April 22, 2005

What are Hallucinations?

Like many people with schizophrenia, I've struggled with this one for years. I mean, I have heard ad infinitum that a hallucination is a creation of one's own brain, not something "really real." But try to tell me that when I'm under a barrage of hateful persecutory voices and I can only answer, "Well, they sound pretty damned real to me, and they're scary as hell, too!" That is the crux of the problem, for me at any rate: how to understand the facts of the matter -- that the voices are only an illusion, auditory ghosts, that they don't actually exist "out there" but only "in here," in my head, when it sounds precisely as if they are coming from everywhere else?

Trying to explain this to me, my doctor had this idea, which I now pass on to those of you who are still struggling with the issue. I suffer from frequent bouts of double vision, but I'm sure all of you know what that's like and have experienced the phenomenon at least once. Well, in double vision, you know that one image is false (even though you may not in fact know which one) that there can only be one person in a pink hat, say, in front of you, not two identical twins of each and every person passing by. And you know that this is a problem not with reality, ie NOT with out there but with "in here" with either your eyes or your brain. That's one good example of how the brain can make external reality appear to change and affect one from outside one's self.

Now, and this is what took me a while to process because it was so difficult to make the leap: take that same notion of double vision and apply it to voices, to auditory hallucinations, or to hallucinations of any sort. A hallucination is by definition a perception, a feeling, a sensation that seems to come from outside one's self, right? But if I think about it, it is unlikely that people would be hiding in the bushes and criticizing me or carping about the way I walk or telling me I have no right to be outside the car at a rest stop so they probably aren't, or I'll grant the possiblity that they might not be, for argument's sake. So where must this perception of the voices I am hearing come from? From my own brain, just like the ghost image in my double vision: I've created the illusion of hearing voices outside my ears from inside my own brain. I've created it, my own brain created the experience, not the other way around!

Now I can't say that I always grasp this or can act on it consistently. When the voices harangue me, I still go into self-protective mode and behave in a paranoid fashion because I can't help but hear what I hear and respond with terror. But we're working on it; we're working on ways to stop that immediate response and ways for me to short-circuit the fear by telling myself, first, that it's just my anxiety that creates the voices to begin with. But I'd be the last to tell anyone it's easy. It's the hardest thing I've ever done.

Posted by pamwagg at April 22, 2005 06:14 PM


IM wanting to say i have halluncations, as well auditory, smelling things or hearing , not really seeing things, but music, piano, classical. music playing. it is hard at times for me to work. i do take mediance for yrs, still have that imbalance.

Posted by: debbie williams at August 14, 2006 03:48 PM

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