Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sounds in the night: the hum, schizophrenia and genius

In January I wrote about a noise at night. So it was with great interest that I read this report on the BBC news site today.

Hearing sounds that no one else can hear is worrying. It is akin to hearing voices or feeling that there is someone sitting on your shoulder inspecting and criticising all that you do. In other words - a sign of madness.

The rumbling sound I heard then I still hear, but it disturbs me less. It was worrying me, and it was that anxiety rather than the noise itself that was keeping me awake. I felt that if I made an effort not to hear it, and to concentrate on the sounds that I knew were there, then it would fade, and so it has. If I listen for it, I know I will hear it, so I don't and it goes - or at least vanishes from my consciousness.

It is what we all do, I think. The buzz of a faulty piece of apparatus, the flashing light at the peripheral of our vision, the irritating chatter - we filter them all out. The inability to filter really is a sign of madness. It is thought by some that schizophrenics, for example, have a faulty filter. In fact it is used as a test for the condition. Schizophrenics take in everything, and are consequently perpetually overstimulated. But being stimulated like this, from many different sources, and then putting all those sources together to make something new is also the ability of the genius.

I think, given the choice, I would choose sanity.


Blogger Paul Halpern said...

Interesting piece. In the US the most famous "hum" is in Taos, New Mexico where many residents have reported hearing an unexplained sound.

Tue May 19, 07:04:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Paul, I find that really interesting that there should be clusters. Makes it less likely than ever that it is just 'in the mind'.

Tue May 19, 09:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Ian D Smith said...

Clare, I often hear inexplicable noises and the occasional voice at night. I think it's natural. I think people slip into schizophrenia having been forced to compartmentalise or suppress their thoughts by others, bullying parents, whatever. The voices they hear are competing, cajoling, mimicking. Another natural thing for writers to think about is paranoia. I do worry what out society is doing to people at the moment, discouraging creativity and expression at the same time as bullying. PS I have a story at theviewfromhere.com on the subject.

Thu May 21, 10:07:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I think the hum is different, Ian in that it is constantly there. It is as if it is on the verge of imagination.

I also think that being constantly aware of it means that the 'filter' we all have for continuous distractions is not working properly, and this filter has failed altogether in the schizophrenic. It struck me how the two might be related when in the article the hum was blamed on evil spirits.

Yes, I agree about the paranoia being a fertile ground for writing..and yes, with all this constant testing creativity seems not be encouraged much at all. This is worrying because creativity must be our main way out of the mess this planet it in.

Thu May 21, 02:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Ian D Smith said...

Sorry, Clare. It's Telescopes @ http://tinyurl.com/q88dqv.

Thu May 21, 03:10:00 pm  

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