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.
For more information see articles listed on Multiplicity Links, scroll through posts in the category of Multiplicity, or explore my Network The Dissociative Initiative.
2 thoughts on “Parts vs Voices?”
our parts speak inside, influence the one who’s out, switch out and (sometimes only partially) control the body/thoughts/feelings. sometimes i actually hear them speak but other times it’s more a feeling in the body like i notice that he’s feeling this or that. some dont come out or haven’t for years. some dont want to come out, others are overpowered. it’s clear to me that i have ‘voices’ who are parts since they come out and are really different from me. i have also parts who arent voices/dont speak in my head. i dont know if the ones that wont come out are parts or voices. they seem to remember that they used to come out and they did hold some memories so idk. i do know that even in psychotic conditions, voices are considered to be part of you or at least your hidden/disowned/stronger version of feelings. it’s just that parts have lots of extra abilities since they can come out and take control and it’s way more difficult to me with parts cause of all the confusion over the identity and life. i notice that i can determine who’s who much easier when they come out or when they write in the journal, versus when i hear/feel them inside. i can tell apart their energies but sometimes they’re a bit alike other parts’ feelings so im not sure then. it’s like there’s constant activity inside and i hardly know what’s going on. it’s so draining to try to be aware of everything that’s going on. i cant even keep up with it. usually i just hope to be in one part long enough to seem constant in specific situations but we all know that this can go very wrong if it’s not working. i could really use some help to get some order inside or better ways to work with this but since im not getting real help i have to do it all on our own with our own research etc. it’s so very draining. just wanted to say our parts do all the things described above. at therapy they keep calling us voices and it really angers some of us cause some of us are really big parts, and being called a voice just really isn’t correct and feels like dismissal and is only more reason to hide.
I agree that we work out what’s helpful and best for us and to be able to feel the way we do.