While treating voices as though they are real things may seem like a revolutionary step for a mental health clinician to take, I feel it can only be a small piece of the picture for some of us. Sometimes hearing voices is just the tip of the ice burg. Ultimately the clinician needs to understand more of what is experienced to provide people with revolutionary guidance that the survivor must assert to contribute towards making the world a better place.
It’s true, normalizing voices by estimating that one in every ten people hear them is a very positive thing to do! Taking away the pathology helps! However, I believe that in many situations, it is only a piece of what is going on when someone is experiencing an emergency, a “break from reality,” or what I prefer to term a special message crisis. Getting a full understanding of their experiences is imperative to help direct them to the social action they must take to heal.
I believe there are hosts of other experiences that a clinician needs to be aware of when working with someone who has experienced or is experiencing a crisis or emergency. Examples of these types of experiences are: intuition, dreams, spiritual enlightenment, serendipity, nonverbal interpersonal feedback, coded slang words, numerology, and symbolic associations. I’d argue that most everyone can relate to these experiences.
However, at some point these experiences can conspire with or without voices to overwhelm and push someone into an emergency state. Sometimes coincidences with these phenomena may be natural and sometimes they may be gaslighting by systemic agents of abuse. This can be hard to understand and differentiate. When a person is in an emergency state, the frequency of all these experiences are more intense and can fully preoccupy a person to lower their ability to contribute in a meaningful way.
A Longitudinal Approach to Special Messages in Treatment:
Like voices, all special message experiences need to be treated as real. Often, they are more real than many people want them to be, but there is some gray area in which they can be tricky to interpret and inexperience, social corruption, and trickster spiritual experiences can lead to errors.
When the chronically normal class detect these errors, they are quick to dismiss them as being the “d” word, delusions. However, instead of declaring the “d” word and dismissing all these other experiences as irrelevant, it is important to do longitudinal studies with the person over time paying acute attention to the emergency state, past or present, to uncover and understand all forms of these kinds of experiences.
Eventually it is possible for a person to get a sense of when they are being tricked. Spiritual tricksters become important to understand. Sometimes they can be the result of secular corruption, and in most mystical systems the spirit world can play tricks on the spiritual person like they did on Jesus in the wilderness.
People who have survived emergencies need to understand how they have been tricked to move them back to a place where these other experiences become more manageable. It may be important to understand the skewed regulations of the social world that tricks them. It may be important to trust people again instead of just messages. It may be necessary to change the survivor’s relationship with their message experiences because messages will always be there. Maybe in some cases they just don’t need to be so loud and carry so much impact.
In fact, once the trauma and danger are removed, these experiences like voices can become very helpful to a person if they are managed well. Indeed, I believe people who are sensitive about this aspect of life may have a valuable and acutely keen sense of reality if they work at it. Encouraging them to work and study can be beneficial. They can play valuable roles that have meaning and purpose for them.
Why Letting People Share Their Stories Becomes So Challenging:
In many modern societies there is a norm of managing all associated experiences through means of suppression and control. There is a history of institutionalizing people who become too sensitive to these realities. Meanwhile, chronically normal people continue to be influenced by these experiences and even act out based on the same experiences without being reprimanded. There has become a medicalized notion that these experiences are illness for some and okay for others and the injustice that can result can appear to be horrific to the person in an emergency.
All mental health systems that I have worked for train a person to suppress these experiences and deny that they exist. There is a strong sense of punishment that teaches people to suppress what could otherwise be valid. Learning to suppress is not always bad. It can teach us to dissociate and respond rather than react. This skill is taught in our institutions and through job training by forcing the individual to honorably submit and focus on behaving in ways that can earn them cultural capital. The problem is it doesn’t teach people to be mindful of when their messages are happening and which to believe. The result is often social withdrawal and inaction.
By the time I get to work with people, the stories of special messages are so suppressed that many will conceal them even when others are talking about them. It takes a great deal of time and trust to get people to talk and be mindful about these experiences. There is much fear that doing so will result in incarceration de-habilitating doses of medications, or isolation and restraints. Although I believe in things like trust and mindfulness, I am careful to convey that talking openly about these experiences may lead to random consequences elsewhere.
Why Suppression is Thought to be Important:
One reasons that voices and special message experiences may be systematically attacked, even though many people can relate to them, is because in crisis they may invade the space of peoples’ privilege of secrecy. Often, people who get punished for their special message crisis do so because their sensitivities to reality cause them to challenge the hypocrisy of others in a revolutionary manner.
In short whether to the social structure of the family or to the social structure of the world’s most powerful Cabals, madness ensues when special information becomes threatening to people who use boundaries and mechanisms of oppression to protect themselves.
People in power don’t like to be accused of being evil. When you hold a position of power your reputation is on the line when a mad person confronts you. Thus, this medicalized illness also serves to protect you and support the part of you that is good. While people who are in crisis are less likely act out with physical violence, they are revered as being dangerous. I’d argue that it is because their inexplicable power is a threat to others, that fear loss of privilege and power. Or maybe those others have done their best and just feel hurt by having their ills highlighted.
Additionally, the revolutionary behavior of the person in crisis (which significantly varies from person to person) becomes very difficult for people to manage. It may target power in meaningful manners on a small or grand scale.
This is precisely why it becomes key in the exploration of special messages experience that people be trained to use the acts of suppression so as not to act out on the secrets of the mechanisms of power. Because the message receiver is often correct, there must be a slow enduring effort to change things within the bounds of rational input.
Respect for power and acts of revolutionary change are often guided through religion, philosophy, and metaphysics. Thus, there can be much guidance within these subject matters that teach people how to use discernment and judgement to promote change. I believe these are subjects that clinicians need to be ready to work with to be successful at bringing people back to social functioning.
I believe that teaching people to use discernment and judgement in this manner can also be done to improve the mental health system. In the process, the message receiver becomes able to function at most jobs without being a threat to the power structure. Instead, they may need to accept that as a paid worker they are only afforded a contributing voice that can be used to improve things and make things better.
Transforming Valuable Perspectives into Meaningful Contribution:
I think normalizing voices is a good starting point for many people in their journey to find meaningful ways to contribute. However, to be thoroughly affective, a clinician needs to remember that voices may not be the predominant source of special message experiences for a message receiver.
In fact, they might be the easiest to discern, but once they are better managed, it may be time to work on other real special message phenomena like telepathy, premonitions, energies off other people, reading into media for special meanings.
I like to argue that no special message experience is more or less sick than another.
When I was in crisis, and I was asked about voices I had no experience of which to speak. It wasn’t until I came out of crisis that I was able to discern that sometimes when I was upset, I may have been hearing voices.
In my experience of running thousands of special message groups, people have different sources of alternative information available with different levels of truth attached to them. That is why groups that enable people to explore associated conspiracies and compare and contrast their sources of alternative, intuitive knowledge is so important
Message mindfulness is extremely important to maintain as it enables people to use discernment and respect for power structures. It is extraordinary how helped people can be by merely having the freedom to explore their experiences with others.
I don’t think doing so really puts power structures at risk. It cultivates relationships and builds social support. It helps people. It gives people a fighting chance to find a meaningful role and contribute to making the world a better place. I think the world can be a better place, especially for those stuck in the mental health system!
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
My daughter hears voices and has attended voices ‘sculpting’ trainings by Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor and HV support groups and until she got ‘kicked out’ she recently attended a HV support group on and off for several years. What you wrote here is very relevant to her experience as she disclosed them to me. I think living in a reflective supportive community willing to explore power imbalance issues can be very helpful for the discernment process you are describing. Unfortunately, my daughter was institutionalized in state mental hospitals for many years so her discernment process was severely impaired/aborted/delayed through medicalization/pathologization. She is now living at home where household harmony is elusive due to her challenging the power imbalances of our family. If we family members can all engage with her compassionately when she is going down rabbit holes–there is much hope. One of the greatest challenges is watching her in a state of extreme disorganization, not knowing whether or not to intervene. The other challenge is discerning whether/when to prod her to reduce or wean off medications which may be harming much more than helping. When a person has been oppressed for years by medical model it’s hard to know how to proceed
Thank you for your comment! I was well and nearly got in trouble in my HVN training for challenging the model too much. It is sometimes hit or miss if you get along with someone. I wish you guys well in working through the power imbalances. I was in a state hospital as well. I couldn’t stand it and it terrorized me. However, I only experienced three months of institutionalization. I think you are wise to consider the impact. we are not all starting from the same place and there is always hope and opportunity to improve things.