We live immersed in thought. But do we actually know what a thought is? To answer this question, psychology professor Charles Fernyhough draws on everything from neuroscience to literary history to grasp the true nature of this most inscrutable of acts: thinking. Whether a medieval saint who hears voices or a writer absorbed in an imagined world, a daydreamer riding the subway or a captivated reader, we experience thought as a creative inner dialogue featuring multiple voices. Fernyhough uses this conception to demystify mental illness, showing that imagining voices is intimately linked to the feeling of artistic production. Drawing on literature, film, and psychology, as well as cognitive science,The Voices Within is a poetic venture into the depths of our mind. It will revolutionize the way we hear and understand the voices in our heads.
“The author’s investigations, at once scientific and humane, represent the discipline of psychology at its rare best…That Mr. Fernyhough is a novelist as well as a psychologist is evident in his illuminating discussion of the polyphonic art of fiction and the way in which writers such as Virginia Woolf, Muriel Spark and William Golding unpack characters from the voices they generate in those characters’ heads…Some of the most compelling pages in Mr. Fernyhough’s book describe how hearing voices may be a response to traumatic, sometimes repressed, memories, rather than merely being the result of the atypical processing of inner speech. The voices carry messages that cannot otherwise be spoken. .. After reading The Voices Within, you may never again be quite as thoughtless about the fact that you think.”
—Raymond Tallis, Wall Street Journal
“This sophisticated and appealing work scrutinizes a tangled topic with aplomb and will leave readers permanently observing their own thought processes differently. Perfect for readers of Oliver Sacks and Malcolm Gladwell.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Fernyhough’s book is a valuable addition to the literature surrounding the unending human quest to understand the location—and the creation—of the self.”
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