Orphan Stray Kittens, an acrylic painting by TaraFly

The Lost Ones - an acrylic painting of two stray kittens.

I’ve always had a morbid fascination with people who commit crimes because ‘the voices’ commanded them to do it.

What do these voices sound like? Is it your own voice… a loved one, friend, or complete stranger? Are they audible or suggestive? Do they echo inside your head, as if coming from headphones… or enter the room like disembodied specters?

I seriously want to know.

A few years ago, I briefly attended some sessions with a psychologist… and during the initial consultation, she asked me a series of ominous mental-health questions, such as “Have you had any thoughts of homicide or genocide?” and “Do you hear voices?”

I asked, “How would I know if I heard voices?” That unnerved her, I think. 😉
But she calmly replied, “Oh, you would know.”
Really?

It was eventually determined that I “suffered” from minor bouts of depression and anxiety, so minor in fact that I simply decided to deal with them (and save money on prescription drugs). They are lovingly referred to as my “mood swings”.

But there are no voices in my head, except my own.

Having never experienced a severe mental illness personally, I have a difficult time understanding and sympathizing with its victims.
I actually had to refrain from typing ‘victims’ in sarcastic quotes, because whatever we may think of them, they truly are victims of their own minds.

I’m sure many of you reading this have probably felt a similar sense of prejudice.
Raise your hand if you harshly judged Andrea Yates for drowning her own five children in their bathtub?
Oh, yeah…. my hand is waaaaay up there.

So she didn’t take her medication and was subjected to “voices” from somewhere, demanding that she murder her babies. If it were me, I would tell the voices to go jump in the tub and drown themselves instead.

After watching Shutter Island last weekend (my explanation for these ramblings…), I’ve been dwelling on the mental state of criminals, and how reality is an abstract form that differs from one person to the next.

I begin to realize that from where I stand, everything appears crystal clear.
Naturally, the voices people are hearing are malicious and wrong, I tell myself. Why presume this?
Because my conscience tells me so!

Ah, but what if the conscience and the Voice are one and the same?

That inner light of morality, which warns us of indiscretions with twangs of guilt and fear, is merely a by-product of our upbringing and environment … or as religious people would argue, it’s the “voice of the Holy Spirit”, warning us against sin. And everyone understands right from wrong…
Right?

But what if that same conscience could lead people astray, and convince them to do horrible things?

Perhaps this voice boomed down from Heaven like a divine Commandment. What spiritual person would dare reject the apparent Voice of God? By the way, it wouldn’t be the first time He’s demanded the sacrifice of our children (see: Genesis Chapt.22)
Maybe the Voice was testing Yates’ faith?

When we judge someone, we’re simply holding them accountable to our own moral code.
I’m guilty (a million times over) of making absolute statements: “I would never consider….”

Those presumptions are wrong, however, because although I would not commit murder in my current state of mind, there is no guarantee that if I were sharing her experiences as my own that my response would be any different.

You simply cannot know why an individual chooses one path over another, without swapping brains with them Frankenstein-style.

Scientists say that we live by a unique roadmap which was shaped long before we were actually born.

What your mother ate for lunch each day during her pregnancy, any drugs she might have taken, and even her emotional state (and stress levels) contributed to your physical and mental development as a fetus.
After birth, your immediate environment continued to impact you… the hospital staff, your first home, your siblings, teachers, neighbors, television, church, and if you listen to health fanatics on my Facebook wall – even those Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Pop-Tarts that are loaded with HFC and brain-altering chemical additives.

Life may be full of choices, the options are quite limitless… but depending on how and where you are raised, your personal view of the world has been conditioned to be quite narrow and absolute. Although, being “narrow-minded” in this particular case isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Some would never consider having an abortion, or foregoing college, or voting Republican, or cheating on their spouse, or eating tofu…

So how could they possibly understand or sympathize with their neighbor down the street who is struggling with a messy divorce or pregnant 13-year-old daughter?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt belittled and misunderstood?
Perhaps on the phone with a bank clerk or creditor?
…Or in the check-out line when your card is declined?
…. When the officer pulls you over, and you’ve left your wallet in the other pair of pants?

Have you accidentally bumped into someone with your shopping cart?
…Or your perfect child suddenly throws tantrum in the store over a box of cookies?
… And your sincerest apologies fall on deaf ears?
And the faces of everyone around you are scowling with disapproval or blatant disgust?

You worthless and sorry excuse for a human being.

You should be ashamed.

You shouldn’t be a parent.

Hold onto that memory… and think about how it really feels to be judged by others.
When your best explanations turn into ashes in your mouth, unable to convince people of your innocence.

They don’t understand your situation.

They aren’t hearing your voices.

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