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What do “voices” and “disordered thinking” have in common?

I was at a seminar recently where Ron Coleman asserted that the experience of hearing voices may commonly be the cause of what seems to be disordered thinking, so that in fact there may be nothing wrong with a person’s ability to think in an orderly way, it is just that the experience of hearing voices is temporarily disrupting the order of the thinking.   I started wondering if something similar might be going on in the cases of  people who have disordered thinking, but who do not report hearing  voices. (For example, as a young guy, I heard voices only on a few days
 total, but engaged in a lot of “disordered thinking!”)
 It occurred to me that one explanation could be that it is having  multiple perspectives that intrude into each other that results in  disordered thinking. These perspectives can manifest just as intrusive  thoughts, or as voices that are heard. 

Of course, an intrusive  perspective is at least metaphorically a “voice” even if it doesn’t have  an auditory component. So the two experiences are not completely  different, just on a continuum. And any human who is confused about an
 issue and is experiencing contradictory perspectives on something may  have some level of “disordered thinking” till it is sorted out. 

I think this way of looking at it normalizes both voices and disordered thinking and offers a suggestion for a way to move toward healing.  That is, as the person becomes more capable of accepting that there is something of value in each perspective, and as the person develops a meta-perspective that incorporates the various contradictory perspectives, the apparent “disorder” may fade away, and the various voices may integrate into smooth functioning.

6 comments… add one
  • Thank you for continuing to show people how “normal” these experiences can be. Someone asked me recently what sites I would recommend for a friend whose 28 year old son has just been hospitalized for the first time and yours was top of the list.
    Happy New Year!

  • Rossa said it perfectly Ron. I too am grateful for your ability to break down that there are a variety of ways we humans have of processing our experiences and pointing out that diverse ways the processing can occur have similarities with an inclusive perspective–just beautiful!

    Happy New Year!

  • Thanks for the appreciation. That’s what keeps us bloggers going. Happy New Year everyone!

  • Ron,

    Every time I come to this site, I learn something new… From you, from your readers… There are so many people on this site who’ve been given the gift of insight, amazing insight …

    I don’t comment often, but I certainly like to read the posts, and listen to what you and other readers have to say.

    Thank you Ron, for creating a blog that allows people to express their opinions openly…

    I thinks it’s wonderful that you always treat people with respect, especially those who have been given a psychiatric diagnosis …

    IMO, you do what other counselors and therapists only dream of doing.. you offer people hope!

    Have a great 2011!


  • I came to think of (or: a voice reminded me of, haha!) your post here, when I commented on a facebook thread earlier today where someone had claimed that the experience of hearing voices can’t be dealt with any other way, but have to be fought/suppressed with drugs. My comment:

    Interesting idea that people would have to take drugs to fight hearing voices (or to fight other so-called “hallucinations” for that sake). “Hallucinations” are thoughts, projected into the outer world, usually because they’re too threatening to be recognized as one’s own inner voice, one’s own thoughts about oneself. When this inner voice, these thoughts are projected into the outer world, this means a unique opportunity to become aware of the fact that most people never become aware of, because they identify with their thoughts: that our thinking is conditioned by our environment. Hearing voices is projecting other people’s thoughts, other people’s judgements and prejudices about us (and about other things), back into where they originally came from, and where they thus belong. Instead of internalizing these judgements and prejudices, and identifying with them, and remaining blissfully ignorant of that other people’s judgements and prejudices about us, be they “negative” or “positive”, is not who or what we really are.

    Fighting the experience of hearing voices, taking drugs to suppress it, is to deprive oneself from the opportunity to become aware, and a more conscious human being. It’s to deprive oneself of the opportunity for personal, spiritual growth. And there’s no growth without growing pain. Existential suffering is the incentive needed to bring about change. Without suffering there’s no need to change anything. That’s why we’re conditioned to fear and fight suffering in this culture of ours that fears nothing more than change.

    I think, this is the most crucial question we have to ask if we want to have a chance to bring about real change. Whether these so-called “symptoms” of so-called “mental illness” really are symptoms in the sense the medical model wants us to believe, i.e. diametrically opposed to what is regarded a natural and understandable human reaction, or whether we are talking an extreme variant of a natural and understandable human reaction, that isn’t even extreme in the sense of exaggerated, or out of proportion, compared to what it is a reaction to. Whether we should fear, and consequently fight extreme states of mind as “symptoms” of an “illness”, as the enemy, or whether we maybe rather should validate them as a natural and meaningful aspect of the human condition that can teach us something about ourselves, and thus bring about growth.

    I second Rossa, Becky, and Duane.

  • hearing voices may commonly be the cause of what seems to be disordered thinking,
    Actually hearing voices IS thinking – IE dissociated thinking, so that idea doesn’t seem to add too much. The approach described seems to be intellectualization which doesn’t have too much power.

    The process of thinking is in fact at it’s root – random for all human beings – just try automatic writing to verify that, and we select from competing thoughts from our unconscious as we pay attention to some thoughts and direct them and very possibly it seems we also think multiple thoughts at the same time. Most of this the ordinary person keeps dulled in their sense of awareness as they are driven by real world exigencies.
    So the point is, the SZ experience of “hearing voices” is in fact quite normal except in the respect of the accompanying emotions and the loss of focus or dissociation (which is the obvious fearful rejection or withdrawal in shock from the consciousness). This “weird world” of the SZ is just the normal consciousness world in acute perspective.
    The ” thinking disorder” is nothing less than the influence of anxiety. Yogis do something just like the SZ does , they let their thought go and simply observe them without anxiety.
    The significant difference is the SZ is directed by extreme fear and anxiety. It is always at the root. It need not be specifically anything in the current situation, the fear as an emotion has grown and become all encompassing.. Most observers miss this – they see “symptoms” not the driving emotion.
    The focus of consciousness shatters. Voices are just internalized thinking become objectified. , Negative voices show the negative or dysfunctional indoctrination – models that in essence don’t work for health and often those models point to the root causes of the fear and anxiety. It is a deep fear in the root of consciousness or deep in the body or brain, is is not like a specific phobia though it well might be accompanied by such.

    So hearing negative voices in a sense is a great symptom to have – in the sense it gives lots of meat to work on to growth. Just as if a SZ has been subject to emotional abuse, it means great hope, because this kind of SZ might fit the model I know to be curable – my own model.

    It is really pointless trying to “intellectualize” and only “talk” a cure when there is an emotional force driving the consciousness. Everyone is an emotional being. and operate on a continuous emotional dimension.. It can’t be expected that the emotional plane will be not started, interrupted or suspended suspended and a person will continue to be integrative.
    When the shattering fear is gone, there will be no simply be voices. In a state of no fear or no anxiety any person will simply enjoy voices and enjoy the in a relaxed way.
    the simple enjoyment of them would ensure that they either will not have a formative power to exist or not be extant in any disturbing manner.
    If the root fear is totally eliminated by meds then all hope of facilitating cure is gone. Enough must be left to work on. The person lives in their emotions, if that is mostly fear then that is where they are. Without negative emotions a person cannot transform in all sense at all levels.
    There are many practical exercises to direct anyone to emotional awareness especially if someone has the richness of hearing voices it just give so much more to work with if they consciously bring that to the transformative work (work! not talk.) i rather wonder why there is so much failure to facilitate transformation. I mean I would think it’s like following the bouncing ball – it goes naturally towards integration. SO I think in the mainstream society – including psychotherapy there is a cultural projection from culturally dysfunctional which inhibits or forbids doing those mechanism that facilitate integration.
    For instance the idea of “being objective” for those who do not have a high EQ means they direct the patient away form the events that actually would be transformative.


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