For millennia, some people have heard voices that others cannot hear. These have been variously understood as medical, psychological and spiritual phenomena. In this article we consider the specific role of spirituality in voice-hearing in two ways. First, we examine how spirituality may help or hinder people who hear voices. Benefits are suggested to include offering an alternative meaning to the experience which can give more control and comfort, enabling the development of specific coping strategies, increasing social support, and encouraging forgiveness. Potential drawbacks are noted to include increased distress and reduced control resulting from placing frightening or coercive constructions on voices, social isolation, the development of dysfunctional beliefs, and missed/delayed opportunities for successful mental health interventions. After examining problems surrounding classifying voices as either spiritual or psychotic, we move beyond an essentialist position to examine how such a classification is likely to be fluid, and how a given voice may move between these designations. We also highlight tensions between modernist and postmodernist approaches to voice-hearing.
- auditory verbal hallucinations