There is one population of children that I have not discussed; children who can hear voices, but I have not worked with them that often. When I do work with a child who can hear voices, I find them interesting and challenging. Separating the symptoms of mental health from a possible spiritual ability or gift, is a lot more difficult to decipher with children who can hear voices. Since I am always up for a challenge, I welcome the opportunity to determine the catalyst for the auditory hallucinations. First, however, let’s discuss a few of my experiences with children who heard voices. Then, and I will share with you how I learned to separate the two components, auditory hallucinations versus a spiritual ability or gift, toward the end of this blog.
Hearing voices, also called auditory hallucinations, have been described to me as typically sounding similar to a male voice. The voice can be demanding and sometimes powerful. The voices were also described as sounding similar to whispers and seem to direct the children who can hear them to make poor decisions. For example, harming themselves and/others. I can only tell you what children have told me over the years as to the reason(s) behavior their decisions during or after hearing voices. Often, children have told me that their voices made them react the way that they did toward themselves and others.
Depending upon a child's actions, as a result of hearing voices, determined the type of intervention needed, such as inpatient to outpatient treatment. I will share that the majority of the time, the intervention was typically inpatient treatment due to the child’s mental health crisis. This, along with the belief that something was inherently wrong with auditory hallucinations. Now, examples of a crisis would mean suicidal or homicidal ideation and plans which required immediate care. I have been a witness and made decisions to hospitalize children as solutions to helping them to overcome their crisis situation. What was striking to me, (still is incredible to me), is that the kids would continue to hear voices after hospitalization. They were deemed stable enough to be released from hospitalization, but still heard voices and shared those experiences with me. To be clear, the kids still heard voices but were no longer in crisis, as evidenced by their release from psychiatric hospitals.
The Devil Made Me Do It
Children were always willing to tell me about their experiences with hearing voices, and I was willing to listen. Here’s where it gets interesting: All of the kids shared with me that the voices were Satan. That is no exaggerations. I mean, All. Every last one of them, and some of the children did not have a religious background, which was even more striking to me. Yet, those kids mentioned that the voices were satanic. Keep in mind, I do not coach these kids, nor do I discuss religion unless they bring it up on their own, or their parents speak with me about it. More specifically, when I asked these kids about the choices that they made at the time of the event that caused their hospitalization, they would tell me,
“It was Satan.”
I will ask the kids questions such as, "How do you know it was Satan?" Or, "How do you know that Satan caused you to behave in the manner that you did?" Know what they tell me?
“Satan has been talking to me since I was a little kid.”
Are you stunned? It’s a normal reaction. Believe me, I, too, have been shocked by the responses of these children. Nevertheless, this is exactly what the children told me about hearing voices. That it is Satan and they could hear him since they were little.
Also, I witnessed some kids who do not appear as themselves when listening to the voices. Or, they appear possessed with something other than themselves. Understand? If not, I will try to describe it to you.
I can sit here and recall observing these children while they were actively listening to voices thinking, this...
...Is something else and not this kid!
Periodically, the children would report not remembering anything prior to their actions and shortly afterwards, only recalling the conversations that I had with them after their hospitalization. As you can read, it was easy to conclude that an altered state of mind may have occurred, and remained for a while with these kids until the episode ended. This made me curious enough to read a few articles about alleged spiritual encounters with Satan or hearing Satan's voice. Not one of them described the voices as pleasant, by the way. Some of them shared that they also had an ability to see ghosts as well. Most recently, a child told me about seeing a male ghost for many years. This ghost changed from the image of a young boy to a demon who commanded that this child behave poorly at home and school, and also harm others with objects. This child vehemently stated that this entity was Satan. Another child shared that voices heard were from Satan, but was unable to see ghosts only hear them talking in his or her ears. Both kids stated to me,
“Satan makes me do it.”
Validity, Yes or No?
I believe these children, and that their stories are valid. Empirically proven? No, but there is no reason not to believe them. I cannot dispute their accounts, nor do I want to either. There is no reason to discredit their incidents; that is not my job, and I want them to feel open to discussing their feelings. That does not mean, however, that they do not need to be safe from a mental health crisis. Medical and mental health treatment is necessary at times, and compliance with State and Federal Laws while maintaining ethics is mandatory. You cannot listen to or witness a child wanting to harm themselves for example, without an assessment and/or interventions. There is no choice in these specific crisis situations. Even if you believe that the children are falsifying their encounters, you take action based upon their behaviors. I can tell you that there were times when I questioned whether or not the hearing of voices was true even in adults, but I did not contemplate whether or not to move forward in a mental health crisis. That includes if individuals told me, “I am just playing” or “I only wanted attention.” Put your training first before your feelings. A woman told me,
"Satan puts bugs on my arms." "They are all over me."
"Satan is in my head all the time and will not go away."
"I hear him."
After the woman said these things to me. I told her,
"I believe you," as I sat on the hospital bed with her as she told me her story.
She said, "Finally someone believes me." Then she told me her story. I never forgot about that woman and told many of my former students about that situation. She was not the first client to tell me that,
The Devil Made Me Do It
And she will not be the last!