What’s the difference between voices and parts? Good question. On a functional level (what are voices and parts, how do they form, how should they be engaged with, what are the desired outcomes) they may be very similar. I use a simple delineation between the two, if you hear them and they can speak, influence your thinking or feelings but not your body, they are a voice. (and presumed to be part of a psychotic condition) If they switch out and run the body, they are a part. (and presumed to be part of a dissociative condition) There’s a blurry space of overlap in the middle here despite some very different ideas about how these conditions form and how they should be approached.
The dominant paradigm for parts, once we get over the hurdle of assuming they exist, and are not iatrogenic, is that you must learn to embrace all of them and to integrate them into one person.
The dominant paradigm for voices within the mental health sector is that you must ignore them and refuse to engage them in order to make them go away.
So if you have parts you are not allowed to dislike them or wish them gone, and if you have voices you are not allowed to enjoy their company or miss them if they go.
Some people, like myself, have both. I have a system full of parts who switch. I can hear some as voices when they’re inside. But I also have a voice who is not a part. She never comes out and she doesn’t feel like a part, which is difficult to explain.
I’m always interested in what our forbidden responses are, the minority opinions that we don’t feel safe to share, or even feel. There’s a big difference to me in the paths we choose to walk and the things we can feel. I have found a lot of peace and wholeness by deciding to accept and embrace everyone in my system. We collaborated to ban abuse between us, but we didn’t shut down feelings. Those who were intimidated or baffled by other parts are still allowed to feel the way they do. There are days I wish I wasn’t multiple, that it’s hard or it hurts or it’s scary and confusing. There are also days where my voice has driven me nuts and it feels pretty unfair that when I’m already having a rough day she adds to it with an insistent litany of self loathing. I believe it’s important to do what’s best for you, even if it’s hard. I also believe that it’s okay to feel all the things you really feel about it. Try not to let the dominant ideas get in the way of working out what is actually best for you, or being allowed to feel the way you really do. 🙂
For a wonderful post about working with voices using the framework of seeing them as parts, read Creating a New Voice by Indigo Daya.