Yes, Highly Creative People Hear Voices—& It’s Normal. ~ Mary-Lou Stephens
When I was a kid I heard voices.
The low murmuring ones frightened me. They were dark and powerful. I could never understand what they were saying but they scared me.
The other voices were light, like a breeze rippling through my mind. I liked them. Sometimes the light and dark voices had conversations but it was in a language I didn’t understand. I remember sitting on the toilet listening to them—they liked small spaces. That’s when they talked the most. I liked small spaces too.
Especially ones where you could lock the door.
I don’t remember when they left. Perhaps I was possessed by spirits and they were blasted out by the power of the Holy Spirit at the charismatic Christian rallies I went to with my parents when I was a teenager. Slain in the spirit, talking in tongues, the voices in my head couldn’t compete. They packed up shop and went off to find some other vulnerable, lonely kid.
The voices were long gone by the time I got to therapy, so I never mentioned them. But when I was living in Sydney and heavily involved with 12 Step programs for my various addictions, I became a Lifeline telephone counsellor. At one of the training sessions the subject of hearing voices came up. Afterwards, I had a private word to the lecturer about the voices I’d heard when I was a child.
“Are you a creative person?” he asked.
“Yes. I write songs and play in bands.”
“Well, that explains it.”
“Clearly you’re not schizophrenic or delusional,” he said.
“One theory that I particularly like, and I think pertains to you, is that highly creative people, as well as those we’d think of as geniuses, hear voices. These voices can be the source of creativity or a precursor of creativity. I’d see them as a gift.”
He was a gift. The perfect person to ask the question I’d never been game to ask before. I was afraid that I would be thought mad. Instead, he considered me to be a creative genius.
I do still hear voices from time to time but now when they speak I understand them perfectly. A few years ago, I had a voice that would ask me a question. It was always the same question and always asked in a loving way.
“Are you happy?” the voice would ask.
My answer was always “Yes.”
After the latest 10 day silent meditation retreat I went to earlier this year, I brought a new voice home with me. When I’m on the edge of sleep and when I first wake up, the voice says,
“You are loved.”
This voice has stayed with me in the months since the retreat and I hope it stays forever. Sometimes, even during the day, I will hear it say, “I love you.” At the end of my daily meditation it is often there, “You are loved.”
Another voice spoke to me just last weekend. It said something shocking, something so radical, I was rocked to my core. I was walking, on my way to visit a friend, the warm sun on my back, a gentle breeze blowing through my hair. Out of nowhere this new voice said,
“You are beautiful.”
I was stunned. Those are three words I would never say to myself. The three words I most often say are, “You are fat” or “You are stupid.” Never, “You are beautiful.” But I heard those words, “You are beautiful” and I thought, “Yes. Yes I am.”
Where are these loving voices coming from? A gift of my meditation practice? Is it that the persona I have built in an effort to protect myself is no longer needed?
Am I finally allowing the truth in? I am loved. I am beautiful.
I arrived at my friend’s house and she opened the door. “You are beautiful,” she said.
Without a moment’s hesitation I replied, “Yes. Yes I am.”