The People Talking in My Head
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More fundamentally, neither experiment can do more than provide a rough phenomenology of inner speech—a sense of where we experience inner speech neurologically and how it may operate. Nonetheless, Fernyhough has built up an interesting picture of inner speech and its functions.
It certainly seems to be important in memory, and not merely the mnemonic recitation of lists, to which my wife and many others resort. I sometimes replay childhood conversations with my father, long deceased. I conjure his voice and respond to it, preserving his presence in my life. Inner speech may participate in reasoning about right and wrong by constructing point-counterpoint situations in our minds. Fernyhough writes that his most elaborate inner conversations occur when he is dealing with an ethical dilemma.
Inner speech could also serve as a safety mechanism. Negative emotions may be easier to cope with when channelled into words spoken to ourselves. Indeed, a mainstream strategy in cognitive behavioral therapy involves purposefully articulating thoughts to oneself in order to diminish pernicious habits of mind. There is robust scientific evidence demonstrating the value of the method in coping with O.
Cognitive behavioral therapy also harnesses the effectiveness of verbalizing positive thoughts. Many athletes talk to themselves as a way of enhancing performance; Andy Murray yells at himself during tennis matches. The potential benefits of this have some experimental support. In , Greek researchers randomly assigned tennis players to one of two groups. The second group got a tactical lecture on the use of particular shots. The group trained to use self-talk showed improved play and reported increased self-confidence and decreased anxiety, whereas no significant improvements were seen in the other group.
Sometimes the voices people hear are not their own, and instead are attributed to a celestial source. At Mt.
But in later prophetic books the divine voice grows quieter. Elijah, on Mt. In Christianity, however, divine speech continues through the Gospels—the apostle Paul converts after hearing Jesus admonish him. Especially in evangelical traditions, it has persisted. Martin Luther King, Jr. After receiving a threatening anonymous phone call, he went in despair into his kitchen and prayed.
Fernyhough relates some arresting instances of conversations with God and other celestial powers that occurred during the Middle Ages. In fifteenth-century France, Joan of Arc testified to hearing angels and saints tell her to lead the French Army in rescuing her country from English domination. The voice of Jesus gave her advice for negotiating a deal with her frustrated and worried husband. She agreed to eat; he accepted her chastity.
Fernyhough writes imaginatively about the various registers of voice she hears. When He chooses, our Lord changes that sound into the voice of a dove, and then into a robin redbreast, tweeting merrily in her ear. People perceived the utterances of the right hemisphere as being external to them and attributed them to gods. In the tumult of attacking Troy, Jaynes believed, Achilles would have heard speech from his right hemisphere and attributed it to voices from Mt.
The characters of the Iliad do not sit down and think out what to do. They have no conscious minds such as we say we have, and certainly no introspections. When Agamemnon, king of men, robs Achilles of his mistress, it is a god that grabs Achilles by his yellow hair and warns him not to strike Agamemnon. It is a god who then rises out of the gray sea and consoles him in his tears of wrath on the beach by his black ships.
It is one god who makes Achilles promise not to go into battle, another who urges him to go, and another who then clothes him in a golden fire reaching up to heaven and screams through his throat across the bloodied trench at the Trojans, rousing in them ungovernable panic. Imposing a structure on the relationship with the voices helps minimise feelings of powerlessness. It is valuable to see that you can set your own limits and restrain the voices from excessive intrusion on your life. It is important, for example, to know whether a particular medicine is helpful in reducing the hearing of voices or easing anxiety and confusion.
Understand that voice hearing can positively impact on personal growth — for some voice hearers, learning to adjust to their experiences has contributed to their personal growth. Personal growth can be defined as recognising what you need in order to live a fulfilled life, and knowing how to achieve these ends. Though it is important to communicate, make sure to protect yourself Communicating about voices has its disadvantages.
Voice hearers can feel very vulnerable; some voice hearers find great difficulty in opening up about their experiences, although it can be easier with other voice hearers. Another drawback is that the voices may become temporarily more acute when you start talking about them. All in all, though, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Practical advice for family, friends and mental health workers To assist voice hearers, mental health professionals need to find out which frames of reference and coping strategies seem to be the most useful to the voice hearer. When to seek help If you are hearing voices and they are causing concern, talk with your GP who will refer you to a Psychiatrist if necessary.
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A comprehensive review of auditory verbal hallucinations: lifetime prevalence, correlates and mechanisms in healthy and clinical individuals. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, [online] 7. NHS Choices Hallucinations and hearing voices. Beavan, V. The prevalence of voice-hearers in the general population: A literature review.
Journal of Mental Health, 20 3 , pp. Woods, A. Experiences of hearing voices: analysis of a novel phenomenological survey. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2 4 , pp.
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Castelnovo, A. Post-bereavement hallucinatory experiences: A critical overview of population and clinical studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, , pp. Johns, L. Occurrence of hallucinatory experiences in a community sample and ethnic variations. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2 , pp. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account.
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