectives which discourage voice hearers from seeking mastery of the voices tend to yield the least positive results.
In the process of developing your own point of view and taking responsibility for oneself, the essential first step is acceptance of the voices as belonging to me. This is one of the most important and difficult steps to take.
Voices can express what the voice hearers are feeling or thinking, for instance aggression or fear about an event or relationship. When voices offer information in this way, the challenge posed by their presence is less significant then the reason for the feeling. When the voices express such views, it can be valuable to discuss the messages with some one you trust, this can often be a friend, a nursing staff member etc.
When you hear voices that are malicious it is difficult to accept the existence of a positive, helpful dimension to the experience. Contact with other voice hearers can lead to the discovery that positive voices exist, and the realisation that these can be detected, as a result of acceptance of your negative feelings. Imposing a structure on the relationship with the voices helps minimise feelings of powerlessness. It is valuable to see that you can set your own limits and restrain the voices from excessive intrusion on your life.
Sharing experiences enables voice hearers to get to know what medicines others are using, how useful these are, and what their side effects may be. It is important, for example, to know whether a particular medicine is helpful in reducing the hearing of voices or easing anxiety and confusion.
Sharing knowledge about voices with families and friends can be helpful. If family and friends can accept the voices they can be more supportive, this can make voice hearers lives easier, improving their confidence in social situations.
Voice hearers who have learned to adjust to their experiences report that, the process has contributed to their personal growth. Personal growth can be defined as recognising what you need in order to live a fulfilled life, and knowing how to achieve these ends.
Communicating about voices has its disadvantages, voice hearers can feel very vulnerable, some voice hearers find great difficulty in opening up about their experiences, though it can be easier with other voice hearers. Another drawback is that the voices may occasionally become temporarily more acute. All in all, though, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Finally, It is most important to be fully aware of the wide variety of individual situations and circumstances. The best advice is to try to increase the voice hearers influence over their voices, rather than intensifying their powerlessness.
Practical information for family, friends and mental health workers
To assist voice hearers it is important for mental health professionals to examine in detail the frames of reference and coping strategies that seem to be the most useful to the voice hearer. By doing so voice hearers can be supported more effectively in their attempts to deal with their experiences.
The steps in this process are as follows:
Accept the voice hearers experience of the voices. The voices are often felt as more intense and real than sensory perceptions.
- Understand the different languages used by the voice hearer to describe and account for their experiences, as well as the language spoken by the voices themselves. There is often a world of symbols and feelings involved.
- Help the individual to communicate with the voices. This may involve issues of differentiating between good and bad voices and of accepting the voice hearers own negative emotions. This acceptance may make a crucial contribution to the promotion of self -esteem.
- Encourage the voice hearer to meet other people with similar experiences and to read about hearing voices, in order to help overcome isolation and taboo.
Self determination and self knowledge are the keywords.