How “Normal” People Experience Hearing Voices

How “Normal” People Experience Hearing Voices

We all hear voices that don’t exist. As much as we may try to deny this, it is a normal human experience. We don’t think much about it because it is so normal and we certainly don’t share this experience with others because we are afraid of being considered abnormal.

Think about it. How many people find it extremely difficult to meditate because they cannot calm down enough to turn off their loud and incessant brain chatter? Brain chatter has a voice.

Psychologists acknowledge that we all have an inner voice that speaks to us, sometimes while reading a book, thinking a thought, or are actively engaged in some activity requiring concentration or emotional support, to the point that some people actually talk to themselves out loud. Some people actually carry on extended conversations with their interior mental voice. These people, though not considered to be technically ill, are deemed to be eccentric. So-called normal people are far more adept at keeping this inner dialogue discreetly to themselves. There is an unspoken taboo about revealing our inner voices to others.

What Kind of Voices Do We Hear?

This kind of interior voice is usually recognizable as what I will call a thought voice. It is not heard as much as it is experienced as a mental verbalization of a thought. It clearly belongs to us and no one else. This voice is most often experienced as our own voice, but sometimes seems to belong to other people, some known to us, such as family members, and others more impersonal, such as a film narrator. Although we can often identify the gender of the voice if we focus on it, very often it is too subtle or too deeply embedded as a thought, rather than a sound, to make it identifiable as either male or female.

Lots of people actually hear voices and talk in their sleep, and some are capable of carrying on lengthy and even logical conversations. They are responding to voices they hear in their dreams. The voices in our dreams belong to our cast of dream characters and range from male to female, adult to child, familiar to unfamiliar. The voices don’t even have to speak our language! At age nine, I remember having a dream in French with subtitles in English written at the bottom of my visual screen (just in case I wasn’t able to translate my minds’ own language correctly). My brother, at age seven, a product of the new television generation, often had commercial breaks between his dreams! His dreams were apparently sponsored by a higher source!

I often have the experience when I wake up in the middle of the night that I am listening one or several voices, male and/or female, droning on and on. They have the vocal inflections of newscasters on a cable news channel. I struggle to make out what they are saying. But it is the same sensation as having the words just on the tip of your tongue—you can’t distinguish real words. Of course, when this happens, all of the television sets in the house are turned off. When I fully wake up, I realize I am listening to the sounds of raw silence and the voices eventually disappear.

It is similar to the problem I have when trying to decipher or read written text in a dream. I can see the actual words in a book, but they seem to dissolve or slip aside if I look directly at them. Sometimes meaning arises all by itself without any understanding of the words. For example, once in a dream, I remember trying to read the text of a medical book that my grandfather had opened to a particular page. Although I wasn’t able to read the words, I somehow instantly knew the text was discussing ophthalmology. My knowledge was beyond the words themselves.

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My hunch is that when the right hemisphere of the brain is dominant, such as when we are sleeping, dreaming, or waking up, the linguistic faculties of the left hemisphere are turned off. This would explain why we struggle so hard to find meaning in written words. Of course, the flip side of this coin is that we can find meaning much faster in non-verbal environmental sounds. In my opinion, psychic auditory sensing is not mysterious at all. It is all about how the human brain seeks, finds, and develops meaning, then communicates that meaning to itself. Everything is an interpretation and some interpretations are better than others.

How Schizophrenics Experience Hearing Voices

How “Normal” People Experience Hearing VoicesAre the voices heard by schizophrenics any different than the voices that all of us hear in our heads?

Most medical studies that have been done on schizophrenia do not focus on the subjective experience of schizophrenics, such as how they hear voices. Most tend to focus on objective criteria such as symptoms, evaluations of brain scans, and progression of the disease. I was, however, able to find a few studies which actually explore the subjective experiences of schizophrenics of their own hallucinations. These were quite useful in helping me understand the relationship between thinking and hearing. This, in turn, is valuable when you are trying to understand the difference between auditory psychics and schizophrenics.

Auditory hallucinations are the most common type of hallucination associated with schizophrenia. Researchers have estimated that 75 percent of all schizophrenics hear voices that are not really there. Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, disorganized speech and behavior, thought disorder, decrease in emotional range, apathy, and loss of cognitive abilities to focus attention and organize all of which comes about as a result of organic deterioration of the brain. This immediately distinguishes schizophrenics from psychics.

I was curious to know if schizophrenics hear voices with their ears (outside) or in their minds (inside). Psychics are capable of hearing both ways, depending on the situation. Surprisingly, very few studies have ever undertaken to investigate this rather important distinction.

One such study was conducted by Dr. David L. Copolov, professor of psychiatry at Monash University and former director of the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. His team found that 74 percent of the patients heard voices at least once each day. A significant majority of these patients (80 percent) said they experienced the voices as real rather than imaginary.

The patients were divided by their perception of the origin of the voices. Thirty-four percent said the voices came from outside their heads; 28 percent said the voices were inside their head; and 38 percent said the voices came from both inside and outside their heads. A large majority (70 percent) said the voices were almost always negative in tone, although some said they experienced the voices as supportive and positive. Some voices were experienced as a continual barrage of noise, while other voices were intermittent.

Schizophrenics’ Voices: Louder Versions Of Our Own Inner Voices?

If you think about it, the characterizations given by these patients of their voices don’t seem that far off from louder versions of our own inner voices.

The schizophrenics’ voices gave running narrative descriptions of the their lives, talked to them in insulting as well as pleasant ways, issued commands and orders, held conversations with the patient, and were experienced as gender-based voices for the most part.

The close resemblance of psychotic voices to our own “normal” inner voice makes it very tempting to analyze these auditory hallucinations as nothing more than a louder conversation inside one’s head. Why are schizophrenic’s voices louder than the average internal voice? Perhaps they lack the ability to filter, dampen, or tune out the internal conversation.

If we can understand schizophrenic voices as nothing but our internal voice (with the volume turned way up) then we can also begin to understand why schizophrenics can make good psychics and yet still be delusional. Psychic and psychotic states are not mutually exclusive. You can be both, just as you can be one or the other. But being psychic does not mean you are psychotic.

Trusting the Process Finding Meaning from the Depths of the Subconscious Mind

It seems to me that schizophrenics often cling to the feeling and sounds of words, such as when they engage in clanging, a psychological term referring to a type of speech that links words together by their rhyming or alliterative sounds, not by their meaning. Schizophrenics cling to the feeling of the words because they cannot seem to think effectively and no longer find the meaning at all.

By contrast, psychics are able to find meaning by listening to raw sounds, then free-associating a proper meaning. The meaning arises, unaided, from the depths of the subconscious mind. Psychics have learned to trust this process. Most of us simply cannot believe there is a perfectly legitimate logic within us that exists without the benefit of formal thinking.

© 2012 Nancy du Tertre. All rights reserved.
Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, New Page Books
a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ.  800-227-3371. 

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Psychic Intuition: Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask but Were Afraid to Know  by Nancy du Tertre.

Psychic Intuition: Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask but Were Afraid to Know
by Nancy du Tertre.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Nancy du Tertre, author of: Psychic Intuition--Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask but Were Afraid to Know Nancy du Tertre is an attorney who became a trained psychic detective, spiritual medium, medical intuitive, and paranormal investigator. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, she is a frequent media guest. Nancy also lectures to university psychology students and paranormal conventions and hosts her own radio show--Hot Leads Cold Cases--on Para-X and CBS Radio. Her Website is

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