I wrote last week about the experience of having singing lessons and linked this to the idea of hearing voices-particulary how these might be experienced in psychosis. As my singing lessons continue I find myself becoming more at home with the range of my voice. It is capable of sounds I never knew I had in me! I am slowly realising that I have a voice that can make pleasing sounds. And can follow the note my teacher plays or sings. I have that novel experience of being in musical harmony with somebody-for almost the first time in my life.
There are a number of reasons for this. I took a risk that I might be able to learn to sing moderately well. I hoped that I would be looked after well enough by a singing teacher for me to try out my voice. I also had to trust my teacher to tell me the truth about my voice. (I have no illusions about being the next Pavarotti- but that doesn’t stop me dreaming!) Thus far my leap of faith has paid off. I am learning to follow a note. I am learning that I can move up and down a scale. I am also learning to hear the link between words and music. (As one who has known hymns much of his life but without ever seeing much connection between words and tunes, this is a revelation. Singing “O sacred head surrounded …” moves me profoundly.)
What has this to do with psychotic voices? It seems to me , as I wrote last week, that we do our patients no favour by simply “treating” their experience as symptoms of an illness. Certainly if my head is full of persecutory voices, medication can offer me some respite. But if I stop there I have only managed a symptom and ignored its meaning. The point of having a voice is that somebody listens to me. And, like my singing teacher, gives me permission to use it. And the more I use it, the less disharmonious it becomes. So giving me a sense of self worth. (I come away from my singing lessons elated and moved.)
Once those hurt and damaged bits held by my psychotic voices can speak, then someone else can understand me. My fears, hopes, aspirations, terrors can be spoken. And in the speaking can be understood and thought about.The work of good therapy is to find that place where the therapist and the patient share a “moment of meeting”. These moments are not easy. They touch both therapist and patient deeply. But they are moments of movement as well.
And since this blog has been about music and voices being together, the link is to Bach’s sublime St.Matthew Passion.