The Social Sharing of Hallucinations
Abstract In this dissertation, I explore the social sharing of hallucinations and address the primary question of the lived-experience of this phenomenon from multiple perspectives. What is it like to speak about and hear about hallucinated experience outside of professional contexts? I interviewed 23 individuals regarding their experience sharing hallucinations with others (Experiencers) or hearing about hallucinations from individuals who experienced them (Listeners). Data were gathered from community as well as clinical samples. A wide variety of hallucination contexts were present, ranging from sleep paralysis, post-partum psychosis, drug-ingestion, mental illnesses, medically-related conditions (stroke, fever), healing, religious visions, as well as encounters with ghosts, archetypes, and deities. I analyzed these data using a hermeneutic-phenomenological perspective and process, following Max van Manen’s style of using this methodology. Through analysis, four Facets were recognized: Care, Sense-Making, Dual-Processing, and Ontological Cross-Bleed. Care Facet represents the explicit and hidden experiences and expressions of care that Listeners and Experiences share or withhold. For Experiencers, the Sense-Making Facet represents experiences of sense-making related to determinations of whether hallucinations are real, why they occur, and what they mean. Listener experiences of sense-making include shock, confusion, and processes of curiosity and determination regarding the hallucination. Dual-Processing Facet explores the dual experiential response many Listeners described when hearing about a hallucination. This response often involves interior thoughts and reactions that are masked from exterior representation. Finally, the Ontological Cross-Bleed Facet explores the transition that occurs during social sharing in which the hallucination transfers from being an object of consciousness only for the individual having the hallucination, to an object of consciousness for a Listener as well. Results of this study can help clinical psychologists tailor treatments and recommendations to individuals who are involved in related conversations and can also provide useful knowledge to community members who themselves are involved in the sharing, either from Experiencer or Listener standpoints.
hallucinations, social sharing, hermeneutic phenomenology
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)