(Photo Credit: Dima Bushkov – Urban Insanity)

The only difference between the ‘mentally ill’ and the “normal” is that the former speaks to himself out loud while the latter speak to himself in the mind. What is the difference when in both cases the person believes that the voices are real? You might say, ‘But the mad man who hears voices believes that those voices belong to someone else talking to him. When I hear the voice in my head I know that it’s only me. Besides, I have one voice speaking in my head whereas the mad man may have several different voices and believe that they are all talking to him.’

That’s an interesting perspective. Can we look at what you said more closely? For example, if you are watching a schizophrenic person you might be able to easily see that they are talking to someone they believe is other than them. They might say, “do YOU really think so?” and reply “No! I don’t want to do that!” There is a ‘you’ and ‘I’.

Yes, it’s plain to see.

Fine, but how did you come to the conclusion that the voice inside your head is yourself and not someone else?

I know because no one else can speak on my behalf. It’s my mind therefore it’s my voice. It’s very clear.

Okay, but here’s what’s unclear to me. If it’s your mind then why do you have to say anything at all? Don’t you already know your own mind? Why do you need a voice to repeat what’s already there?

Hahaha oh come on! Look it’s just a way of figuring things out you know? It’s a way of weighing your options and making decisions.

I see. So this voice in your head might say, “Do I want an apple or a pear?”

Well…yes.

And who answers?

Well, I answer.

(Photo Credit: Paul J. Everett – “Children’s Museum Tug of War”)

So actually there’s not just one voice but two. One is “I” and one is “you” right? And the “you” is pointing out the choices that “I” has. Am I correct?

Uhm…well, I guess that’s true, but still I know that the “you” is really the “I”…er I mean “me”. It’s just that the voice which one hears in the head clarifies things a little, gives one a little perspective and helps one choose between the options one has. Life is full of choices you know?

I’m not sure that I do know, but you seem quite certain. Since it’s clear to you, maybe you can help me understand this fact of having choices. Take the example of the apple and the pear, the voice tells you that you have a choice between the two (which still seems strange since “I” is “you” yet “I” doesn’t seem to know this information, but anyway…), and then the “I” chooses based on what?

Come on! Are you serious? It’s so simple! I choose based on what I feel like eating in that moment!

Oh yes, I see. So “you” (which is yourself) points things out to “I” who doesn’t seem to know what “you” knows, and then “I” makes a decision based on how “I” feels (which “you” is unaware of, since “you” is waiting for an answer.)?

Uhhh…wait. I think you’re complicating things. I mean in a sense you’re right (I can’t really argue with you), but somehow I’m sure that you’re complicating the matter.

So the matter is simple, it’s just two voices of the same person talking to each other as if each one knew something the other didn’t. Yes, it does seem simple enough.

(Photo Credit: Apple and Pear Australia Ltd – “Apples and pears”)

Uh-huh…

Okay, but something else is bothering me. What if there is an apple and a pear in front of “I”, but the stomach is sensitive to apples and isn’t supposed to eat them (though “I” tends to prefer them over pears.)

Yeah so what?

Well, I’m imagining the “I” saying, “I want an apple” because the “I” prefers apples, but then doesn’t someone else have to step in and say, “wait, you’re not supposed to have apples! Better stick to the pear.”

What someone else? “I” will say to myself “I want an apple but I shouldn’t have it, what should I do?”

Oh dear, I think I’m very slow! I know how simple this is and yet I’m finding it so complicated, I’m a little slow to understand this so please bear with me. “I” likes apples right?

Right.

So if there is a voice that says “I really want that apple, but I’m not supposed to!”, that can’t be the “I” because the “I” likes apples without question. So who’s warning the “I” about the pear?

Okay, here’s the thing…I think that the “you” who is giving the choice of apple and pear also then says, “but remember you’re not supposed to eat apple!”

Oh, hmm. That’s awfully strange.

What? What’s strange?

Well, if the voice that’s warning you not to eat the apple is the “you”, then why is the “you” including the apple as a ‘choice’ to begin with?

Oh! Weren’t you listening!? That’s because “I” am the one who has to make the choice!

No wait…”I” is the one who likes apples, so..

Oh yes yes..right okay…uhm yes okay there’s another voice then that’s warning me. It must be three voices I guess. But all of them are really me.

Oh I see. So there are three voices actually and not two. The “you” introduces the choices, the “I” would select the apple if not for the third voice (let’s call it the ‘Health Conscious’ voice) warning the “I” of the danger. Is that right?

(Photo Credit: Shannon Kringen)

Well not exactly. It doesn’t make sense for the “Health Conscious” voice to warn the “I” because the “I”, as we saw, is always going to choose the apple. So …hmmm..

Yes?

Wait, this isn’t right. This is getting much too complicated. It’s not that complicated because all 3 of these voices are ME understand? They are all ME!

But are YOU three? Besides, can they all be you when each one seems born out of different suggestions, each one relying on different information. Each voice seems to have its own mind because if they had the same mind then there would be nothing to discuss!

Ohh you’re driving me crazy!

Me? (Hahahaha!) How can I possibly drive you crazy? At the outset you told me that the difference between you and the mad man is that, unlike the mad man, “When I hear the voice in my head I know that it’s only me.” If you’re actually just one person as you claim, then who can drive you crazy and how? How can you be one person if you have many conflicting voices?

I really don’t know anymore…

It seems you don’t, but I’ll tell you what you just now realized.

What’s that?

The man you call “mad” plainly recognizes the voices in his head as ‘other’s’, while you who call yourself “sane” have no clue.

(Photo Credit: Casey Fleser – “Stunned”)

 *PS – To clarify, this entire conversation went on inside my mind, and given a chance, both voices would identify as “me”. But I wonder, who is the one who witnessed this conversation and wrote about it? 😉

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