Monday, August 13, 2012


We used to do a drill for new members of the mental health team.  One of our best psych counselors had collected what "the voices" told various schizophrenics and created two scripts.  One was anger and rage and paranoia:  "Kill them. They're laughing at you.  Hide what you feel kill them all. Taste blood. Shit!. Control. Hide it."  The other was self abasement: "You are a worm.  Die.  Kill yourself.  Make the world better and bite off your tongue."

Those aren't the actual scripts (though I have them in a file).  The actual scripts were much better, more intense.  The exercise was to have two people whispering scripts in your ear-- while you went through a job interview.  It gave the new officer an idea of what some of our charges needed to deal with, how hard it could be to concentrate on the 'real' world. 'Real' is in quotes because the voices are real, too.  Not something imagined but something heard, very like a stranger or a demon whispering in your ear.

We also noticed that some people adapted quickly.  They got good at it.  For most people distraction was obvious as eyes darted towards the voices or they flinched.  For a very few the voices could be ignored, the flinches suppressed.  You still heard them but didn't give it away.  You could get through the job interview and show very little.

It gave us a lot of respect for high-functioning schizophrenics.

This morning I was interviewed on TV for the first time.  Sorboni Banerjee of Fox 25 in Boston is friends of a student of Bill Giovannucci's and found out I was in town.  I was nervous, normal for a first time at almost anything, but the crew was good, very smooth and practiced.  They knew how to deal with rookies.

But I learned something about an interviewer's job.  It's a lot like being a paid schizophrenic.  The entire time, while paying full attention to me, Sorboni had an earphone and was getting constant updates.  "Speed up, slow down. Ninety seconds to go. Next point."  Not a blip she was hearing voices.  And watching monitors. And seeing a teleprompter.  The whole time carrying on a normal conversation.

But not really.  She wasn't just carrying.  She was driving and directing.  A slight turn of her head would get a reaction from me and keep things where they needed to be for the camera.  She would change her rate, tone, pitch or volume knowing I would have a tendency to match.  It's a technique I used on EDPs all the time (Emotionally Disturbed Persons).

Incredible multi-tasking.  Strategic direction of a social interaction with a naive subject in a stressful (relatively and I have no idea why this was so much more stressful than my last fight.  Which is bullshit.  I know.  The last one was last of what? Hundreds. This was a first.) milieu.

Very impressive.


Charles James said...

How long and what experience did she have to accomplish to achieve such professionalism .... and level of proficiency, efficiency and mastery.

Anonymous said...

Great write. You're right on the voices being external, audible.&yep,people who hear voices aren't necessarily stupid. They can be aware too that *generally* sound waves need a physical source and a means of transmission:P.I heard the voice of an enemy (who later went mad himself,for which I allow myself some credit) and I thought it must be carrying through some pipework or something. But then I worked out it was still impossible for the sound to travel that far. But still I heard his voice and the thing is, what he was saying seemed to match his character and even give me insight into the situation, in other words it's not necessarily a matter of what is "real" it's about what has meaning. And also,although the world might think you mad, or phoney, it's what you make of your experience, what you send back out into the world.:)

Kasey said...

So where is the video link Hollywood?

And did you wear makeup?

Lise Steenerson said...

New experiences are always stressful.

David Kafri said...

If its not on Youtube it didnt happen...