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.