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Good parts of you may have bad ideas

When a person has a voice that tells one to kill oneself or others, or to do other irrational or horrible things, it is easy to decide that the voice, and whatever is producing the voice, is “sick” and needs to be somehow eliminated.  This naturally leads to things like an emphasis on fighting with and trying to destroy the voice, or “running away” from it through distraction, or attempting to drug it into oblivion by taking more and more medications.  Unfortunately, all such methods tend to be destructive to the person who hears the voice, and are usually not successful in facilitating long term recovery.  What might work better?

A very different perspective is one that sees the voice as representing a part of oneself which may be important and valuable, even though it is currently advocating some “bad ideas.”  From this perspective, the goal is to resist giving in to the “bad ideas” while at the same time working to make friends with that part of oneself, and to integrate what that part of the self has to offer. 

It is common for example for parts of the self that want radical change in one’s life to represent that wish in thoughts about suicide, or killing one’s existing self:  a person who recognizes this can make friends with the urge for radical change, and explore various ideas for change, while resisting the idea of destroying one’s whole life.  It is also common, especially for people who are not skilled in balanced assertiveness, to experience a desire to “kill” others, when one is not good at setting boundaries with them:  but once this is recognized, one can make friends with these aggressive impulses and re-channel them into assertive boundary setting.  There are many other possible examples.

One story I like is about a woman who finds that part of herself seems to be a serial killer.  With help however, she learns to not freak out about this part of herself, and finds that underneath, it is a good and protective part of herself, which can be retrained to focus on liking ice cream and cartoons instead of mass murder.  (OK, I know it sounds like a weird shift, but read the story yourself: it’s called “Making friends with voices: hearing voices and dissociation.”)

3 comments… add one
  • for me it happened when I was seventeen, and I was in a horrible situation. The voices that I hear will bring attention or sympathy to things others seem ignorant of. I know it is a direct result of trauma. Managing trauma is about having a handle on everything, and not letting yourself think you can do everything in the world. I’ve not once heard of murderous voice….so it’s interesting, someone thinks “she hears voices” and instantly considers it bad. even if they were nice intuitive or just thinking out loud voices. It’s not that normal, but not everyone needs to demonize the experience. In some ways, I think it’s also instinctive but that could be debated. I find that most people who are hard core into the MI model are also hard core non-believers in anything outside the realm of “fact”….and of course fact only exists within their limited perspectives. How would people treat Jesus today? A homeless man walking around gathering disciples claiming he can heal the blind…he would be sacrificed in a different way….no one would believe him, he would be crazy.

  • Voices can be internal and external.
    External : I heard a voice that the power lines on my street had a problem. I looked at them and couldn’t see anything. A few weeks later a semi-truck that was too tall hit the power lines that crossed the street ( that had sagged too low) and ripped them down.
    Internal: I was working on removing this drain pipe with a hammer. Hitting it would break this cement pipe and produce chips. I hit it once or twice. I needed eye protection that I had forgotten. Broken sunglasses suddenly appeared on the ground next to the pipe. I had not consciously noticed them, but it was a reminder I needed to stop the work until I had proper eye protection.
    If you are hearing “bad” voices, I suggest leaving your location. Go at least a mile away. The voice may travel with you, but it might not. The change in physical environment will definitely help change your mind.

  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve heard some stories before of voices that were very helpful (and I recently heard a story from a woman who heard a voice only once, disregarded it, and then deeply regreted it as a family member lost her life as a result.

    And I’ve also heard others confirm that changing location (or even just changing activity) can help with voices that are causing trouble.



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