Inner Voices: A Common Symptom of PTSD

Unfortunately, people who have experienced trauma often don’t know that inner voices are a common symptom of PTSD. They can be confused about the cause of their voices and their relationship to them. The inner voices that accompany PTSD often play various roles and can sound like inner critics, but through effective therapy, people who struggle with PTSD can learn to listen to, manage, and even learn from their inner voices.

Studies on Inner Voices

In the 1980s, psychologist Pia Mellody pioneered work on the concept of the voice of the Inner Child, which holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers. Today, her work is widely known.

According to Dr. Lisa Firestone, Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association and a Senior Editor at PsychAlive.org,

“Our critical inner voices are embedded in our earliest childhood
experiences and are reinforced throughout childhood, adolescence,
and into adulthood.

“While the negative inner voice can be affected and sometimes
worsened by current day life experiences such as significant trauma
or abusive relationships, it does not develop suddenly in adults; it’s
based on implicit memories of trauma experienced in childhood. This
isn’t necessarily ‘Big T Trauma,’ such as sexual or physical abuse, but
everyday trauma that kids experience growing up.”

Dr. Richard Schwartz developed the Internal Family Systems Model™ that is based upon an individual’s inner “parts,” or conflicted sub-personalities that reside within them and which play valuable roles.

Help for Trauma™ and therapists trained in the ITR Method™ of trauma therapy provide systematic instructions for developing a partnership with your voices and how to use that partnership to bring about a lasting internal organization of voices and inner parts.

What you should know about inner voices and PTSD

  • Voice-hearers typically they feel they must obey the commands of their internal voices. Because this is true, it’s extremely important to address the reality and the role of inner voices. Voice-hearers often try to eradicate or “fix” their inner voices, but unfortunately, their efforts are almost always futile. A person cannot close their ears to their voices or decide to ignore them. Medications will likely dull their consciousness long before they affect inner voices. Voices often persist even after a person undergoes long and demoralizing electroshock treatment.
  • Your inner voice may seem unmanageable, and even mystical with a commanding power. You may feel compelled to obey the voice’s commands. As you engage the voice in dialogue, you will find it is neither god nor demon, and its power is, therefore, reduced to the normal and natural. Remember, an inner voice is simply a product of your mind, part of you wishing to be heard and, ultimately, to protect you.
  • A voice’s best defense is a strong offense. Often the fiercer your voices sound at the beginning, the meeker they become in the end. You might be afraid of a voice, but once you engage it through the ITR™ Externalized Dialogue process, the voice becomes just another aspect of you, and more often than not, a younger aspect of yourself.
  • You may hear only one or two voices. This “layer” of voices often includes a commanding voice that demands that you give it total control. Often this voice humiliates you and calls you demeaning names. You may feel compelled to drink or starve or cut yourself at the urging of the voice—or it may prod you to commit suicide. You may go into automatic trance-like obedience and may be saved only by an appeal from another voice saying, “No” or by the intervention of another person.
  • Some voices may represent your younger self still locked in a trauma that froze your growth or progress. Other voices may be protectors of young parts. Some are keepers of a secret ordered by a perpetrator who ordered, “Don’t you ever tell or I will kill you.”
  • Voices possess quirks. Knowing about these quirks helps you know how to better deal with your voices. For instance, voices are gullible. Voices arise in your nonverbal mind that recognize unconscious language processing in your brain in an effort to provide leadership. Most voices seek leadership. Using the ITR™ Externalized Dialogue process makes it possible to communicate with these voices, influence them, and reframe their identities and roles.

Help for Trauma recommends a different approach to managing inner voices. Our Externalized Dialogue process provides a way to discover the reasons behind your inner voices. Using the Externalized Dialogue, you can befriend your voices, come to understand their origin and function, unburden them, and include them in your present life.

Contact us today to help you find a mental health professional trained in our unique therapy method.

Photo Credit: Storyblocks, public domain