In an article for The American Scholar, T. M. Luhrmann presents a new understanding for how to deal with disturbing voices:
“Voices arise when the person is confronted with overwhelming emotional trauma he cannot handle,” Marius Romme explained as he strode across the stage at the Maastricht conference. “We know this.” It is generally agreed that the concept of dissociation was coined by Pierre Janet, as the 19th century turned into the 20th, to describe a disruption in the normally integrated processes of identity, memory, and consciousness.
If it is true that distressing auditory hallucinations are the dissociative consequences of trauma, the implications are enormous. Dissociative disorder has a positive prognosis, one of the most positive in the realm of psychiatric disease, whereas schizophrenia is often thought to have the worst. Dissociative disorder is understood to be a reaction to events in the world; schizophrenia is usually imagined as a largely inherited vulnerability. Dissociation is best treated with therapy and interaction; schizophrenia is assumed to require medication, often heavy. The new way of thinking opens the possibility that people do not hear voices because they are crazy, but that their apparent craziness may be the result of the brain-numbing chaos that can result from hearing voices. It suggests that we can help by teaching people to cope with their voices, rather than viewing the voices as evidence of organic damnation.
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