Voices and their relationship to life history

Our case studies have shown us that there are at least four different ways of formulating the link between the voices and someone’s life-history. As a:

Historical relationship
Hearing voices very often starts with traumatic experiences or social emotional problems of very different intensity. It could be losing a job, losing custody of children but also sexual abuse, physical abuse, being bullied over long periods or being seriously emotionally neglected, not having learned to express or cope with emotions. Frequently people become enmeshed in a combination of social difficulties – housing problems together with fears about job insecurity - which makes them utterly powerless.

Psychodynamic relationship
Crises like these can plunge people into inner conflict, as does trying to manage emotions that are too difficult. The insolubility of the problem can result in a survival strategy, via the voices, by which the threat appears to be coming from outside instead of inside. Hearing voices act as a defense mechanism. They take the place of the emotions. This may even prove to have a positive role for the hearer; for instance, when the voice belongs to someone who has died and the message transmitted is that he or she is alright and feels content in their new surroundings. Such a voice may be helpful in overcoming the loss.

Metaphorical relationship
The relationship between hearer and voices may be a metaphor for the way the person interacts with the outside world. This can reveal itself in more ways than one.

  • It may be revealed in the content. for example when the voices say to a person ‘you are a vicious homosexual’, the hearer might have problems with sexual identity or performance.
  • It may be carried in the voices’ attitude, which reflects the voice hearers inability to cope with their problems. For example  A 26 year old man heard voices goading him to kill his parents. Here the metaphor is the aggression towards his parents, which has no proper outlet.
  • It may reveal the way the hearer deals with all the problems of everyday life not just the voices. For instance, ever time the hearer makes a decision, the voices start interfering.

Concrete link between characteristics of the voices and traumatic experience
Characteristics of voices can form a direct link with aspects of experienced trauma. Like the age of one of the voices is the same as the age at which the hearer’s sexual abuse started. This voice then generally doesn’t grow older’. Or the way the voice speaks can be like the person involved in the trauma was speaking. There are many links possible, we therefore advise you to look for more examples at the category Romme & Escher at Lectures under “Links”.