BOOK REVIEW: Life with Voices by Dmitriy Gutkovich
Life with Voices: A Guide for Harmony by Dmitriy Gutkovich is complex and detail-oriented. To be even more precise, this is a user manual for the Voice Hearing community and voice hearers. The review of this book comes from the vantage point of a voicer hearer, or more specifically, someone who once heard voices. I write from the perspective of the prosumer. I have a schizophrenia diagnosis. However, I do not hear voices anymore. As apart of my ‘medication management’, I am prescribed an Intramuscular Injection (IM) monthly to ‘control’ my ‘symptoms’. Since I have been prescribed the IM injection, I have been successful in controlling my ‘symptoms’ for ten years. One of my ‘symptoms’ is hearing voices. Voice hearers do not consider hearing voices a symptom of an illness and would liken my framework for understanding, living, and coping with my symptoms as an extension of the medical model.
I am also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). When thinking about how to frame this review, I thought the reader should be aware of both my own lived experience, the framework for managing my own illness, and also a professional role as a therapist, mental health researcher, and professor of family-oriented treatment (Family therapy). While I think of myself in my personal life as managing an illness, I fully support the Voice Hearers movement. I also fully support Dmitry’s book on a professional level when it comes to the purpose and usefulness of Life with Voices. Dmitry’s book is a critical document supplementing the movement with its highly thought out road map to living a better quality of life. Dmitriy’s book is not only complex, but it is also nuanced, thought-provoking (no pun intended), and at times, exhilarating as the reader discovers the usefulness and accessibility of this guide to hearing voices.
Life with Voices is divided into six chapters. The first chapter serves as both an introduction and a preface. With this said, the author not only frames his approach for conceptualizing the writing of the book, but also his methodology for its layout for the benefit of the reader in terms of accessing its concepts and value. The following chapters ‘beliefs’, ‘conflict’, ‘combat’ and ‘ecosystem’ are fundamentally the tools Dmitriy lays out to help Voice Hears with a road map in how to live with their voices in greater harmony as the author would say and it is noted in the subtitle of the book. The final chapter is largely the author’s various notations on the Voice Hearers’ Movement, the next steps forward, and how Dmitriy envisions this book fitting into the grand narrative of the mental health community.
To be frank, when I say this book is a manual, I meant it. This is not a novel it is a reference book. On the level of accessibility, this manual/guide has a few flaws that cannot be overlooked. Most academic or scholarly text-books that carry any worth are highly accessible. Within their pages are sections devoted to just that: accessing the text. Life with Voices leaves these reference sections conspicuously absent from the text. If there is a second edition of this book, my recommendation is that the author creates a few sections in the back of the book for the reader to access the text more intuitively and with greater ease. For example, a key terms section with definitions, page numbers in which these terms are located in the text or perhaps an appendix with diagrams and visual representations of some of the more elaborate and complex terms/concepts.
I am also left with a few questions without a reference or work cited section. There is a notation in the final chapter for academics. This notation charges academics with the much-needed task of completing much needed additional research into strategies for hearing and living peaceably with/in a more complex ecosystem(s). While the lack of research is undeniable, I have to wonder if some of the terms used throughout this work are original, or if “some credit for this work does belong elsewhere” as the author notes in the final chapter. While the author’s metaphors are no doubt his own, basic terms, and concepts, I would hazard to say must already be existent and used within the Voice Hearers community. This theory would also reinforce some of the author’s ideas in the text such as the ‘standardizations’ and uses of language the author gestures to when elaborating on some of the many metaphors used to make his work more understandable to the reader.
Life with Voices is rich and laden with metaphors. Metaphors are used as the primary mechanism for illuminating some of the author’s more complex concepts and unpacking them for the reader. While reading, I found myself admittedly lost at times in some of the more ornate and elaborate metaphors. However, after reading on further I sometimes rediscovered my understanding of the author’s message later on in the text as the metaphor(s) took another more familiar (perhaps) turn. In most cases, there is no question that I could relate to both the author’s metaphors and as a person who has heard voices in the past.
Voice hearers can benefit from struggling with fewer ‘internal contradictions’ as they learn to bring their ecosystem into greater harmony with the techniques offered in Dmitry’s guide.
In summary, there is an abundance of positive qualities to the book Life with Voices by Dmitry Gutkovich to highlight. The sheer unmistakable richness of the text, and levels of magnitude nuanced when unpacking vitally important concepts when it comes to living with voices and establishing a more peaceable and positive voice ecosystem. This much is made more clear with the author’s prose throughout the work and I commend the author for taking on such a challenging subject matter and breaking it down as sufficiently as he did in Life with Voices.