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Voices from Within and Without

by John Exell

This article is an attempt to describe and analyse the voices I have heard, and compare them with other phenomena that I have experienced.

I am a voice hearer. I live in the United Kingdom. I am diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. I accept this diagnosis, but I strongly feel, with many others, that the treatment of this illness, by psychiatry, leaves an awful lot to be desired. I agree, for the time being, to continue with my low dose of anti-psychotic medicine, 200mg Sulpiride, twice daily.

My voices used to cause me an awful lot of distress, but I gradually became their master. I have told some to simply go. They simply packed their bags and left. I later then decided to ignore all voices. They stopped. I later got bored and missed them, and wanted to hear them again. They came back. I decided to ignore the aggressive ones, and simply listen to the gentle, passive ones. I decided on this course of action as the aggressive, angry voices caused me distress; the gentle, passive voices did not cause me distress, and they were easy to listen to. At that time, I had no concrete idea of what the voices were. Maybe it was ESP communication with others, which is what it seemed. Maybe I could read minds.

A short while ago, I was alone at home, listening to and replying to a gentle passive voice that I believed was from a friend of mine, while she was five miles away, and I wasn't on the telephone, when I realised clearly that I was creating her voice, just as I was creating my reply. This led me to realise that I created most of the voices I heard, the aggressive and the passive ones. This was an extremely significant event, which marked my final, almost, mastery over my voices. Subsequently, I have learnt, from other voice hearers, that not many, very few, voice hearers have realised this fact, that they create their own voices, so I feel that I may have something important to add to the growing knowledge and awareness of voices, which is why I decided to write this article. Since I realised that I create my voices, they have more or less stopped, or at least, they are extremely manageable, and very easy to ignore.

Analysing my voices still further, it seems that my voices are simply my idea of what others would say to me, or my idea of what others are thinking of me. My voices, although I now realise that I create them myself, seem to come from other people, including God and other spiritual beings, good or bad. The other person may be standing next to me, or thousands of miles away from me. When I hear a voice, I seem to know what person it appears to be coming from. I seem to be thinking of them at the time I hear the voice. They do not speak in that person's voice, rather "no voice", but they seem to bear the "flavour" of that person. Sometimes, when I have heard voices from friends nearby, I have "checked out" with them if they did indeed think what I had heard. In each case they hadn't. So it seems it is all my imagination and I create the voices with my imagination. Contrary to what I used to believe, I cannot read minds, neither can anyone else read mine, except, perhaps, an extremely few, highly spiritually developed, people. The world is not a highly crafted, complicated conspiracy against me. This realisation was liberating.

Adding weight to the realisation that I create my voices, is the fact that my voices seem to match my mood, that my emotions seem to project the voices, so that it seems that they come from "out there". For instance, when I feel bad in some way, I get "bad" voices. When I feel good in some way, I get "good" voices. If I feel guilty, I get accusing voices; if I feel angry, I get angry voices, etc., etc. The voices only accentuate what I am already feeling.

Whether other voice hearers experience something similar, whether my findings apply to all voice hearers, I do not know.

So my voices seem to come from my unconscious or subconscious, from the nine tenths of my mind that scientists say we do not use, that we are not aware of. So they can be likened to dreams, dreams we have while awake. I once had a dream that, for a long time, I thought that someone had sent me. The dream seemed to come from "out there". I had no way of checking this out. I have since realised that it was a "normal" dream, that I created it.

Have the voices something to tell us? Should we analyse them, interact, interplay with them? On this question, I am undecided, but it was by interacting with a "nice" voice that I realised that they were my creation. Often dreams have something to tell us, but often they don't. Sometimes it is something we ate, a late night film we have seen, a throwback from previous events etc. Sometimes they are just "garbage", not worth a second's thought. And life is short, often there are not enough hours in the day, and we are not getting any younger. Sometimes, like when we have a nightmare, the voices are so disturbing, that it is impossible to interact with them, and so, perhaps, it is better to ignore them, to forget them, to tell them to go away, or otherwise "zap" them. If a voice tells us to kill someone, for instance, what do we do then. When, once, I had a dream that I killed someone, I was deeply disturbed. It does help to talk about disturbing voices however, as it helps to talk about disturbing dreams, especially to a sympathetic friend. We often hear the phrase, "I had a weird dream the other night," and all our ears focus on the person talking. Perhaps in the not too distant future, we will often hear the phrase, "I had a weird voice hearing experience the other day," or perhaps something shorter.

The voices could be caused by things not dealt with, "unfinished business". For example, if someone has a voice telling them to kill someone else, it could well be caused by unexpressed or suppressed anger towards that person. And so the anger should be dealt with in healthier, safer ways.

Back to the dream analogy, we sometimes have profound dreams, that really have something to say to us, so likewise, it could be true that some of the voices have something to say to us. But as dreams, they could be in some sort of code or language, which we should learn to interpret. In no case should they be taken literally or obeyed. In dreams, our subconscious, we, create images, of people and things, and give the people voices, similar to what we do in "hearing voices".

We all have "stray" thoughts, thoughts we would rather not have. In our better moments we reject them, or simply laugh at them. So it is with some of our voices. But, contrariwise, we all have deep, profound thoughts, or flashes of inspiration. Likewise, so it is, possibly, with some of our voices. The problem is, learning to decide which is which.

I have had several other, "strange" experiences, of what I believe was of a more spiritual nature, distinct from the "voices". I have had several visions. These made me feel great. Peaceful, joyous, ecstatic. These came out of me, from my mind or soul, from the universal unconscious. I was totally aware, at the time of having them, that they came from me; unlike the voices, which seem to come from outside at the time of having them, though I now know that they too come from me, from the personal, individual, unconscious.

The visions were of a more impersonal nature than the voices, which were personal, relating more to me, the individual. Though I felt more one with the visions, they were a part of me, while the voices felt disjointed, I wasn't immediately aware that the voices came from me, my mind. The visions came without warning, they just happened, though I felt that I had "earned" them, by something I had done, or rather, hadn't done. In the visions I heard no voices, they were images, feelings, cosmic realisations. The visions were similar to experiences I have read about in spiritual books.

I sometimes hear voices from within. I am fully aware that they come from within, like the visions. They come from a part of my mind, or an angel or the God within, similar to the visions. They are extremely helpful. They rarely occur. They often tell me not to do certain things, or not to go somewhere, like warnings. They are sweet and angelic. Again, they are of a more impersonal nature than the external voices, I felt more one with them than the external voices. They came without warning, they just happened. They do not relate, in any way, to anyone I know.

I once saw a ghost of a deceased relative. I believe it was a ghost, not my projection. She just materialised while I was alone, looked at me inquisitively, and disappeared. There was no fear. She said nothing.

Several times, I have been visited by spirits. They just floated into my room, when I was alone, said something to me, and floated out again. They came without warning, it just happened, there was no fear. I believe these were spirits, distinct from me, and not my projection.

Most of the disembodied "voices" were unaccompanied by images, but I have also seen images, some speaking, that I believe were my hallucination, my mind's projection. I have also seen other strange phenomena that I believe were not my projection, but that were actually there. Maybe I'm psychic as well as suffering from schizophrenia.

I once had a "past life" experience. It just came out of me without warning, from my mind. It didn't fit in with accepted history. It seemed very unreal. I am very suspicious of "past life" experiences, as most of them seem to be about being someone famous in history. My experience was of a similar ilk. Very rarely is a "past life" experience about being someone completely ordinary. I again liken this to a dream I had while awake too. Others were in the "dream" and they spoke.

Freud, Jung and other notable psychologists rediscovered the inner world, calling it the sub-conscious, unconscious and other names. It is reported in the Christian Bible that Jesus Christ said "The Kingdom of Heaven lies within." Other mystics, saints and prophets have said much the same thing, and talk of the God within. Currently we are told that we use and are aware of only a very small part of our mind. So it is highly likely that a vast cosmos lies within us, untapped, unexplored, unaware of. It is from this region that dreams, while we are asleep or awake, come from. I believe that all my disembodied "voices" and most of the strange things I have seen come from this region. So they all come from me, I create them. And for someone with an active imagination this is quite natural.

It is quite natural to believe that a God exists. It is quite natural to believe in a life after death. Therefore it is quite natural to believe that spirits, lesser gods, angels and devils, etc., also exist. We are all part of the same stuff, continuum and Cosmos, so it is quite natural to believe that God, lesser gods, spirits, angels and devils, etc., are all active on this earth. Some people are psychic. I could be one of them. So it is quite natural for me to be able to see and hear things that many others cannot. But I must add that most of the strange things I have heard and seen come from within me, from me.

To summarise, all of the outer disembodied voices, most of the "visual hallucinations", supposed "past life" experiences, visions, inner voices, come from within me, from me. There exist "things out there" that can be seen by psychic individuals. All these things, inner and outer, are quite natural. The problem arises when we take them too seriously, start believing in them or even obeying them. The visions, which brought me ecstasy, joy and peace, and the inner voice, which is extremely helpful, and other phenomena that make me feel good and are helpful, all of which I believe are from the God within, or something similar, I do take seriously.

I first wrote this article about nine months ago. Now I very rarely hear voices. I don't miss them. They occur when I get very stressed. At first, I tend to get caught up in them as before, then realise what is happening, ignore the voices, drop what I am doing, and take a long break. Luckily I am in a position to do this.

I found that I can conjure up the voices at will. I have conjured up certain voices to help me make an important decision. One voice gave me advice which seemed perfectly logical and was helpful. I have thought about using the voices in other creative processes, but I haven't as yet.

I must add that it was my being a client of the nutritionist who specialises in schizophrenia, Lorraine Perretta, based at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, Putney, London SW, which mainly enabled me to see that I created my disembodied voices, which in turn enabled me to write this article. Many thanks to you, Lorraine.

A shortened version of this article originally appeared in Openmind 111 (Sept/Oct 2001) copyright Mind (National Association for Mental Health) 2001, and is reprinted with permission.

John Exell ......2001