Written by Lane Gormley, EdS, LPC, BCC, NGHC
As he remembers it, Edmund first began to hear “the Voices” after taking what are popularly known as “club drugs” at a party in a “cool” neighborhood in Atlanta’s inner city. He knows that he took Ecstasy (“X”), and he thinks that he may have used LSD as well. It was not Ed’s first experience with illegal drugs, and it was not his last. That party and its aftermath marked the beginning, for Edmund, of an Alternate Reality that some psychiatrists call “psychosis”.
The multiple voices are loud, menacing, cruel, taunting, and destructive. They create a noisy din in Edmund’s head. They tell my Client that he is condemned to Hell, that he is worthless, and that he should die now. Jump out that window, they say. Do it. Stab yourself. Shoot yourself. Go and get that gun. Your life is an abomination. It is a crime against God, a sin against mankind.
Edmund no longer uses Club Drugs, but he is prone to use marijuana, alcohol, and even narcotics in an ongoing attempt to still the incessant ranting in his brain.
He has been diagnosed at different times with Bipolar I and Schizophrenia, although some doctors say that his first psychotic “break” at age 18 was caused by the synthetic amphetamine, Ecstasy, that he used with other “cool” people.
Edmund takes psychiatric medications to quiet the voices, but he tells me that they numb his brain and diminish his interest in continuing his life.
Some researchers, particularly medically oriented ones, write that hearing voices is a symptom of psychosis. Psychosis is a symptom of several mental health disorders, including Schizophrenia, PTSD, Bipolar I, and addictions that have reached a critical stage. If you read the psychiatric definition of psychosis in diagnostic manuals (like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association or DSM), you will see that the writers themselves tiptoe around the exact definition of psychosis.
Their notion of psychosis as a loss of contact with “reality” concerns and even upsets people whose reality may not resemble that of North American “Consensus Reality”, or commonly accepted reality.
I am pretty sure that my reality may not be the same as that of the practitioners of the Voodoo religion in and around New Orleans, some Ghanian priestesses, the Pentecostal Christians, the Sufis, the Church of Lord Jesus With Signs Following, or even other Catholics. So many realities, so little time to explore them all…
It is probably safe to say, however, that most people don’t hear the Voices and that people who do hear them are therefore not within range of what is statistically “normal”.
My understanding of reality is based on many things including my background, culture, education, and experiences. It is therefore relative. Even though I am caught up in it, I question it constantly. Am I thinking about this correctly? Is that really what happened? Are there other ways of thinking about this?
Do my perceptions represent, in their ensemble, an Absolute, Global, Objective Truth? I don’t think so. My understanding of reality represents my own personal truth.
I do not hear the voices that Edmund hears, and he knows that. I am not, however, arrogant enough to deny that he hears them. I am open to discussing the Voices.
Once, in group therapy in a hospital Crisis Unit, someone asked about them. I said, “For lack of time, I will not discuss the Voices in this session. For those of you who are interested, I will hold a group in the small group room after lunch, and we will discuss them.” Every single one of the patients came to the small group room after lunch. A lot of people obviously hear voices that I do not hear.
A small subset of well-known people who report(ed) hearing voices include Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Saint Joan of Arc, Robert Schumann, Mahatma Gandhi, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Forbes Nash, Emmanuel Swedenborg, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and actor Anthony Hopkins. See www.intervoiceonline.org and www.hearing-voices.org for more information.
So, what is psychosis and what is not? This would seem to be a relevant question. I have no idea what the answer to it is, but I do believe that we should ask the question. We should probably ask it repeatedly. At the very least, it will make us more tolerant of one another.
Pain Versus the Psychics
There is another question that seems relevant to me: what is the nature of the voices? Are they helpful and loving? Instructive and protective? Predictive? Or are they what the psychiatrists call command hallucinations – voices that urge people to commit suicide or murder? If they are upsetting or dangerous, we must act to quiet them. You must believe me when I tell you that Edmund’s life is a living hell and that I would move mountains to make it otherwise.
Above all else, this seems important to me: people who suffer from command hallucinations and who engage in dangerous behaviors because of them should first be stabilized since they usually will not stabilize themselves. They often have to be helped to seek treatment through hospitalization, medications, and the appropriate therapies.
Someone who reportedly hears voices and who does not seem particularly tortured by it is the well known psychic medium, Theresa Caputo. She appears regularly on Long Island Medium, and many people believe that she hears voices from beyond this life. Others say that she is a fraud. Psychics and their predictions have existed since the dawn of time – from the the Oracle at Delphi to Moses and the Book of Samuel in the Bible, from Nostradamus to Edgar Cayce, Sylvia Browne and beyond… As long as there have been psychics, we have questioned, believed, paid, worshipped, doubted, and executed them.
Some Spiritualists and paranormal investigators would say that Edmund is possessed by the voices. He does not see the entities who are speaking, but they inhabit and inhibit his being nonetheless. Edmund is Catholic; and he told me that once, during Confession, he was tempted to ask a priest about the Exorcism Rite of the Catholic Church’s Roman Ritual. Exorcism for the banishment of evil is performed in the Catholic Church and the Islamic religion, as well as in the Deliverance Ministry established by the Church of England in 1974.
Spirit Release: The New Exorcists
There are also therapists who help their Clients deal with the Voices and other extreme symptoms that keep them from living their lives. Metaphysical or Spiritual approaches to healing fall within the domain of Transpersonal Psychology. Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent, or spiritual aspects of the human experience.
Practitioners of Spirit Release Therapy like Dr. Edith Fiore work with the premise that some Clients have extreme symptoms that are caused by Spirits that became attached to them in times of relative fragility. She and other Hypnotists like her, including my own teacher, Barbara Locasio Aquilino, LCSW, report having worked with cases where early childhood fears or abuse, periods of addiction, and other traumas weakened a Client’s energy field, leaving the Client prey to having their energy field blocked by earthbound Spirits and other entity attachments.
An earthbound Spirit might be, for example, someone who died and who either did not realize that they were dead or who feared death or Hell so much that they could not leave the earth. Some may also have been confused about the death experience or remained here with the intention of caring for a loved one. They were unable, for some reason, to move toward the higher spiritual plane. These fearful Spirits try to remain earthbound by attaching to the physical energy field of a very young, vulnerable, ill, or otherwise fragile person. This is not good for the Client to whom they attach, and it impedes their own spiritual process.
In her remarkable book, The Unquiet Dead, Dr. Fiore emphasizes more than once that she is not absolutely certain that the Spirits exist. In other words, Spirit Release may be simply a model for effective treatment of a Client’s most persistent and painful symptoms.
What Dr. Fiore and those who perform de-possession are very confident about is that the method of Spirit Release that she practices can bring healing, comfort, and sometimes complete relief from disturbing symptoms.
Into the Light
Dr. Fiore’s goal is to help her Clients heal spiritually, by providing a means for the dark energy within them to be released to the Light. She and therapists who work in the same methodology make it clear that this is not Exorcism in that no Spirit is “banished”; the Spirit is helped, under hypnosis, to move toward the Light, toward a higher level of energy.
The purpose of the therapy is, in fact, the release of negative energy so that the Client and the Spirit can both move toward enlightenment. In a certain sense, shouldn’t that be the goal of all therapy?
If you would like to read more about this unique and increasingly practiced approach to spiritual healing, listen to Dr. Fiore’s lectures on YouTube or read books by these authors: Sue Allen, William J. Balwin*, Edith Fiore*, Louise Ireland-Frey, Shakuntala Modi, Michael Newton, and Samuel Sagan. [* denotes authors with whom I am familiar]
Questions? Come and see me or write to me. If I don’t know the answer, I at least know whom to ask.