What are the voices in your head trying to tell you?

Eleanor-LongdenIf you’re as much of a TED-talk addict as I am then you’ll love this video. It’s a talk by Eleanor Longden, a women who was diagnosed with schizophrenia several years ago and later went on to study psychiatry herself. For me, she epitomizes what it means when we as psychologists say that people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator. She is someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has found a way of coping with an incurable psychological dis-ease.

However, let’s be clear. This isn’t about schizophrenia. This post is about anyone who has any ounce of struggle in their own life, their own voices, their own doubts, their own things holding them back. This is for those who want to think higher and be better. For Eleanor Longden,

“The voices were a meaningful responses to traumatic life events that were not my enemy, but insights into solvable emotional problems.”

What is so powerful about she says is that it emphasizes that those fears, doubts, voices in your head (whether literal because of a more severe psychological illness or whether just another innocuous voice trying to stop you) were natural responses to some event that happened to you. Those fears as I’ve said are there for a reason, but they don’t have to control you. Perhaps there is a kernel of truth or a metaphor underlying those voices, as Eleanor suggests.

One strategy that Eleanor said she used was to deconstruct the message behind the words of the voices. What did they mean? What are they actually trying to say? For example, when the voices would tell her not to leave the house because it was dangerous, she would thank them for drawing her attention to how safe she actually was. She said that at least this caused her to become aware of the voices and then do something positive about it. THIS is the essence of mindfulness. If this woman with all her hardships was able to do this with the voices in her head, then what can you do with yours? Can you thank them for trying to protect you, yet still gently release them in acknowledgment of the fact that you no longer need them? Be assertive yet respectful of the voices in your head because at one point or another those voices in your head grew out as a natural response to one of your previous experiences. Thank them for their service and set them free to go. Be aware, that you may have to continuously set them free because there will be times where they come running back and that is OK!

These ideas are not to diminish those experiences of those who legitimately hear voices and is not trying to diagnose someone who has natural fears, doubts, etc., but is trying to draw a string of commonality between the human experience.

I’ll leave you with what was said at the end of the TED talk that is applicable to everyone, but especially clinicians:

“There is no greater honor or privilege than facilitating that process of healing for someone: to bear witness, to reach out a hand, to share the burden of someone’s suffering and to save the hope for their recovery.”

Related posts:

Rubin Khoddam, Clinical Psychology PhD student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter


Categories: Mindfulness, Quote Therapy, Videos

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

3 replies


  1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy – Creating a life worth living | Psych Connection
  2. Reducing mental health stigma – How different are we all? | Psych Connection
  3. Let’s re-language the way we talk about mental illness « Psych Connection

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: