Monday, 24 November 2014

'Spirituality and hearing voices: considering the relation' Psychosis journal, October 2013

'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, Issue 3, 2013
Special Issue: Voices in a Positive Light


"For 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” (p. 11). 

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 al. (2006) 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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