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A hypnosis professional told me this is true, so I am asking: is it a fact of psychology that many people have a voice that they talk with "in their head" which talks back to them and helps solve problems? I find that this voice often has a perspective I never had and presents ideas I had not thought of. But it does not just tell me what to do. When I really get in a fix, it backs off and lets me solve the problem "by myself". I am about 50 and it has been there as far back as I can recall.

Is it common to have an "Accompanying Voice" and conversations where both voices appear to have equal standing and independence? Is there research which shows this is something other than a hallucination? (After all, an internal monologue is not a hallucination. Why not have two voices in your mind?) The prevailing idea is that voices are hallucinations, but it seems that they could just be parts of the self. This is a cornerstone of Transpersonal Psychology, which uses a dialog method to help people improve self-awareness and solve inner issues.

Addition: Here is some info from a site about this topic, although it does not address my question directly:

Because of prevailing attitudes psychiatry and within society as a whole, it is important to point out, that there are many people who hear voices who can cope with their voices and regard them as a positive part of their lives. Neither is it the case that voices have always been regarded as a negative experience, throughout history and even today there are people who hear voices who find their voices inspirational and comforting.

These are facts, that on the face of it are hard to square with the negative way that the experience is regarded by psychiatry.

More Addition: Here is a bit about the Voice Dialog technique used in Transpersonal Psychology:

Voice Dialogue Technique
The Voice Dialogue technique allows a client to gain a deeper sense of inner wisdom and gives them the opportunity to identify and examine the voices within. Being armed with this powerful knowledge provides a greater resource from which the client can draw upon when faced with difficult circumstances. The Voice Dialogue guides a client into realizing that there are parts of their inner being that propel them, but they are separate from those parts. They begin to understand that they are made up of many parts and each serves a function and has an energy force that sustains it. With this awareness, a client is able to create a balance among all of his corresponding and correlating parts and can determine which ones to silence and which ones to accentuate.

The "Aware Ego" in Voice Dialogue
In Voice Dialogue, this heightened sense of awareness is referred to as the "aware ego." An aware ego is not a trait that one possesses, rather it is a process by which we begin to know all of the layers of our consciousness on an intimate level. Because there is an negative for every positive, the aware ego assumes that you can experience both the beneficial part of your consciousness and its opposite. With enough insight into your own identity, you can choose freely which one will serve you better, and can adjust, alter, and align the parts within to meet your goals for healing.

To me, this is about using a process which gets underneath assumptions, especially unconscious ones. The biggest assumption is that we are one singular thing that is consistent and understandable. Not So. But we can become master of ourselves.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have created "personality facets" as an experiment, and they talk with me, but less so than formerly. This seems no more strange or surprising than an author creating characters for a story. It is just that it is a collective story that is going on here. For the record, I am an author. In some cases I think it could be caused by trauma, but either that is not true for me, or it was a coping mechanism that worked properly. $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 19 '16 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ For what reason are you distancing yourself from calling this an 'auditory hallucination'? How is what you describe different from "a perception in the absence of external stimulus that has qualities of real perception"? Internal monologue is part of consciousness (attributed to the self), hence not an hallucination. It is unclear what you are after. You refute calling it an hallucination, backed up by a source which confirms your views, yet seemingly do not find it a suitable answer? $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris May 19 '16 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Could you provide more info (or a simple reference) on where Transpersonal Psychology considers this a cornerstone? I could not find it immediately, neither how this is related to the 'dialog method'. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris May 19 '16 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ I've never heard of people with multiple distinct voices in their heads. Personally, I can make my inner voice talk with certain accent, but it's always the same voice. Sometimes it can talk with itself, like when practicing for a job interview. This is in stark contrast to auditory hallucinations where a totally different voice appears to come from the outside (hypnogogic hallucinations during dream onset). $\endgroup$ – Alex Stone May 19 '16 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexStone try harder : ) I have 5 personality facets and 4 (what I used to think of as) past life personalities. The Accompanying Voice is none of them. The way I can tell it is that one is that it never sounds the same twice. When a voice sounds the same I check it out. I had to rip out a destructive voice about 20 years ago, and that was the last time. My facets work together on projects according to their strengths, like writing books, or cooking, or decorating, or painting. It is lots of fun. I used to have three songs going in my head at once sometimes. Hard to sustain, but not wrong. $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 19 '16 at 21:58
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Most people (including myself) do not hear or speak with inner voices, but it is not unheard of, see Hearing Voices Network.

Ego State theory is a theory of multiple personality facets (ego states). In their book "Ego States: Theory and Therapy", John G. and Helen H. Watkins transcribe several hypnosis sessions, where they communicate with different ego states of a person. Ego States are often mentioned in the context of trauma or multiple personalities, but they also exist in the average person.

I think that extreme cases help to understand normal phenomena, so I'd also recommend "The Flock" by Joan Frances Casey, a journey from multiple personalities that do not know of each other to working together to one integrated personality.

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From a quick search online I see no reason why you distantiate what you describe from auditory hallucinations:

a form of hallucination that involves perceiving sounds without auditory stimulus.

Given the article you link to, which arguably does address your question (yes, some people report experiencing this), you mainly seem to be concerned that this would unequivocally be considered a mental illness. Your actual question thus seems to be "Is hearing multiple voices always considered a mental illness?".

Judging from the Wikipedia article (and its subheading 'Non-disease associated causes') this is seemingly not the case.

However, individuals may hear voices without suffering from diagnosable mental illness. (Thompson, 2006)

The article by Thompson mentions a study for which unfortunately no source is provided, thus I would take the following with a grain of salt:

But studies by Dutch researchers that began in the 1990s found that some healthy people also regularly hear voices. ... Many of the people who contacted them did not find the voices disruptive and had never felt the need to consult mental health services. ... The resulting studies found that more people might hear voices than psychologists had thought, perhaps around 4 percent of the population.

It might, however, set you on the right path to finding the actual studies, or more recent work in regards to how many people report hearing voices not attributed to the self without considering them a mental illness.

Thompson, Andrea (September 15, 2006). "Hearing Voices: Some People Like It". LiveScience.com.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, the word 'Hallucination' is loaded to mean 'unreal'. But from what I can tell, the word 'real' only means that something is predictable, and possibly that it can be corroborated by others. This leaves a very large realm for interpretation. My perspective is that anything we can't touch is not 'real' because it is a concept. As such, the self is a concept. The idea that people have a singular, monolithic, unchanging ego is the most pervasive and destructive fallacy in existence. Buddhism amounts to a 2500 year old technology for undermining that assertion. Nonduality confirms this. $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 19 '16 at 21:52
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I have never heard a thing like an "inner voice". I take it for a figure of speech. It might be interesting to compare linguality factors. I am bilingual. Maybe there is no way my brain would produce anything like a "voice" (it would have to speak two languages at the same time). Obviously, I'm not complaining.

Many people have endophasia, but is not a "voice". Imagery happens to partake in language perception, as when we read books and imagine the characters, but again, these are not "voices".

Feel welcome to read my work, https://feedbackandlanguage.com/2015/07/10/chapter-three-the-role-of-feedback-in-language-use/

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  • $\begingroup$ I started to read your thesis, not making total sense of it. When you say you have not heard an inner voice, do you hear words when reading? Do you have verbal thoughts? Do you plan what you will say to someone? Do you think in words before writing words? These are not what I mean, but if you can do all those things, I see no reason why there cannot be more than one voice, and I see no reason why it should be any indication of abnormality or problems. As an analogy, how do symphonies get written? Someone must be capable of hearing all those musical "voices", so what is the real difference? $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 23 '16 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ My thinking is linguistic, but it has trace features of notions, not anything like words entire. I do not hear words when reading, though I can imagine story characters, and my thinking before speaking is notional, again. There is the advantage of being fast enough for my translating jobs. :) Inner monologue can be doubted on grounds of MRI, feedbackandlanguage.com/chapter-one-neurophysiology-of-feedback/…. Above, I provided a link to my thesis without footnotes, but every chapter has a corresponding page, feel welcome. $\endgroup$ – Teresa Pelka May 24 '16 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ You don't hear a voice when you read? That is completely astounding. I have never met such a person. I can't guess what goes on in your mind when you read. What is happening for you right now? No voice impression whatsoever? How can you imagine other people's experience? Is it purely emotional? What? I have lots going on besides voices, but they are indispensable. I can't visualize life without verbal thought. $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 24 '16 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ My life is not a life without verbal thought. It is quite filled with language. I just do not operate the full acoustic or written form of language for thought. I don't talk to myself, either. It is good economy. Think, if you interpret real-time (do a spoken translation), there is not even time enough to "pronounce" or "write" entire words in your mind, before you translate. I obviously did all regular "talking to myself", when I learned. I do not claim insight into other people. Try for grammar and thought, if you like, travelingrammar.com/2015/09/24/chapter-1-2-mind-practice $\endgroup$ – Teresa Pelka May 25 '16 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ Verbal thought for me is kind of like having a meeting. But most everything happens outside the meeting. Still, without meetings, it would be hard to be organized. I guess we are saying the same thing. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 25 '16 at 13:16

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