Destigmatizing Hearing Voices

I want to pose a question for you today: Is it ‘normal’ or is it ‘crazy’ to hear voices? And, more personally, have you ever heard a voice whispering in your mind or in the ethers…telling you something in clear, precise language?

This is a big question for me, one I have wrestled with much of my life and I continue to inquire about, within and without. I wonder if I am not the only one asking these questions.

Let me start at the beginning. In my household growing up, the possibility that a person can channel information from Spirit guides was totally accepted. In fact, my parents were active members of the Arcane School, which was based upon channeled writing brought through an English woman named Alice Bailey who said she had received the volumes of material from an ascended Tibetan master. Around our dinner table and during our frequent philosophical conversations, the Arcane school teachings were often talked about.

I never discussed such topics with my childhood friends, boyfriends, or just about anybody else. It did not feel safe, or at least that is what I thought in my striving towards some kind of normalcy…which I defined as “being like other families.”

But the truth is that sometimes I would hear voices, faintly, in the trees or when I prayed. I know Mom and Dad did too. And they used the guidance from those voices in a variety of manners.

Flash forward many decades. I am an adult, leading a group of university students on a three week travel trip in Cuba. The topic: African Diaspora Spirituality. Many of these students were psychology majors. We visit several babalaos, or Santeria priests, and hear their stories. Several share that when they were young adults, they began to hear voices and experience things others did not. One said he had been diagnosed with epilepsy. His mother refused to give up on him and took him for initiation and training in African diaspora spirituality. He learned to manage the voices and use them for the benefit of healing others.

At the conclusion of the course, many of the students commented that what they had learned most from the course was to question definitions of sanity. “Standard psychology would have called some of the babalao priests we met crazy, but they don’t seem crazy at all. In fact, they are important community healers and they use their gifts of hearing voices and falling into trance to help others. We might have put them in an institution or heavily medicated them,” said one participant.

Now it gets even more personal. About twelve years ago, during meditation, I began to channel clear information about crystal healing…a topic I had no previous experience or interest in. This went on for five weeks, the information deluge increasing daily. In the end, I wrote down over 200 pages. This experience brought about a true shift in my life, and I refer to this information daily. Still, during much of the period, I wondered if I was going crazy. Especially when the top of my head throbbed with the effort and my hands ached from writing so fast.

I have a cousin who is a severe schizophrenic and has been in an institution for years. Was that going to happen to me, I wondered? Another cousin, after a mild breakdown in her twenties, is a powerful spiritual healer and channel who now lives on the West coast.  It feels safe to talk to her about these things.

And then there is my daughter who hears voices. Sometimes they say negative to her. And sometimes they warn her accurately. Like the time she kept hearing a voice telling her that our house was going to be broken into. This went on for several weeks until she couldn’t sleep at night for worry. A psychiatrist I took her to took one look at her and said, “Schizophrenia.” And then two days later, as we sat together on our living room couch in the middle of the day, we watched someone trying to break into our house. “Call the police,” I asked her. Calmly she does. “I told you so,” she said.

Perhaps my family has an extra heavy streak of voice hearing, but I am guessing it is a heavy streak in much of humanity. In other places, other cultures, hearing voices is the norm, and one is trained from an early age how to manage this phenomenon so as not to step into insanity. How to use it for guidance and power, and to help others and honor the earth and the sky. Just as some are gifted in art or music, and others in running or politicking…there may just be some humans more gifted in hearing voices and channeling spirit information.

My daughter still struggles with these voices sometimes, but she has decided to try to manage them on her own, without being too doped up on pharmaceuticals. (I am afraid to write this, since it goes against the mainstream ideas of what to do with folks who hear voices that others don’t). She goes to a hearing voices network bi-weekly and in sessions with others who also hear voices, they discuss strategies and share experiences.

This movement is growing and is especially strong in England and this part of the USA. People are bravely coming out to speak about their experiences of hearing voices and that, in fact, this is an experience many people have at some time in the course of their lives. Hearing voices is not always a bad thing or a sign of insanity. Sometimes it can be a source of inspiration, learning and guidance.

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