By Golya Mirderikvand

The topic for this article came to me while I was confronted with various everyday decisions and dilemmas, some with small and others larger implications. In trying to think of the bigger picture and how this topic relates to my mental health, I found myself in a larger abstract philosophical realm of what ‘negotiating space’ really means.

We human beings are in a constant state of negotiation; whether this be with regards to our living space, work space, personal space, relationships, etc. And in essence we can also conclude that this notion also applies to all living beings on this planet. Different communities of living beings, down to the cells and proteins in our bodies are constantly in a state of communication, interaction, and negotiation with their surroundings and their neighbours.

One can think of the brand new interaction that takes place between two foreign parties, as a dance between them. As a result of this constant negotiation and renegotiation, a newly formed space is created. What manifests from this dance in this space is sometimes complete domination by one; at times by the other; and at times mutual agreements are made. Until over time this gives rise to the formation of a new entity, which marked by constant absence and presence of one or the other, has a new identity; permanently altered and constantly changing.

I became really fascinated with the notion of absence and presence and really started thinking about what it really meant when I listened to a lecture by Vancouver-based artist Geoffrey Farmer, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He illustrated his point by sharing one of his childhood memories of how he was fascinated by the imprint that a leaf, covered with paint, left behind on a piece of paper: how the leaf “appeared” to be on the paper, but physically it was no longer there. The leaf was absent yet present through its permanent imprint on the paper.

In fact, we humans are constantly affected and altered by our environments and interactions with others, and through these interactions we are scarred and imprinted by the experiences that we acquire. These experiences, indeed move us to a new space where we now have a slightly altered identity.

We can liken this dance or constant give and take that takes place in life, to our continuous strive for achieving equilibrium.

We might even call these negotiations social contracts when referring to our many diverse societies. We see this at the level of political interactions that take place amongst various communities, states, and nations. Or on a much simpler level, these social contracts could be between two friends as a relationship or a friendship develops.

…or in my case when my voice hearing experience started and a forced relationship was forged between my voices and I.

Hearing voices that are not perceived by others, has permanently altered me. I literally woke up one morning to constant invaders, criticizing every aspect of my being. It does not matter what activity I am engaged in; my visitors infiltrate everything that I do and never run out of clever comments.

Through time, I came to realize that the only way to move forward on my path of recovery was through negotiating and establishing relationships with my voices. These invisible interactions have reshaped and altered me in numerous ways, and as a result I have learned how to be more assertive, compassionate, and investigative.

I become entangled in the drama of an inner world when dealing with my voices. And that is in fact exactly what my voices want: constant attention and inner turmoil. Gone are the  days when I would be able to have a meditative moment to myself, contemplating on the wonders and mysteries of the world without constant interruption and critique.

I find both my inner and external worlds constantly competing for my attention, and I’m left to explore whatever space is left for negotiation between these two worlds.

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