Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Hearing Voices and the Human Holy Spirit

The voices that I hear sometimes tell me that they are the human holy spirit. These voices know some of my thoughts, are a part of my brain and being, and yet are separate from my consciousness in origin, and to do with my outer social and life experiences; and so, like thought itself, they have a rather paradoxical and complex quality. In origin, I believe that
thoughts are not biological, but are created from objective social and life awareness, and which is like a spirit to me. This, to me, is what spirituality is all about, but this awareness of reality and consciousness may falsely be diagnosed as psychotic. My voices are also like messengers, and they tell me things about mental health that otherwise I would not be aware of.

The fact that the voices sometimes appear to know my thoughts, is because they can sometimes guess or predict what I am going to do, say, or think, and so they are not psychic as such, nor necessarily a part of my direct thinking, but are to do with how others have related or not related towards me. The failure to predict behaviours, thoughts, and emotions accurately, and have this model imposed upon people, may in fact be a factor in what actually causes negative hearing voices, and this is to do with the way that others have treated us and related towards us. This may also be to do with bad parenting, and how our parents or parent have falsely predicted that we are bad children; but it is also to do with the way that some social and mental health professionals treat us and relate towards us.

It also appears to me when I hear them, that the voices can be heard by others, but the voices tell me that only I can hear them (as opposed to anyone else in the house), and that therefore I have a special kind of hearing and am in a way psychic. This shifts the context from mental health professionals, and so on, being able to predict or being psychic, to myself being able to predict or being psychic. It's also interesting that predicting behaviours is different from psychic predicting, but the fact that the context has shifted to myself, actually empowers me, and gives me some magical or psychological status and prestige.

I think that the medical model only looks at what goes on inside our heads and brains, but a more social model looks at our social, human, and life experiences. Thus, there is both a medical and a social component to my experiences of hearing voices.

The voices also sometimes tell me that they work through a process of white noise. The white noise, and which is like a hissing sound (which could be interpreted as stress - or the foundation, or background, of sound) is what opens up my awareness, then the voices repeat a vowel sound, and I respond to it with a word or sentence, and then the voices know what to say back to me. Whether this is true or not, it tells me a bit about hearing voices and some of the psychological and linguistic awareness that goes along with it.

I think that people who don't hear voices might be experiencing a form of thought-denial, as I think that voices are an extra and intrinsic function of the human mind and brain. Maybe people who don't hear voices are blocking the awareness off, and are thus in denial about it. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

Maybe hearing voices served some purpose in evolution, and that this purpose has shifted from the religious to a social way of thinking. I do not believe in a monotheistic God, but I believe that my voices are like angles or the holy spirit, because they seem to nurture and protect me, but for me they are also human beings. For me, they are the holy spirit, but because they also come from myself and my social experiences and awareness of others, I also call them the human holy spirit. Thus, what the voices call themselves, and what I call the voices, meets, blends, or merges, and forms a circle of unification of self with awareness of others.

Silent Voices, and the Voices and Hearers of different Times, Circumstances or Situations

My voices often develop from my conscious thoughts, in that I imagine what a voice will say and the voice repeats the word or phrase back to me, and then the voice or voices become autonomous from my conscious thoughts and thinking, and say something to me which I hadn't anticipated and which I hear with my ears. Most of the time my voices are positive, but if they become too autonomous they can sometimes turn a bit negative, and that's when I sometimes need psychiatric medication, counselling, or some kind of group therapy for it.

I've got the stage now though where I sometimes hear a silence (although I still sometimes hear white noise), and when I hear this silence, I imagine what the voices will say to me, but it is pure imagination and I don't actually hear the voices with my ears like I usually do, but the voices are
experienced as just inside my head. I do sometimes still hear a hissing sound though, and which acts like a sounding-board to my voices, and sometimes within that white noise I hear the voices as a very faint whisper.

I'm very interested in the social and linguistic pattern of my voices. Often they ask me questions, much like a mental health professional would do. I respond with a reply, and then the voices add a further comment and I reply or respond to that. Sometimes I ask a question back. My voices ask me how I'm doing, and they reassure me that I will be OK if I am feeling anxious or depressed. Not having a partner in my life, I don't normally get that reassurance and love, only from my friends and family.

If I predict all the time what the voices will say and they say it, then the voices tell me that I am blocking them off because I am in control of them. They often say that they know what I'm thinking, but they also say that I know what they're thinking, and so, as they say, it works both ways. This relates to mental health professionals believing that they can predict our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and having a false model of that imposed upon us and which can cause negative hearing voices. Being able to predict what the voices say gives the voice hearer some magical or psychological prestige or status.

The voices also say that when I have certain physical sensations (like a headache for example), that they can feel exactly what I am feeling, because they tell me that they are a part of me, even though they are also experienced as separate from me and to do with my objective outer social and life-experiences.

Sometimes when I am drinking on my own in a pub, I will hear the voices talking to me and respond to them out loud. In this way I am not so alone and can have a conversation with myself, sometimes imagining that others in the pub can hear me and are listening and responding to me. Sometimes I get the feeling that I am connected to some kind of communion, or collective consciousness, where everyone can hear me, and that everyone is talking out loud without listening to each other.

Sometimes I sense that people engaged in conversation with each other are really talking alone, because I can see by their facial expressions and body language that the second or third person isn't responding empathically or communicatively, or I sense that that they are actually talking to someone else in a different time, circumstance, or situation.

I used to have a friend who imagined people being there from his past, and he would talk to these characters from his past in a friendly way, or if they were bothering him he would shout at them. I often wonder whether this is what people are sometimes doing when they are sometimes engaged in conversation with each other - that they are actually talking to people from different past or recent situations and circumstances without realising it. Hearing voices then may just be a conversation with a real other person or persons, in a different time or recent situation or situations, and very much like the ordinary conversation of other people.

Negative and Abusive Power as a Major Cause of Negative Hearing Voices

And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
By Bob Dylan

Having false models of predicting a persons emotions, thoughts, and behaviours can be a cause of negative hearing voices. This may be due to bad parenting, and/or due to the way we have been treated by social or mental health workers. Having negative and abusive power forced upon us is a major cause of negative hearing voices.

Hearing voices, and being able to predict what they are saying, gives the voice hearer some magical and psychological status and prestige, in much the same way that it gives social and mental health workers some magical and psychological status and prestige to try and predict our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

If we don't conform to abusive and false models of predicting our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, instead of just acknowledging that we have freedom of thought and action, we can be labelled as irrational, uncooperative, and psychotic. Unless a person is psychic though, they cannot know or predict what a client is thinking, although abusers like to cause suffering and pain to try and predict and control thoughts and emotions by the threat of violence and coercion and/or indoctrination. Abusive power tries to do much the same thing when it creates negative hearing voices.

It's interesting that if I predict what my voices are saying, then they say that I am blocking them off, much like the way that a social or mental health worker would respond. It's OK for social and mental health workers to try and predict our behaviours, and have false models of this imposed upon us by negative power and coercion, but if we start doing this back to
them and predicting their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, then they don't like it and accuse us of being uncooperative or blocking them off.

I thought it necessary to explain a bit about predicting the content of hearing voices, as this is a complex process. A prediction of what a voice will say may come either before or after hearing it. My voices usually start off as a conscious thought, then the thought becomes an audible voice, and then the voice can become autonomous from my conscious thoughts and

If I think something and then hear it, then this is a way of predicting what the voices will say to me. Sometimes I predict a voice that comes from a conscious thought, and other times I predict an audible voice. Sometimes I predict an audible voice before it actually says something and when it is autonomous, often by guessing or assuming what the context of the word, sentence, or phrase will be in the line of conversation.

Voices that are predicted from conscious thoughts are caused by the way that social or mental health workers try to impose their thoughts and values onto us, and voices that are predicted from autonomous audible voices are caused by social or mental health workers trying to control and suppress our emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. All in all, it is oppression that causes negative hearing voices, and not least because a voice can be a suppressed emotion, or a suppressed wilful effort to initiate a thought or action.

I once slowed down my hearing voices by drinking alcohol. I suppose in this way I was medicating myself. When the voice slowed down I could feel a voice as a need or urge to do something. In this way voices are suppressed thoughts, emotions, and actions, and largely to do with coercion and oppression upon us by others.

In order to eliminate oppression we need to give young people more human rights in society and which are equal to the rest of adult society, and to make the psychiatric, social, and mental health system much more democratic so there isn't as much of a power imbalance. There is a trend to say that responsibilities must come before rights, but I believe that some basic
human rights are primary, such as the right to be free from torture and violence, and free from the threat of coercion and violence.

In order to liberate ourselves, I think that it is necessary to write and publish about our experiences and think for ourselves. In that way ourselves individually and collectively, along with our allies in the system, can change things and come up with better individual and social
models of recovery.

Friday, 10 March 2006

The Nature-Nurture Paradigm in Mental Health

My own personal view is that most things are one way or another a combination of nature and nurture, and that anything that says something is all one thing is somewhat limiting or inaccurate. For example, I believe that mental health problems are mostly socially and environmentally created, but that people might also just be genetically different, whilst not being genetically defective or inferior. Therefore people with mental health problems are also just different types of people, like the different kinds of eyes or skin colour of human beings.

The nature-nurture paradigm in itself can also be limiting, as there may be other psychological factors related to a persons creative or inner learning development, and which don't fall into strict nature or nurture categories. Where the nature-nurture paradigm becomes complex, is that the terms nature and nurture can have double meanings in theory and in application, and that further meanings need to be taken into account if we are to fairly and accurately decode the terminology. By nature or nurture, there are another two concepts which are extensions of the terms, and another set of terms which also need to be taken into consideration.

Nature and nurture can mean objective things or causes, or it can mean the experiences of individuals. Some times nurture can be used in the first way, in looking at objective causes, but without also taking into account personal or human experiences. This is a misuse of its application in mental health, but one which happens nonetheless. Thus when a mental health professional uses the term nurture, but also uses the added term environmental, what may be being described are the environmental causes, and therefore not the social causes, or vice versa.

Nature can mean that which is genetic, or it can mean human nature, but when nurture is used, it also has two other meanings, both of which mean completely different whilst related things. The term nurture refers to two things, firstly it refers to social conditions or social conditioning, and secondly it refers to the environmental as in family dynamics and upbringing. Curiously it doesn't mean environmental as in the green or ecological sense of the term, nor in the institutional sense, but both of which might have a bearing upon a persons mental health and well-being.

If a professional such as a therapist uses the term environmental, the chances are that environmental means parental-and-child interaction in development and up-bringing, but again this could mean the objective criteria of that without also looking the persons social and life experiences of it.

Also, there are mythological meanings behind what are considered to be simply nature or nurture issues, and the combination of the two factors and the interplay between the two can be ruled out in order to look at only one polarised and mythologised area. However, what is considered as natural may be based upon a social or culture myth, and what may be considered as nurture may be based upon a myth concerning nature. In this way one concept is played off against another in order to make a single polarised claim, whilst in reality both concepts of nature and nurture are still being used theoretically to support the polarised application of one against another.

Social Anxiety Labelling

In order to understand a label of any kind, we must try to understand the motives and problems of those who are applying the label, as well as understanding the real motives and problems of the person to whom the label is inflicted.

Social anxiety is a label which can assume that people who have worries about being in new groups are therefore anti-social, rather than looking at the nature of different responses and labelling processes. A further assumption that can be made from being deemed anti-social when one is not, is that the person is seen as requiring being socially isolated from others, because he or she has an isolated problem with being with new groups of people.

This kind of response is punitive because it shifts the emphasis from the social to the individual and blames the individual, seeing it as an isolated problem and not a general human or social one, whilst at the same time it is capable of thinking it is a scientific and humane treatment based approach. These aspects of social anxiety labelling in itself are enough to make a person feel uncomfortable about being in the company of new people, as based upon isolation and their experiences of this labelling, and in itself these aspects of the labelling can be a cause of the problem and not a solution.

Social anxiety labelling suggests that the person has a problem with sociality and it stigmatises people as such, when in fact the real problem may be that the person fears being isolated or marginalised, and being absent from a shared or social context. A person who is suffering from so-called social anxiety is therefore really suffering from a fear of social deprivation, and is not anti-social as the label might suggest.

Social anxiety labelling regards the person whom is being labelled as being a social anxiety upon the mental health of others, and this is at the very core and root of the terminology of the label. The label of social anxiety is presented in the plural (as if it is referring to a group of people), when it is really an opinion about an individual and is therefore applied as a singular term. It therefore tends to disregard the pre-existing social or group qualities and skills that the person has, and it individuates the term social to refer to an individual in isolation from any group interaction and contact.

A person could be seen as a social anxiety upon others if the person applying the label can't be bothered to help the person, meaning that helping or learning about others is actually experienced as anxiety by the applicant. Therefore, the application of the labelling is an anxiety with learning or caring about human beings, individuals, or people, and it is a helping, learning, or caring anxiety or inability of the person or people applying the label.

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Self-Esteem Labelling

The label or term self-esteem is an inverted compound term. In other words 'esteem' which means regard, respect, and concern for others is made after the term 'self' into a compound of the two terms, implying that the term esteem means only something individually inherent, or inherently created by the individual. The fact that the singular term esteem is used to mean regard, respect, and concern for others, means that self-esteem, unlike esteem, cannot be given and received, but is something that can be individually created in terms of the persons feelings, thoughts, and perceptions about him or herself.

In this respect, to feel good about ones self is often about feeling the same things as the professional, or feeling good about oneself when the professional says those things are good. Even in this context self-esteem is used as in the interpersonal context between individuals, and not the self in isolation. Self-esteem then is either what people say makes them feel good, or what professionals say makes then feel good, and according to different professional mental health models.

When a professional recently went on to ask a client about his self-esteem, she then asked him how his son regarded his hearing voices experiences, to which he replied that his son was kind and understanding, and she asked him if that made him feel good about himself, to which he said that it did. So the term self-esteem might mean how we feel about ourselves, whilst in this
instance it was then used in it's singular term of esteem and not the inverted compound term context. In other words, the professional started talking about self-esteem as an individual concept, and then went on to talk about esteem as a social and interpersonal concept and which can be given and received.

Self-esteem therefore really means self estimation, and to some extent the context of shared regard, respect, and concern, even in an original use of the term esteem have become somewhat obsolete. Low self-esteem is another label that can also be used to criticise those who try to achieve esteem on their own terms without professional instruction and with others.

Another assumption made in some mental health models, is that a person has to have good self-esteem in order to assert themselves, whilst other models emphasise things like assertiveness and communication skills first in order to achieve self-esteem.

Whilst feeling good about oneself socially or individually may help a person assert themselves, it is simply not the case that people assert themselves better always and when they are feeling their best. Otherwise we would have to say that people protesting against tyrannical regimes cannot be being assertive because they feel bad about themselves. Assertiveness, as I see
it, is again a separate issue which can be blurred with the concept of esteem.

Another interesting point is that esteem is also a euphemism for the term spirit, as in feeling in good spirits. This area might reveal the quasi-religious notions of the term self-esteem, originating from the religious idea of an individual soul, instead of an all- embracing spirit.

The Key (poem)

Knowledge drives me like a secret mile
Carrying me through madness and experimentation
Linking and then spraying us through sunlight
Clasping and releasing my mind as I smile.

Diagnosed people hold the key
Although we do not always cast the spell
For like shadows we laugh and weep
Pecking through the tortoise shell.

We struggle to cure ourselves together
Against the curse of ignorant bliss
Rejecting the academic world of shallow text
Our emotions breed like hungry insects

Swarming towards liberation.

Upon a Drum Beat Memory (poem)

For those voices that started many years ago
like some atavistic awakening
unbelievably through the genetic memory
of a heart beating out its message.

For those voices that seem to start at one stage
but go far back into the grains of the human spirit
inconceivably through the social energy
of minds shouting out their messages.

Talking Walls (poem)

The walls speak to me
Of electronic gaze and concern
The walls speak to me
And my eyes glisten and my ears burn.

The walls speak to me
Of neighbourly love and hate
Their voices comfort and harass me
Nice and nasty cop is their trait.

The walls speak to me
They've been standing lonely for too long
Solid as a rock
But sometimes hollow like an acoustic song

The walls speak to me
Of magical connections and social truths
Debating with me like a public
And sheltering my discussion like a roof.

The walls speak to me
Dancing upon a string of paradox
Whispering and shouting
In a crowd of murmurs and talks.

The walls speak to me
And are external unlike medical psychiatry said
Echoes of my past and present social life
Not merely existing inside my head.

Voices as Concern, Interest, and Need for Being with The Other

Upon reading my friend TripTechnician's latest article, The Other, I agree with one of the main messages of it that hearing voices can be precipitated by, and lead to, external awareness, care, and concern for, or from, the other, or others. This is a much neglected area or perspective of understanding hearing voices, as is the area of hearing voices that is related to educational learning.

This article makes two points - firstly that hearing voices can be an experience that reflects relatedness to others, and secondly that voices can, and often are, more experienced than heard (perhaps since they appear to a meaning sensing part of the mind rather than a sense data interpreting bit).

I've entitled this article first as voices, because hearing and voices are about two completely separate things, as concepts and areas of perceptual and cognitive experience and understanding. A voice, as Luke points out, can be something initially felt or seen in the environment, and therefore not merely something internal or heard. It is a feeling and a whole

Hearing voices are often referred and regarded by professionals as something inward looking, internal, imaginary, and introspective, but it may be something such as a concern and willingness to be with others, or the desire for others to reciprocate upon that desire for sociality or for knowledge. This would surely then be an interest in the outside or external, in the
social and interpersonal, and in terms of a unification of self with others, a spiritual as well as a social concept, perception, and interaction.

It is these areas of understanding, motivation, and perception which are absent from any medical psychiatric view of hearing voices, which associates it with passivity and thought disorder, but it is the areas of psychological understanding and study which are of most interest to me, concerning the origins and the transformations and experience of hearing voices.
The term hearing voices is problematic for me, because I think it's a compound term and an oxymoron, and one which is really describing two completely different things - hearing on the one hand, and voices on the other. Voices are more experienced than imagined and heard.

Peter H. Donnelly


The Other

I sit down and prepare to continue writing my novel. A multitude of images and ideas presents itself to me. I look at the portrait of DH Lawrence on the cover of the paperback on the table, he speaks to me: "What are you going to make with the ideas - that's the question ?" he says. His comment is helpful. An external force has helped with my internal thinking - strange to some but commonplace to me since I suffer from intrusive, ever present voices in my mind. Since I have always tried to continue my explorations and literary calling despite my illness I have had
to adapt to this my mental peculiarity. In short I am still able to think about things, but now some of the thoughts seem to be external to my mind, taking the form of voices or telepathic messages from people.

I wonder about this state - will it train my mind to be ever focussed outwards? Will the realities and lives of other people be easier for me to relate to, since even in my innermost moments I feel I am conversing with another, my attention directed towards the other? I cannot say, although I have met other people who suffer from schizophrenia who have concluded that
something about their mental sufferings has enabled them to become a better person, more sensitive to others. Certain kinds of inner psychic friction may truly lead in this wholesome direction. Good luck to anyone who would like to explore it.

Unfortunately there may be a bad side too: I sometimes get very bitter and angry towards these "others" in my mind, I hope that will not result in resentment or unpleasantness, but sometimes i probably can get moody and a little bitter. Maybe the good cancels the bad, but I will still have to live with this morphing of my character into new forms that my illness has
brought about. At least I can share the experience with others in the hearing voices group whose lives are similar in these ways.

Hearing Voices and Creativity

The voices I hear and perceive, are female voices, and some of them are positive, educative, friendly, and supportive. I'm glad that I hear these voices, because they are very much a part of my true nature, they improve my knowledge, social skills, and communication, and keep me in touch with the creative and learning spirit.

All voices are in a sense all aspects of every human being, as we all internalise our social and interpersonal experiences to some extent, but they are also very real and definitive differences in society, and which can become internalised by the individual voice hearer to meet his or her needs and requirements.

Some of my female voices can act as a muse, who are able to both inspire, respect, and appreciate the emotional and intellectual skill and ability of a voice hearer. The very strange, but very beautiful, hypnotic and trance-like receptivity of some of my female voices, filters, transforms, and reciprocates the social and interpersonal experiences of other people
into the mind, social interaction, and creative imagination.

Whether the fact that I have intellectual discussions and debates with my female voices, means that I'm not being adequately stimulated or represented intellectually in my social life is an interesting point. In some ways this is very true. From my experience, interaction, and observation, I think that a lot of psychiatrists in particular, are jealous of the knowledge and
creativity of psychiatric diagnosed people, and very envious of the fact that we have a spiritual and creative realm of our personal and social experiences, which are not controlled by church and state, and which psychiatrists cannot adequately experience, accept, nor understand.

I was very interested and intrigued by what a hearing voices group facilitator said about a member of her local hearing voices group, who also had female, helpful voices, but that the voices eventually said goodbye to him when he was engaged to be married. This raises the question of whether hearing voices is caused to a great extent from love and relationship
deprivation. On the one hand, I think this is true, as most members from my local hearing voices group - including myself - are single and very much need and would like relationship partners in our lives, although obviously, some people in satisfactory social relationships hear voices too.

A friend of mine who also hears voices, recently said to me that a person can still be alone in a crowd, and that maybe when he was surrounded by other people in the nineties that he was isolated after all. He added to this, agreeing with this article after reading it, by saying that he doesn't think that voices do develop through isolation at all. Whilst having a love relationship with two people in the nineties, my friend said that he heard lots of voices, and when he was very mentally unwell at the start of the nineties, he was living with friends with whom he used to party quite a lot, and he still heard voices then too. It was when he became more solitary in
the last 6-7 years that his voices stopped.

I think it is a mentalism, and a very common misconception amongst a lot of mental health workers and hearing voices group facilitators, to believe that voices develop solely through emotional, intellectual, and social isolation, because whilst there is obviously a lot of truth and accuracy in this, this rather reductionist viewpoint, can also fail to understand the necessary
interaction between inner and outer experiences in order to love and learn, and it can also deny and invalidate a persons inner and outer experiences of their past and present life in general.

It can also deny and invalidate the unique processes, experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and culture of psychiatric diagnosed people, and deny the healthy and creative interaction between inner and outer experience and which is required to learn, share, and exchange knowledge and love, and to function in society to our satisfactory or full potential.

It also fails to acknowledge and realise the social interaction strategies, actions, and behaviours, which are oppression, and which can be coerced and enforced upon peoples lives without our individual and general choice, agreement, consensus, or consent.

In my mental health articles, I try to write concisely and with a flow, much like a piece of music or a song, and I write in a manner that reveals glimpses of light, reveals some of my ideas and findings, but which also subtly encourages and inspires people to think for themselves. I don't by any means reveal all of my own social and interpersonal knowledge and findings, as I don't want my knowledge and findings to become elitist and institutionalised.

One difference between psychiatric diagnosed people and other people in society, is that we are often more emotionally assertive and receptive, and struggle to be more emotionally free or liberated. Because of emotionally repressive English culture though, we often have to suppress our emotional expression and receptivity with psychiatric drugs, and which reduces our imagination, creativity, emotions, desire, thinking, consciousness, and awareness.

Hearing Voices and Public Awareness

Public awareness is both a political and a mental health phrase and concept. It is also a psychological one. Whilst public awareness and social consciousness are usually described as something external to the individual mind and objective, there is also an internal and subjective experience of public awareness, and which is absorbed and exists in a dialectical relationship to the intellectual mind, feeling, and thinking.

I sometimes have discussions and debates with my positive voices, and one main function of these voices, is that they ask me questions about things that is based upon common sense and public thinking, and which I would otherwise not think of asking myself. The positive voices, critique and ask me to clarify some of the things I have written in my mental health articles, for the benefit of both subjective and objective public and intellectual understanding.

The questions the positive voices ask me, are unlike intellectual thinking, not of an individual nature, but are much more of a collective way of thinking, and when I am asked these questions by my positive voices, I am asked by a group of many positive voices, and these questions are then asked or represented individually by one, two, or three voices at different intervals.

As an intellectual, I am a lateral and not a common thinker, but I need this inner public awareness in order to think more in terms of how the actual public might or could respond to my ideas, discoveries, and writing, and to both bring knowledge to the public, and to bring some of my thinking, consciousness, and awareness more down to earth.

My positive voices often ask me very common sense but very relevant questions, and which again, I would otherwise not think of asking myself. Ideally, I need this kind of public debate in my actual social life in response to what I experience, think, and write, but I find that the actual
public are usually not willing to debate intellectually at all, or not willing to debate with intellectual people.

It is sometimes assumed by medical psychiatry that hearing voices is due to low intelligence, or due to a lower form or level of consciousness. In my experience of my own voices, and my experience and understanding of other voice hearers, I think that hearing voices can be due to both a higher and lower form of consciousness and awareness - simultaneously, and at different

Whilst politically in mental health, we are often told about raising public awareness and social consciousness, and whilst I very much agree with doing this, I think we also need to be realistic about it, and to realise the higher process and dialectical interaction of higher and lower consciousness psychologically and socially.

I find that I have to lower my intellectual consciousness and awareness, in order to think in terms of common sense, and to debate and discuss with my positive voices, and which are like the voices of ordinary people. As a result of this interaction between my intellectual thinking and feeling and a common sense form of debate, I am able to once again raise my consciousness and awareness and come up with more intellectual thinking, discovery, and ideas.

The Yearly Hearing Voices Conference

- a critique of presentation and style

Some of us my the local Hearing Voices Group, attended the Hearing Voices Conference, on the 7th of December 2001, at a local University.

One voice hearer commented afterwards that he felt that the speakers mainly addressed a professional audience in their choice of humour and presentation, mainly because they set out to convert professionals over to an acceptable, entertaining, and common image of a person diagnosed with mental health problems.

Otherwise, the talks would have been based-upon a fairly sound user or survivor recovery model, but I agree with the other voice hearer that in humour and presentation, the speakers created a very similar stereotypical image to the old one of the psychiatric diagnosed person, and which perhaps also showed their professional aspirations in terms of who the talks were
largely aimed at.

I was pleased with some of the actual content of the talks, but would have preferred it if they were entirely user or survivor speakers. The overall general theme of all three main conference talks, was that dissociation is a coping-mechanism, and a symptom of being sexually abused,
and a cause of self-harm and hearing voices; along with some admission by the speakers that the psychiatric mental health system participated in setting up different-versions-of-reality.

Dissociation, basically means, that the abused person makes the pain of being abused go to another part of their brain or consciousness, so that they are not consciously experiencing it, and this involves distracting or imagining one is absent from the reality of the abuse and the situation. As a way of describing how hard it is to dissociate from abuse, the first
speaker asked the audience to think of the word "elephant", and then asked the audience not to think of the word "elephant", emphasising how hard it was not to think of the word, once it had been suggested, thought of, and experienced.

The three d's were mentioned by the speakers of dissociation, distraction, and depersonalisation. It was also mentioned that an event or action in adult life can trigger memories of abuse, and onset mental and emotional distress which can lead to hearing voices.

The matter of dissociation wasn't questioned, discussed, or debated, other than by one participant in the audience at the very end of the talks, who asked the speakers if they were using some sort of cognitive-behavioural model to describe sexual abuse, self-harm, and hearing voices; to which it was replied that the speakers take an approach which integrates the mental,
emotional, and physical aspects of analysis and recovery.

There were three main talks: one on Sexual Abuse, one on Self Harm, and one on Hearing Voices, followed by a choice of three workshops on each subject matter. I was disappointed that all three workshops were on at the same time, because I was interested in all three workshops, but I chose to attend the Hearing Voices Workshop because I thought that as a more general theme, it might be more relevant to our local hearing voices group. I was also disappointed that no draft copies of written information based upon all three talks was not available.

The first talk on Sexual Abuse, described how abusers set up different-versions-of-reality, how abusers groom and control their victims in order to sexually abuse them, and then convince them to buy into different-versions-of-reality - that the abuse is their fault, or that they in some way wanted, needed, or deserved to be abused. This whole area only concentrated on sexual abuse, and not on other types of child abuse and domestic violence, that are not overtly sexual, but may have similar control patterns and psychological consequences.

The first speaker described how some of the myths of different-versions-of-reality can be social and cultural, and she described the dissociation strategies or mechanisms which are used for coping with the intolerable mental, emotional, and physical pain of being sexually abused. The speaker described mental, emotional, and volitional distraction very well, and emphasised that distraction and dissociation take up a lot of time and energy of the person who is trying to cope with being sexually abused, and that physical distraction as a coping-mechanism can be misinterpreted as so-called behavioural problems.

The first speaker more or less concluded by saying that we need to be in equal relationships in order for us to have creative relationships and live and thrive creatively, and without someone else's professional power and control over us, and that we need to be strong together.

The second talk, on Self Harm, started off with the speaker talking about his experiences as a psychiatric nurse, his experiences of being sexually abused as a child and being a self-harmer; and he then presented a critique of medical psychiatric diagnosis, talked about the dissociation strategies of self-harmers, and described how he saw recovery in terms of therapeutic relationships, and the eventual autonomy of the person from mental health services.

The third speaker, on Hearing Voices, talked about his experience of being sexually abused as a child, his experiences of being psychiatric diagnosed, how being sexually abused was connected to his experiences of hearing voices, and how he used dissociation in order to cope with the mental, emotional, and physical pain of being abused. The Hearing Voices workshop looked into an understanding of hearing voices as to do with people's life-experiences and belief systems, and the speaker took questions from the audience, and described how he had worked with others in order to help them understand, recover, or come to terms with their experiences as voice hearers.

I agree with the speakers that some dissociation exists, but I also think that it's a bit of a myth and a mentalism, and I'm not convinced how effective it is as a coping-mechanism, because depersonalisation and derealisation can go along with dissociation, and which can still involve much mental, emotional, and physical suffering. The theory of dissociation, may therefore be used to deny the reality of a persons suffering, and in itself sets up a different-version-of-reality. It also occurred to me that setting up different-versions-of-reality might in itself be a form of so-called dissociation. Dissociation is not merely a psychological concept, but is also a social and political one, and can therefore be a euphemism for marginalisation and coercive distancing. The whole area of dissociation didn't make a distinction between dissociation as a cause (violence, abuse, and coercion) and dissociation as effect (as a coping-mechanism and symptom).

Some of the coercive aspects of so-called dissociation can be best described by referring to the film G. I. Jane where upon entering the army, a woman finds that the people who are supposed to supporting her are corrupt, as they urge her to distance herself from the social and political reality of things.