‘Voice hearers’ has become an important emancipatory consumer term for persons that have been diagnosed with experiencing auditory hallucinations (www.intervoiceonline.org). Voice hearers have often taken back their power, not by simply silencing the voices, but rather by establishing relationships with them. As a clinical psychologist working with voice hearers, I have had the privilege to present with an expert voice hearer. Our dialogue highlighted the parallels between voice hearers and shamans (Lambrecht & Lampshire, 2009). This paper is an extension of the dialogue.
The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between voice hearing and shamanism. Bentall (2000) asked if there are any implications for parapsychologists concerning the research into psychotic symptoms. He reviews research into delusions and hallucinations that suggest biases in information processing and reasoning, as he claims is also evident in those that believe in paranormal phenomena. He is quick and right to state that this does not establish the non-veracity of some paranormal experiences, as only empirical research could establish this. In this paper, the suggestion is made that research into paranormal and altered states of consciousness could equally benefit theories and healing practices regarding voice hearing and other psychotic symptoms.
In this vein, a dimensional approach to voice hearing is presented as a model. Very intrusive and negative voices which are related to highly distressing, painful and fragmenting experiences during severe psychotic states are located on the extreme left side of the continuum. Such voice hearing is often related to early traumatic experiences (Read et al. 2001). The middle ground holds the non-distressing voice hearing that often occurs in 10% to 15% of the normal population, according to epidemiological studies (Summer et al, 2008). This middle ground also holds those voice hearers that have shifted from being the victims of voices to establishing a mastery of voices by working with the voices in a collaborative manner. In this middle ground the voices are generally experienced as annoying, helpful, even pleasant, and sometimes regarded with curiosity (Johns et al, 2002). The voices are mostly either positive, mildly negative or neutral. This middle ground also refers to voices heard after a loss, for grieving spouses can have ‘hallucinations’ of the deceased that are soothing, and they are considered to be non-pathological (Grimby, 1998).
Above is just the introduction. To read the entire article, please download the attached PDF file below.