'Spirituality and hearing voices: considering the relation'
Simon McCarthy-Jones, Amanda Waegeli & John Watkins; 23 Oct 2013
Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, Volume 5,
Special Issue: Voices in a Positive Light
millennia, some people have heard voices that others cannot hear. These
have been variously understood as medical, psychological and spiritual
phenomena. In this article we consider the specific role of spirituality
in voice-hearing in two ways. First, we examine how spirituality may
help or hinder people who hear voices. Benefits are suggested to include
offering an alternative meaning to the experience which can give more
control and comfort, enabling the development of specific coping
strategies, increasing social support, and encouraging forgiveness.
Potential drawbacks are noted to include increased distress and reduced
control resulting from placing frightening or coercive constructions on
voices, social isolation, the development of dysfunctional beliefs, and
missed/delayed opportunities for successful mental health interventions.
After examining problems surrounding classifying voices as either
spiritual or psychotic, we move beyond an essentialist position to
examine how such a classification is likely to be fluid, and how a given
voice may move between these designations. We also highlight tensions
between modernist and postmodernist approaches to voice-hearing"
"Spirituality may help voice-hearers in a number of ways, although many
of these ways remain to be rigorously empirically tested. First, it may
offer an alternative explanation for people not satisfied by medical
explanations,2 which may be more meaningful and aid coping. As Cockshutt (2004),
a voice-hearer, has noted, he wanted “an explanation. Not a medical
explanation because in many ways that means little to me … The idea that
the voices have a spiritual connection will certainly appeal to many”
Voice-hearers’ pre-existing spiritual worldviews, or new ones
they feel necessitated to develop as response to voice-hearing (Robin
Timmers, personal communication, 3 May 2013), may offer a coherent
framework to make sense of voice-hearing, increase ownership and
feelings of control, and reduce distress. Indeed, in a study of
religion/spirituality in people diagnosed with schizophrenia, Mohr et
found that “when other sources of support are lacking, spiritual
support makes explanations possible when no other explanations seem
convincing, brings a sense of control through the sacred when life seems
out of control” (p. 1958). This can reduce distress and anxiety (Mohr
et al., 2006) and offer comfort."
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