The hearing voices simulation


Last weekend was my grad school weekend in a class intended to provide an overview of the mental health system. One activity was a disturbing simulation of hearing voices. We walked around and tried to perform tasks while wearing a set of headphones listening to a tape in which voices alternated between hateful, confusing and comforting voices. I had been in a hearing voices simulation before but it was not this intense and it was far shorter.

 

The teacher and a helper had us perform various tasks, ranging from simple games to memory, county backwards from 100 by 7 and taking a quiz. Most disturbing about this was that even when I tried to explain that the voices were making it too difficult for me to concentrate, the task masters ignored me.  They went along happily with whatever they were assigned to do.

I mean, counting backwards by 7, give me a break. Another difficult part of the exercise was the unpredictable nature of it. One minute, I was listening to some weird incoherent sound and the next minute I was hearing someone scream at me. I was not frightened but at different times frustrated. There was not enough time to think about my answers but then the answers did not matter.

What I understand was the problem of doing any higher level thinking. Math, forget it. I tried to work on blotting out the voices and if they were competing, trying to find the softer, more comforting voice. I can understand why people take medication to seek relief from these sounds but as I understand it, the medications don’t stop them. One man told me he was hearing the voice of god. As an atheist, I did not find that comforting at all. What are these voices that people hear and what do they represent?

 

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