HEARING VOICES: when our complexes begin to speak

Aug 14, 2018

A circle of identical men with blond hair and wearing white turtlenecks cover their ears, as if to stifle auditory hallucinations.

Auditory hallucinates like hearing voices may be the psyche’s attempt to heal. Understanding the multiple identities called complexes may hold a key.

The psychiatric establishment generally views auditory hallucinations as a symptom of serious mental illness and prescribes antipsychotic medication as treatment. However, is there another way to understand this phenomenon? Could such symptoms have meaning in their own right? In this podcast, we explore the possibility that hearing voices may be the psyche’s attempt to heal itself.

The Hearing Voice’s Network tells us that:

 “…between 3% and 10% of the population has had similar experiences. If we include one-time occurrences, such as hearing someone call our name, this number increases to about 75%. Despite being relatively common, many people who hear voices, see visions or have similar experiences feel isolated. Fear of prejudice, discrimination, and being dismissed as ‘crazy’ can keep people silent. It is essential to provide respect and empathy to those who speak out when we are encouraged to talk.”

People of all ages and backgrounds can hear voices at some point in their lives for many different reasons. While some may find their experiences distressing, others can learn to live with them. Jung’s works contain valuable insights into understanding inner voices. He understood this as an ‘abaissement du niveau mental,’ a phenomenon similar to that encountered in dreams and caused by a peculiar ‘faiblesse de la volonté’ or weakening of will. He suggested that hearing voices may be caused by disconnected complexes and can either never reintegrate into the psyche’s totality or only join together in remission, ‘like a mirror broke into splinters.’

Jung drew parallels between dream content and hallucination. For Jung, the feeling-toned complex, not the dream, was the royal road to the unconscious. He saw the individual as composed of many autonomous selves, so we cannot assume a unity of consciousness or the primacy of will. Jung said that “a person with a strong complex thinks in terms of the complex, dreams with open eyes, and no longer adapts psychologically to the environment.” Jung discovered that hallucinations often occurred within the context of significant trauma. He believed that understanding the symbolic message of auditory hallucinations may allow us to piece together the chain of events that led to the emergence of the symptoms. Jung said, “These forces did not originate in our patient out of nowhere. They are most emphatically not the result of poisoned brain cells but are normal constituents of our unconscious psyche. They appeared in numberless dreams, in the same or similar form, at a time of life when seemingly nothing was wrong. And they appear in dreams of normal people…”

Auditory hallucinations and other sensory experiences may have deeper meaning beyond being symptoms of mental illness. Jung’s insights into the multiplicity of selves and the unconscious psyche offer a valuable perspective on understanding these phenomena. With the help of the Hearing Voices Network and proper support, individuals who hear voices can learn to live with their experiences and potentially find meaning in what they reveal.


I was walking along on a frozen lake near the shore. Suddenly the ice under my feet gave way and I felt myself falling through. My boots were immediately soaked, pulling me under. My coat quickly became too heavy. As my head slipped below the surface, I saw my mother walking some distance from me. She didn’t see me; nobody did. I didn’t make a sound. I only had time to think: this is my death, and nobody will see me. I was going down very quickly, with no time to even struggle. About 1.5 meters below the surface, I had a final quick thought; maybe I’m dreaming. Then I woke up.”


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  1. Michal Ginter

    In addition to the Hearing Voices Network, I would suggest Eleanor Longden as a great source of information on the subject. She’s been hearing voices since her teens, and has also gone to school to become a psychiatrist. Her TED talk is amazing. She has also written a book that sticks to the basic structure of the talk but goes to a lot more detail.

    • Joseph23455

      Outstanding suggestion!!


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