Over the last several weeks I’ve been mentioning a Hearing Voices book that I’ve been working through. This book is called Working with Voices: Victim to Victor (by Ron Coleman and Mike Smith) and its goal is to help a voice hearer better understand the relationships they have with their voices. By examining a voice hearer’s history, including the power and influence their voices have on their life, a voice hearer can develop new coping skills, foster better relationships and use this knowledge to work towards a brighter, safer, future.
Although relatively short in length, the various exercises throughout the book can be quite confronting for a voice hearer. As such, it is recommended that you complete the workbook with the support of understanding individuals. In my life, this means you! ;)
So, over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing each of the exercises so that you – and I – can build a better understanding of my life and people. This way, if I have some form of meltdown brought on by one or more of my responses, you guys can either giggle smugly or offer words of support (whatever you feel like doing at the time!) :p
The book begins with a foreword from Professor Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, who are credited as creating the Hearing Voices Movement in 1987. This movement regards itself as being a post-psychiatric organisation,positioning itself outside of the mental health world in recognition that voices, in their view, are an aspect of human differentness, rather than a mental health problem and that, as with homosexuality (also regarded by psychiatry in historical times as an illness), one of the main issues is about human rights. As with homosexuality, members of the movement intend to change the way society perceives the experience, and psychiatry’s attitude will follow.
This book is for voice hearers and the people they select to support them. It will enable people who have difficulties to cope with their voices and to discover different sides to their voices. Following a systematic approach it will unfold their relationship with the voices and by doing so will stimulate them to acquire more effective ways of coping. Most important in this process, and well stimulated in this workbook, is to take ownership of the experience from writing one’s own life history in relation to ones voices.
In social fields and in medial care hearing voices is seen as the consequence of mental illness. Voices are felt only to be very negative, and must be controlled by professionals. Voices are hardly ever interpreted as the messengers of the person’s life history.
This book however helps a person to overcome three handicaps:
1) The idea that hearing voices is the consequence of an existing illness within the person, most likely being schizophrenia, an illness of unknown origin.
2) The idea that schizophrenia is a diagnosis of an illness not related in an understandable manner with the life history of that person.
3) The idea that the person as the consequence of the illness concept is powerless against the voices, that the voices are not owned by the person, whilst in fact the voices are a persons own experience understandable from the personal trauma’s or overpowering problems with life.
~from the foreward to ‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’
At the beginning of the book is a series of ground rules. As I will be sharing each exercise with you, I feel it pertinent to make you aware of these rules.
- Voices are real, pointless arguments about whom they are real for are, by definition, pointless!
- Voices in themselves may not be the problem rather relationships with them, the power they have and their influence in a persons’ life may be the problem.
- This book belongs to the voice hearer, it should be a record of their experience, their coping and their plans for the future.
- It is all right for new coping strategies to be slow to work.
- Many people try different ways of dealing with voices. It is better to try to partially succeed than to never to try at all. You are in charge as long as you try. You are no longer the victim you are now the victor.
- Take your time, there are no prizes for finishing quickly.
The following is the process that the book works through.
- Identifying your experiences
Identifying your experiences in your own words and as you see them.
- Exploring your experiences
Looking in-depth at your experiences and looking beyond yourself to others and their reactions.
- Understanding your experiences
This is for you, and with your permission a chosen person, to begin to understand and to put into context your experiences.
- Moving on
This phase is about accepting if you want to, and making choices about how you want to cope and live with your voices. It is also about developing strategies for you to take control in your life and for some getting back your life as you want it.
- What do you want from this workbook?
Having dreams and objectives at the beginning of the process gives us a much greater incentive to move forward.
- Creating your future
Where you want to be in your life, how you will get there, what you need to get their, who you need to help you get there and what the pitfalls on your journey might be.
As I share more of the exercises – beginning with goals, moving through my voices life history and ending with planning for the future – this process (and the ideals behind the Hearing Voices Movement) will become more apparent. If you have any questions about my voices and experiences, either now or as we proceed, don’t be afraid to ask. If I can answer them, I shall. If I can’t, then perhaps one of my people will! ;)
~ Next time: Dreams ~