RE: Voices

Bob Green (
Wed, 9 Jul 1997 22:06:14 +1000

Following is a post I wrote before Chris, so he might like to elaborate further.


I don't profess to know much how about the following hence my reliance on
references and others opinions.

HYPNOSIS: described to me by a psychiatrist as a 'normal' mental state
involving a narrowed consciousness. A person who was hypnotised might
appear to be hallucinating if told to react in a certain way.

Kaplan and Saddock, authors of a standard text (Modern Synopsis of
Psychiatry) define hypnosis as, " ... a form of concentration characterized
by attentive, receptive focal concentration with diminished peripheral
awareness". Further, " .. focal awareness, which is diffuse in sleep, is at
optimal capacity during the hypnotic trance".

They further state hypnosis involves a "relative suspension of critical

HALLUCINATIONS: Sainsbury and Lambeth (Sainsbury's Key to Psychiatry) state
"An hallucination is a false perception occurring without an external

Hallucinations can take the form of tactile (bugs crawling on the arms),
visual (seeing the devil in your room), gustatory (taste of arsenic in your
mouth), olfactory (smell rotting flesh while in a bookshop), auditory (hear
a voice accusing others around you of being spies plotting to kill you),
ie., in the absence of the bugs, flesh etc being present.

They state hallucinations are generally indicative of a psychotic state and
"signify a break with reality".

Exceptions include: pseudohallucinations, hallucinations as the result of
sensory deprivation, certain drug induced experiences and electrical
stimulation of the cortex, certain epileptic experiences.

PSEUDO HALLUCINATIONS: In a text by Kendell and Zealey (companion to
Psychiatric Studies) there is the following statement:

"True hallucinations should be distinguished from hallucinations which the
patient produces of his own imagination (pseudohallucination). Such
pseudohallucinations often occur when the patient is falling
asleep(hypnogogic) or waking up (hypnopompic)."

McKellar (Abnormal Psychology) has a lot more to say about

The term hypnogogic was coined in 1861 and hypnopompic in 1904.

Warrens Dictionary of Psychology (1934) defined hyponogogic imagery as,
"Imagery of any sense modality, frequently of almost halluncinatory
character, which is experienced in the drowsy state preceding deep sleep."

My unsophisticated way of summarising the above is to say: we may all be
able to be hypnotised, some people may have what have been referred to as
pseudohallucinations, while relatively few people experience 'true'
hallucinations. This point has relevance to the issue of 'causation'. for
example, I may choose to be hypnotised, but as much as I try it is unlikely
that I could choose to have auditory/visual halluciations. There would seem
to be a vulnerability or propensity for some people to have hallucinations.
Some people can use drugs such as LSD or speed without major event, while
for others the result is a state characterised by experiences which could
be labelled psychotic.

What also distinguishes these experiences is the presence or absence of
sleep, as well as the source of these experiences, eg externally induced as
in hypnosis.
There are thus certainly similarities between the above experiences but also
differences, which have to be considered multidimensionally, like two
reference or factor axes.

Feel free to object if you believe I am referring to your comments
inappropriately, but a key phrase in your comments below, to me, is:

> (snip) and find myself resistant to re-construing

An aspect of many people labelled as acutely psychotic is this aspect of not
even considering reconstruing. Today I was speaking to somone about
practical matters and in the middle of this he/she started mumbling to
themself. When I asked what the person was saying, I was told he/she was
just speaking to God.

As you note, a common thread is that all the above experiences are construed
as 'real', however I suspect what 'real' means in these situations may
differ. For example, many 'delusions' can be unswervingly held, even in the
face of massive invalidation. Lindsay started to say some interesting
things on this subject.

Perhaps this is a key issue, responding to construing that can't be directly
experienced/validated by another, but which is construed as more real than
experiences which can be shared with others. I have no doubt such a
description is flawed, however it is a crude attempt to explore this matter.

>Actually, since mentioning it, I've been wondering whether the problem of
>hallucination v. dreaming isn't a matter of construing. At what point does
>a dream become a hallucination? My "psychosis" episodes are usually
>sleep-associated, i.e. they occur in conscious, but
>'recently-become-conscious', states. I construe them as memories of
>conscious episodes, not as memories of dreams, and find myself resistant to
>re-construing them as the latter. In sleep paralysis the victim is
>conscious but paralysed, thus sharing characteristics of waking and dream
>states both, and often seems to experience a presence in the room. The
>common consequence seems to be to explain the experience by construing it as
>a 'real' one rather than a dream and its content depends on local mythology
>(Blackmore's investigation of "the Old Hag" in Newfoundland, sundry alien
>encounters in "X-files" land, visions by shamans).