The doctor who hears voices

I’d heard about this documentary when if was aired on British TV. Marian found it on youtube in it’s entirety and put it on her site. I direct you to read her commentary on this film, as I’m too beat to make any and Marian always has lovely things to say. I will certainly join in on comments if y’all choose to watch it. It’s worthy of many comments.

Oh, it’s about a woman who has a psychosis and her therapist works through it without meds. The woman happens to be a medical student/doctor in a teaching hospital.

It’s a damn good film and very provocative. I hope it can start a discussion. (I’ve updated this post and now the whole film is here on youtube)

And for those of you who remained alarmed that she here still hears voices there are studies that have been done that establish that “normal” people hear voices. It’s simply another variety of human experience that need not be pathologized. From Softpedia:

“We know that many members of the general population hear voices but have never felt the need to access mental health services. Some experts even claim that more people hear voices and don’t seek psychiatric help than those who do,” noted researcher Aylish Campbell who was involved in the study. She also added: “It doesn’t seem to be hearing voices in itself that causes the problem. What seems to be more important is how people go on to interpret the voices.”

More from MSNBC—an article that reports some people “enjoy” their voices.

It never strikes them that there is a problem and so there isn’t! The phenomena impedes nothing at all.

For more information and commentary on voice hearing see: a collection of posts that look at voice hearing and how to cope with them and grow and heal with them too.

9 thoughts on “The doctor who hears voices

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  1. yes, marian,
    I agree,
    when we are wide open with psychosis we are ultra sensitive…we do smell rats very easily…that is why hospitalization is so deeply traumatizing because we are treated as sub-human and we are wide open channels that pick up all kinds of energy, good and bad…

    I agree…Rufus is utterly and completely respectful of Ruth’s process…in such a profound way I think it’s scary for people to watch.

    Psychosis is so profoundly frightening to most people that the inclination is to stop it all costs…

    Rufus, for example at the beginning, instead tells Ruth she has a choice—she can listen to the voice and follow it’s instruction or not…

    a profound respect for her experience with no fear.

  2. Eve: that isn’t quite what Trevor Turner says. Rufus May says that a lot of people (“half of your patients”) aren’t happy about being labelled with “schizophrenia”, and that Turner knows this. Turner replies, that he doesn’t know this.
    R.M.: Are you not listening to them then?
    T.T.: Of course I’m not listening to them! Of course! Silly me! I don’t listen to my patients. How do you know that, Rufus, how do you know that?!
    R.M.: By reading your book.
    T.T.: Have you ever sat with me and a patient? Have you asked my patients personally? (…)
    R.M.: Well, yes. You were a doctor with me, and you didn’t challenge my diagnosis.
    T.T.: Have you sat in my clinic?
    R.M.: Yes.
    T.T.: When?
    R.M.: 20 years ago.

    Turner is ironic when he says, he doesn’t listen to his patients. He’s trying to give the impression, that Rufus May has no clue, what he’s talking about, since he’s never witnessed Turner talking to one of his patients, and that he, of course, DOES listen to them. He’s busted anyway, because May actually had been a patient of his (which Turner obviously doesn’t recall), having experienced first hand how Turner treats his patients.

    Pole to Polar: My impression of Ruth is that she would have left, if ever May had pushed something on her in a self serving fashion – this is what makes (many) people run screamingly from traditional “treatment”: it is extremely pushy, actually often noticeably invading to an assaulting, traumatizing extent, and self serving. For someone in an acute crisis this is only endurable under the influence of mind-numbing drugs… May makes suggestions to Ruth, but leaves it to her if she wants to accept them or not, leaving responsibility for herself entirely with her.

    Maybe I’m projecting something here, but I do know, that I would have reacted instantly to pushiness and a self serving attitude. I do smell rats, instantly and infallibly, whenever there are any. I would never have posted the vid on my blog, or linked to Rufus May’s site in my sidebar, if there were any rats.

  3. I watched it when it was on, I didn’t like Rufus May, I thought he was pushing his own experiences onto Ruth and that he was self serving.

    that’s exactly why I like Rufus May…he actually has a clue what it’s like to be psychotic…and he’s come out the other side

    In my experience mental health professionals have agendas in any case and they are clueless about our experience…

    I don’t think he was self-serving but I do think his treatment was based on experience…

    I’ve been profoundly damaged by therapists who truly had personal agendas…and not a clue about my experience…

    thanks everyone, I hope more people come along…I’m not so hot right now…so that’s all I’m going to say now…

    peace to all.

  4. I watched it when it was on, I didn’t like Rufus May, I thought he was pushing his own experiences onto Ruth and that he was self serving.

    That said, I also think that hearing voices isn’t neccessarily a sign of mental illness- but I do think that when the voices become damaging, threatening, commanding or intrusive that help should be given. My entire ethos with mental health treatment is that help should be given when someone is in danger or suffering; other than that, I don’t think people should be treated if they don’t want to be.

  5. I watched the entire series/film and couldn’t help but like and admire Rufus May. My favorite part in the entire thing was when he went to a gathering of fellow professionals and challenged the fellow who wrote the book on schizophrenia.

    This white-haired psychiatrist finally reacts to May’s criticisms and erupts with the most spontaneous and useful stream of invective. My favorite line was, “Listen to my patients? You want me to listen to my patients? OF COURSE I DON’T LISTEN TO MY PATIENTS!!!!”

    Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Busted. Imagine, listening to one’s patients as if they ought to be taken seriously!

  6. dharmathecat: If it’s an “internal voice”, that you recognize as your own thoughts, or a voice, that seems to come from somewhere outside you – it’s the same phenomenon: an expression of what and how you were conditioned to think of yourself.

    Hearing voices/a voice is a terrifying experience only because our culture can’t accept it as a natural phenomenon, and regards it an unmistakable sign of meaningless madness. Once you’ve had the chance to accept your thinking processes as natural – if they come in the shape of internal or external voices – you can stop fighting them, look at them without fear, and explore their meaning.

    All our thinking processes are an expression of our conditioning, not of who or what we really are. Externalizing our thinking processes into voices that seem to come from somewhere outside ourselves is a step towards ending our identification with our conditioning, i.e. a step towards ending our suffering. It’s a gift, not a terror.

  7. Thanks for posting this video. I have started to watch it. It is brilliant….I don’t hear specific voices, I suffer from depression, and I don’t think what I suffer from is what they are talking about, mine is more an internal voice I think, in which I tell myself things, e.g. you are stupid, a waste of space or whatever, so in that way, I can’t say there is a male or female voice, it is my own internal voice. So it must be terrifying to “hear” other voices, as I find my own internal voice bad enough. I have been trying to get off of Xanax for over a year, and still take anti-depressants, at times, I stop them, feeling better, but always seem to slip back and have to go on them again, as I get a type of paranoia, of being victimised and not being able to do anything right, whether it’s driving my car or whatever. This usually means I am sinking even lower and then I have to go to my doctor, who is very supportive and go back on the anti-depressants, so I am interested in Rufus’ methods. Thanks again for posting this.


  8. Ya know, I’m schizophrenic and as much as i’ve been close, i’ve never heard voices. It just goes to show you have to be clear about how you interpret what comes into your mind. (I never watched the video)

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