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  • Author
    Xialing Ann Chen
  • Co-author

    Xialing Ann Chen, Dr. T.M Luhrmann, Dr. Emmanuelle Peters

  • Title

    When Spirit Calls: A Phenomenological Approach to Frequent Voice-Hearers Without a Need for Psychiatric Care in London, UK

  • Abstract

    We present an in-depth study of 22 people who reported that they hear voices but have no need for care. Despite in many cases hearing voices daily, they report remarkably little distress. Most interpreted their voices as spirits, and most spoke of learning to understand, to manage, and even to train their experience of communicating with spirits in a manner that was productive for them. There was, however, considerable diversity in their experience of voices. Some described experiences they seemed to have discovered after starting a practice. Others described reaching for a practice to make sense of unusual experiences. This raises the possibility that cultural ideas about spirit communication may have two effects. On the one hand, cultural ideas around spiritual communication may help those who begin to hear voices involuntarily to interpret and manage their experience so that they avoid a need for care. On the other hand, it also suggests that those cultural ideas about spirit communication may lead some people to identify thoughts as voices, and to come to feel that some thoughts and inner experiences are generated outside of themselves. It is difficult to clearly differentiate these groups. However, in this sample, it is striking that professionals  (those consistently paid for their work) reported voice-like events which were less loud, more multisensory, more under their control, and more pleasant than others; they were also more likely to report that their relationship with their voices has changed. This should remind us that the culture-mind relationship is complex, and that there may be different kinds of phenomena described by individuals as “voices.”

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