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The experiment - published also as "Understanding voices"

 

Auteur: Marius Romme

 

2de druk uitgegeven door Ron Coleman Isles of Lewis

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The Experiment is a study resulting from organizing a congress for voice hearers and sending out an enquete with 30 questions about the hearing voice experience. We send out this enquete after we got an overwhelming number of reactions by telephone on the TV talk show called "Sonja on Monday". At this show Patsy told her troubles with her experience of hearing voices which were dominating her and forbidding her to do all kind of things. Therefore she got ,more and more isolated. She had several times got a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but was not helped with her voices and the medication that was prescribed didn't work out. At this show she asked for people who might be able to help her when they also heard voices but could cope well with them. 700 people reacted of whom 500 heard voices themselves and about 165 could cope well with their voices. Because we could not invite all these people, we send out an enquete with questions about those things people had told at the telephone and was felt as were being important questions by Patsy.

The questions were about how many voices the person did hear, what their character traits were, when they had come for the first time and in what kind of circumstances, what they said, how they coped with them etc,. From this questionnaire we later build up an interview we used in further studies (see professionals at interviews) The last question was: "are you interested in participating at a conference for and with voice hearers. We invited as speakers for this conference those voice hearers who had most clearly explained their voice hearing experience. We invited them for an interview to discuss the conference and where about they would speak.

When we first met them we became very astonished because then we met for the first time people who heard voices with the characteristics of an auditory verbal hallucination without ever having become a psychiatric patient. This was the main reason for our interest in our now 25 years ongoing research in the experience of hearing voices.

At the conference the participants shared freely their experiences. Some people where obvious troubled by their voices and saw them as part of mental illness, but many had very different ways of understanding these experiences and appeared to be competent , not disabled and depending on one's view of the nature of voices, not in any way ill".

There was a considerable range of experiences described by the participants. It seems most useful to divide the reports into three possible phases. They reflected relevant to coping with the voices.:

  • - The startling phase: the usually sudden onset, primarily as a frightening experience.
  • - The phase of organization: becoming more interested in the phenomenon, reading about it getting more control over the voices, communicating with them and learn about their personal meaning, this phase ends in a shift of power between the voices and the person.
  • - The stabilization phase: the period in which a more continuous way of handling is acquired and the person also becoming more able to lead their own life not that of their voices.

It became clear that there were a great many frames of reference used by people who heard voices. These frames of reference included psychodynamic, mystical, parapsychological and medical perspectives. These perspectives have origins in many scholarly sources Carl Jung (1961) for example had a psycho dynamical based view that impulses from the unconscious speak to humans in visions or voices Another relevant psychodynamic theory focuses more on psychodynamic mechanisms for dealing with emotions. It is assumed that a human may react to an extremely traumatic experience such as incest, sadistic rearing patterns life threatening accidents and acts of war by isolating these memories from the consciousness. Mystics have an explanation for hearing voices that is not based on fear but on development (Roberts 1979). A third "psychological" explanation is given by parapsychology, voices may be viewed as originating from a special gift or sensitivity.

In this study we also differentiated between "good coping" and "bad coping"

Table 1. Differences between "good coping" and "bad coping" individuals

   

Groep A

good coping (%)

Groep B

bad coping (%)

Nature of the voices?

     
most friendly  
24
18
Friendly, agressive or giving commands  
25
17
Most negative  
39
15
       
Who is stronger ?      
He  
85
50
The voices  
15
50
       

How do you cope with the voices ?

     
Selecting Yes
50
15
  No
50
85
Draw limits Yes
50
33
  No
50
67
Distraction Yes
25
40
  No
75
60
       
Do you have to obey the voices? Yes / Sometimes
40
75
  No
60
25
       
Can you ignore the voices? Yes
58
28
  Sometimes
6
34
  No
35
37
       
Are the voices disturbing the contact with others? Yes
32
75
  No
68
25
Do the voices take over your thoughts? Yes
33
47
  No
67
53
Did you learn to cope with them on your own strength? Yes
80
30
  No
20
70

How do you interpet the voice?

     
As gods or spirits Yes

50

40
  No
50
60
As a good guide Yes
25
14
  No
75
86
As people you know Yes
15
35
  No
85
65
As a special gift Yes
46
2