The consequences of hearing voices differs for each individual person. Those who hear helpful or benevolent voices rarely seek or need help and support and are pretty much invisible to us. They are sprinkled among the general population as energy healers, spiritual practitioners, meditators, artists, writers etc. Or just hearing voices and living with them successfully, coping.
Those who hear critical or challenging voices are more likely to be found in psychiatric settings or receiving medication and support.
In hearing voices groups I helped facilitate, and 20 years of working in hospital settings and community support roles, I met many folk who, in one way or another, were experiencing voices.
These folk all had various social and circumstantial differences in their lives. Often, the only thing they had in common was the diagnosis of Schizophrenia. The hearing of unwanted voices.
An example of the effect of voice hearing can be seen in the life, music and love of classical composer Robert Schumann.
A prolific genius, a determined and driven individual, a prodigy. Despite his fathers' attempts to drive him into the safe and predictable world of book keeping, Robert only wanted one thing: to be the worlds' greatest pianist.
He practiced up to 15 hours daily, completely failed to study, fell into forbidden love with a young female piano prodigy, wrote secret letters to the girl who would become the great love of his life. His inspiration, companion, supporter and muse, Clara Weicke.
Schumann was also troubled by a sensitive and "nervous" aspect of character. One that inspired him to create wonderful pieces of music but also laid him open to self criticism and feelings of hopelessness and exasperation. After damaging his hand by the use of a contraption made with wood and wire that he hoped would stretch his fingers and enable him to have a broader reach on the piano keys, he had to settle for writing music for others. His dream of world class playing in concerts was over.
He waited several years to be able to marry Clara and inspired by immense happiness and a singing soul, he produced an amazing number of pieces, concertos and symphonies in a brilliant 12 month period. They sang and played together and entertained many of the leading lights of the day. Schumann was a celebrity, rewriting the rules on music composition and ushering in a new wave.
Clara reported how he would often write complete pieces of music without pausing, these he was hearing in his head and rarely requiring further adjustments or editing. Minor moments of celestial perfection, watercolour impressions of great beauty. Often to be followed by exhaustion. The price we might pay for great acts of exertion both mental and physical.
They toured Europe and and he took on posts and commissions but the demands of these exhausted and tired him also. He became more prone to melancholy and depression and on a visit to Holland, some of his quirks of character and sensitivities became more obvious and pronounced. He developed an odd series of phobias, felt afraid when standing near to staircases and concerned about touching door handles. He had rapid ups and downs in mood that might nowadays be classed as a form of Bipolar Disorder.
What is less well known is that Robert was a voice hearer also.
He had two voices, Florian and Eusebius.
Florius appeared first. This was a voice that cajoled, consoled and inspired him to greater efforts and higher achievements when composing his music. A voice that drove him ever on and on. Sometimes staying awake for days, hearing the music in his head, scribing it onto paper.
Eusebius was a different voice.
He appeared at times of pressure and doubt in Schumanns' life. When Robert lacked for inspiration, when pieces were unsatisfactory in quality. When financial insecurities tugged at his mind. When he was worn out from his many duties. When he felt helpless and hopeless. Eventually, there came a point when he was so unhappy and driven to distraction by his negative voices, that after one day in a local asylum, he flung himself into the river close to his home and was rescued by a passing group of walkers. On being readmitted, he spent over two years as a patient.
On being observed, it was obvious that Robert was constantly talking to and with his voices. He died aged 46, leaving behind his beautiful and graceful legacy, his inspiring and uplifting gift to us all. His music.
Activist/ Health worker/ 20 years. Specific interests : wellness/ voice hearing/ coping/ exploring/ sharing/ stigma reduction.