This week we talk to Charles Fernyhough about the voices in our heads
Charles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. His non-fiction book about his daughter’s psychological development, A Thousand Days of Wonder, was translated into eight languages. His book on autobiographical memory, Pieces of Light was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
His latest non-fiction book is called The Voices Within. He is the author of two novels, The Auctioneer and A Box Of Birds. He has written for TIME Ideas, Nature, New Scientist, BBC Focus, Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, Literary Review, Sunday Telegraph, Lancet, Scotland on Sunday, Huffington Post, Daily Beast and Sydney Morning Herald. He blogs for the US magazine Psychology Today and has made numerous radio appearances in the UK and US. He has acted as consultant on theatre productions on Broadway and the West End (‘The River’, Royal Court, 2012, and The Circle in the Square, 2014; ‘Old Times’, Harold Pinter Theatre, 2013), numerous TV (BBC1 and Channel 4) and radio documentaries and several other artistic projects.
He was shortlisted for the 2015 Transmission Prize for the communication of ideas. He is a part-time chair in psychology at Durham University, UK, where he leads the interdisciplinary Hearing the Voice project, investigating the phenomenon of auditory verbal hallucinations.
In This Interview, Charles Fernyhough and I Discuss…
- His new book, The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves
- The stages of speech in childhood development and how it relates to our inner voice in life
- The theory that says that our internal speech comes from external speech that we hear/the dialogue we hear as a child which we eventually move inward and it becomes our internal speech
- Vygotsky’s theory
- What inner speech does for us
- Inner speech plays a role in regulating behavior
- It has a role in imagination and creativity
- It has a role in creating a self
- That the fact that we create and construct a self, doesn’t mean that it is an illusion
- The theory that says that inner speech is how we bring different parts of our brain together into a coherent narrative
- How using inner speech skillfully can give us significant advantages in life
- That talking out loud to yourself actually probably serves some useful function
- Social speech – private speech – inner speech
- As the task gets more difficult, children and adults move from inner speech to more private speech
- How difficult it is to study inner speech
- The dialogic thinking model
- How his research that shows it can be helpful to teach mentally ill people who hear voices in their head to think differently about this form of inner speech
- Theories about why people hear different voices in their head
- That there is a strong correlation between childhood trauma and hearing voices in one’s head as an adult
- That people hear the voices of the people in books that they’ve read
- Experiential crossing
- How to work with your inner speech to improve the quality of the experience of your life
- How difficult it is to silence your inner voice so it’s better to learn how to productively interact with it, even dialogue with it
Charles Fernyhough Links
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.
One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feedThe Tale of Two Wolves is often attributed to the Cherokee indians but there seems to be no real proof of this. It has also been attributed to evangelical preacher Billy Graham and Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw. It appears no one knows for sure but this does not diminish the power of the parable.
This parable goes by many names including:
The Tale of Two Wolves
The Parable of the Two Wolves
Which Wolf Do You Feed
Which Wolf are You Feeding
Which Wolf Will You Feed
It also often features different animals, mainly two dogs.