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A New Psychological Perspective on UFO Abductees/Experiencers
I have created a new diagnosis I call UFO Abduction Hysterical Neurosis caused by imaginary contact with aliens. This supports my hypothesis which I actually got from Prof. Terry Matheson in his very important book Alien Abductions that so-called UFO abductees, especially females, suffer from sexual abuse and develop hysterical neurosis by repressing the memories and replacing them with screen memories of space alien encounters.
For non-psychologists to understand this we need to understand what a neurosis is and how it differs from other types of mental disorders. So, what is neurosis? It is much less severe and debilitating than a psychosis. Neurotics are capable of self management, partially or completely self supporting, are rarely suicidal. They do not usually need hospitalization. Instead of “neurotic” they are nowadays labeled as having “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”
On the other hand, Psychotics and people with severe PTSD are incapable of managing their lives and taking care of themselves, so they usually need hospitalization or equivalent home care. Neurotics respond favourably to suggestion and possibly hypno-therapy, psychoanalysis and other forms of psychotherapy, while the psychotics don’t and tend to need to be treated with strong psychotropic drugs or other physiological means such as electro-shock therapy or even lobotomies.
A completely different third type is Personality Disorders, and people who claim to experience encounters with fairies, angels or aliens or past life regression may simply have fantasy prone personalities and not be neurotic nor psychotic.
Most UFO experiencers are hysterical neurotics, not psychotic, but there can be overlaps and a neurotic such as perhaps Whitley Strieber could have a psychotic episode, and I will discuss him later. Another kind of crossover event is a when a previously normal person has a psychotic episode. A person experiencing a psychotic episode might hallucinate, become paranoid, or experience a temporary change in personality. A traumatic event or a drug overdose or a bad combination of drugs, legal or illegal, can cause this. I think in some of the famous abduction cases there was a psychotic episode with hallucinations, namely a hallucination of being attacked by aliens instead of people they previously trusted. (This could later serve as a screen memory to the extent it could be recalled.)
Let me first give a short interesting history of the development of the discovery of Neurosis. It is a form of hysteria. It is interesting that the theory of Hysteria stems from ancient Egypt. For at least two thousand years of European history until the late nineteenth century hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus (from the Greek ὑστέρα hystera "uterus") Bizarre and creepy as it now seems to us, the ancient Greeks thought that the uterus could move around in the body and was almost like an intelligent plant or primitive animal. The Hippocratics thought that the womb moved upward in the woman's body whenever it became hot and dry from overwork, or from lack of so-called irrigation from male sperm, searching for cool and moist places in an effort to restore its equilibrium. As the womb tried to force its way up into a woman's abdomen, it obviously wreaked havoc with her physical and mental well being. Later it was realized men could also suffer from hysteria but even now female patients outnumber males by 2 to 6 to 1. In addition to emotional displays and anxiety, a main symptom is what we now call psycho-somatic, ie.. the patient displays a physical problem such as numbness, paralysis, blindness or having seizures or fits, for which there is no physical cause.
A male counterpart to the diagnosis of hysteria, was associated with symptoms now mostly considered to be signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Modern day psychiatrist at Harvard and Cambridge, Mass., Judith Herman suggests that hysteria was a label given a form of PTSD arising from domestic abuse of women, including physical abuse, rape, and emotional abuse. This is useful as it helps explain the so-called alien abduction phenomenon.
Freudian psychoanalytic theory attributed hysterical symptoms to the unconscious mind's attempt to protect the patient from psychic stress. Freud suggested that painful experiences would be consciously repressed as a way of managing the pain, but this emotional charge would be somehow "converted" into the neurological symptoms. Hence the psychiatric term “conversion neurosis”. Freud later argued that the repressed experiences were of a sexual nature, mainly having been forced or seduced into having sex when still an infant or child. For Freud, if the woman did not repress the memory she would have no hysterical symptoms. Hence we have psycho-analysis or hypnosis or dream analysis to try to reveal suppressed memories hoping this will have a cathartic effect. Some support for the Freudian model comes from findings of high rates of childhood sexual abuse in conversion patients.
As well as Freud, in the late 1800’s neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot began to study hysteria, and focussed on heredity as a cause, rather than sexual issues. This ties in with recent reports that abductees tend to have parents and children who claim to have been abducted by space aliens.
Pierre Janet was one of the first people to discover the connection between events in the subject's earlier life and his or her present day trauma, and coined the words ‘dissociation’ and ‘subconscious’. So I would say this is why abductees or experiencers tend to be somewhat dis-associated with normal life and have paranormal experiences and perceptions.
Now as we know hypnosis is usually used to obtain the so-called abduction memories, especially by Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs even though neither had any training in it and were self-taught. If we read what the DSM used by psychiatrists says in defining hysterical neurosis, we find many things that fit the typical abductee. E.g Symptoms usually begin during adolescence or early adulthood, and occur more commonly in women than men. There is dissociation - memories, ideas, feelings, and perceptions are lost to conscious awareness and become unavailable to voluntary recall, which is central to an understanding of the cause of hysterical symptoms. These unconscious mental contents can be recovered under special circumstances though (e.g. dreams or hypnosis.) And proneness to dissociation may be partly genetic.
Two more interesting points about dissociation: (1) It is closely correlated with hypnotizability, and individuals prone to spontaneous dissociation usually rate high on hypnotizability scales. And (2) It may serve as a psychologic defense; i.e. it provides a mechanism for suppressing unpleasant, painful, and anxiety-provoking mental contents from consciousness. Recent clinical studies point to the particularly frequent presence of memories of major aggressive and sexual child abuse [in some patients].
HYSTERICAL NEUROSIS -
Symptoms and Signs
Conversion symptoms: Almost any organ disease symptom can be simulated on an hysterical basis. Both visual and auditory hallucinations may occur.
Dissociative phenomena: A variety of altered states of consciousness may result from the dissociative process. In somnambulism, the patient appears to be out of contact with his environment, is seemingly unresponsive to external stimuli, and in many cases appears to be living out a vivid, hallucinated drama, often the memory of some past emotionally traumatic event. Dissociation is a common defense/reaction to stressful or traumatic situations, but a dissociative disorder impairs the normal state of awareness and limits or alters one's sense of identity, memory or consciousness.
So I believe that these definitions seem to apply very well to UFO abductees. They often have amnesia at first and then (often “aided” by hypnosis or dreams) gradually recall being abducted. They live out a vivid drama, often an emotionally traumatic event. The event seems dreamlike. The amnesia explains the so-called Missing Time phenomenon. Under the Conversion aspect, Abductees don’t report spasms but many say they were paralyzed when taken aboard the UFO, and some report post-abduction physical symptoms such as soreness or tenderness in genital areas, allegedly evidence of having been sexually assaulted by space aliens, also sometimes scratches, or gouges but these may not be from conversion at all, they may be actual results of actual sexual assaults.) Also, women are more prone to hysterical neurosis than men, and there are more female than male abductees. The part about possible genetic causality may account for why abductees often later report that their parents and children also admitted to alien abductions.
Another point: Many abductees think they are like prophets and have been specially selected to spread the anti-nuclear or ecological message across the earth, and this kind of attention seeking fits the neurotic definitions but it is considered megalomania if it fits into the definition of a psychosis. Below I will explain one of the most famous abduction sagas as an example of this.
So abductees seem to share all characteristics of hysterical neurotics or in modern terms conversion and especially dissociative disorders, but may also share some major characteristics of schizophrenics e.g. auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, delusions of being important messengers, sometimes delusions of being part alien. Some of the latter could result in a misdiagnosis of a psychosis rather than an hysterical neurosis or dissociative disorder. So I tentatively conclude that the typical abductee fits more into the neurotic side since even when “remembering” and “reliving” the event under hypnosis the abductee is still able to keep one part of his or her mind grounded in reality and converse with the therapist or hypnotist. To oversimplify, the female abductees present more as hysterical neurotic/dissociative disorder while the males have a slightly greater tendency toward paranoid schizophrenia psychosis. However it may be that one could also apply a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to all of them.
When we consider the case of Betty Andreasson in the book The Andreasson Affair by Raymond Fowler, we see these elements of hysterical neurosis and dis-sociation etc. On Jan. 25, 1967 she was recently separated from an alcoholic husband and had probably suffered years of abuse. She and her family of 7 children and her parents saw aliens outside their house in New England. Then she noticed that her family had been put into a state of suspended animation. Then the aliens –wearing blue uniforms and heavy boots - came in literally thru the door, floating and leaving a slight vapor trail just like the ghosts in the Scooby Doo childrens cartoon show. The beings were small, 3-5’ tall, had very large pear shaped heads, grey skins, large dark almond shaped eyes, tiny holes for nose and ears, a slit for a mouth and very little neck. Instead of being paralyzed with fear Betty offers to prepare a meal for the aliens but they say they can only eat burned food, which is reminiscent of burnt offerings in the Bible. When Betty gives them her Bible they make it into many copies reminiscent of Christ with the loaves and fishes. She was then floated thru the air and into the UFO which was in her back yard. She was made to change into a white garment, was then examined in another room of the UFO to see if she was pregnant, and then brought back to the first place and put her clothes back on. After being put in a special chair doused with some liquid to protect her for space travel she is whisked across space to the alien’s home planet (or possibly to a huge mother ship, she is not sure) where on arrival the liquid instantly evaporates, and she is given a tour. She saw a huge Phoenix like bird rising from ashes behind what was called the Great Door. They glide along a road passing thru a red place and then arrive at the alien city, a green place. Does this not remind everyone of the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City in the movie The Wizard of Oz.? There were strange colors, small animals with big eyes and no heads, a tiny ball was removed from her nose supposedly having been planted there in 1950. and one of Betty’s eyes was plucked from its socket and then re-inserted apparently with no pain and no blood. So note the dream like aspects. As they travel around the alien’s planets they pass thru a mirror much like in Alice in Wonderland. At one point she sees glass or ice like butterflies which when she touches them turn into regular butterflies, just like in a Disney movie. The aliens were impressed that she was a Christian (she was a Pentacostal) and told her that she was to be like a prophet to mankind when “activated” at a later date. She says she was chosen for some great task which is later stated to be “to show the world”. At times the aliens seem like angels, saying things like “Fear not – be of comfort” and “You are not completely filled with light”. The alien leaders’ name was Quazgaa and he had one white and one black eye, and his assistant was Joohop. As a souvenir she was given a small blue book in the alien language which she could not read, and which of course disappeared from her house. Her drawings of what she saw are almost exact reproductions of 1950s’ sci-fi and Walt Disney films. She tells the hypnotist that the aliens definitely have something to do with the second coming of Christ. During her few hours on the alien planet or giant mother ship she has a religious experience. This is the only alien abduction story to have another form of paranormal event occur with the same event, and again suggests a psychological explanation.
Now let’s apply my neurosis concept and the sexual abuse aspect to the first reported abduction case The Interrupted Journey written by John Fuller about Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. It is important that prior to the UFO event, in the past, they had been chased and harrassed at night by teenaged hoodlums while driving on a lonely highway in NH. This shows that what I am going to propose is not far fetched. The pre-hypnosis story was simple: As they were driving from Montreal to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the night of 19 September, 1961, in the dark mountains on secondary roads they thought they saw a UFO. Barney at first thought it was an aircraft but Betty who was already keen on UFOs hoped in was an alien space ship. Barney stopped the car and using binoculars saw figures inside the UFO. He said they wore shiney black uniforms and caps reminding him of Nazi officers but to me they sound like outlaw bikers and tough guys of that era, who wore black leather jackets, pants and boots and sea captain type caps. One of the crew used a lever that caused bat-like wings to extend from the side of the saucer shaped main body of the craft. In a panic Barney drove away from the UFO. They heard a beeping sound. When they heard the same beeping sound again they were driving 35 miles south of the sighting location. They had no recollection of what happened to them between the two sets of beeping sounds. They got home at about 5am on the morning of 20 September, 1961; about 2 hours later than expected no doubt due to the slow driving (Barney reported driving as slowly as 5 mph) in the dark curvy roads and stopping at least three time to see the UFO and then the later incident. They may have even stopped for a nap in the car.
Afterwards they experienced continued anxiety and ill-defined fears that made Betty seek answers to what really happened to them. Only two days after the sighting Betty visited her local library and borrowed Major Donald Keyhoe’s book The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, she read it and wrote to him about their sighting. The realisation that there was more to the story came to them from a series of nightmares Betty Hill had from 29 Sept to 3 October, 1961. She dreamt that space aliens took them to a landed craft in the nearby woods and conducted medical examinations on them, before returning them to the car. Betty tended to think these dreams might have been memories of real events, but Barney just thought they were vivid dreams.
It was not until the first half of 1964 and after getting involved with a UFO group that Dr. Benjamin Simon conducted the hypnotic regression sessions. Barney reluctantly agreed so it “might clear up Betty and her nonsense about her dreams”. What they recalled under hypnosis was virtually identical to the nightmares Betty had a few days after the encounter. In other words the hypnosis was bringing out memories of nightmares but not necessarily true events, and Barney even pointed this. In one session Barney actually says “I feel like I am dreaming” and says he feels “dissociated” . He could not have used a better word to confirm my hypothesis.
The main elements of their abduction during their missing period of time according to the post-hypnotic version are: They went down a back road that was blocked by about a dozen aliens who were over 5 feet tall. Now ask yourself who is more likely to be in a back road, blocking it, thugs with cars or motorcycles or space aliens? Supposedly the aliens opened the car door for Betty and took the couple to a nearby landed UFO. Inside the UFO they were put into separate rooms where they were stripped and put on examination tables. The aliens inserted a long needle into Betty’s naval, She was told it was a pregnancy test. [even though the alien captain said it would not hurt, it did.] A cup-like instrument was placed over Barney’s groin. Later, he had a ring of warts where this was placed. He also reported that the aliens had inserted a tube or cylinder into his anus which of course sounds like anal rape by a man. According to David Jacobs, long after the book was published, Barney Hill admitted that a “sperm sample” had been forcibly taken of him. More likely he was attacked by a homosexual gangster who did whatever it took to make Barney ejaculate. Betty spoke to the alien captain.
What did the aliens from space look like? According to Betty Hill the aliens had cat like eye features, including vertical pupils and sported huge “Jimmy Durante style” noses whereas her husband Barney reported no noses, only one slit that served as a mouth and nose! So a major contradiction between witnesses. Worse, Barney had two distinct versions of the aliens, changing the slit to thick lips on the mouth! In his first version Barney reported that the aliens’ eyes extended to the sides of their heads, i.e. “ wrap around eyes” and such a space alien character had appeared in a TV show The Outer Limits only 12 days before that hypnosis session. In his second version Barney said the aliens had small eyes. Two major changes in his description I would say. Skeptics have noted that large nosed aliens appear in a 1953 movie called Invaders from Mars as do scenes of aliens injecting humans with needles. In yet more major contradictions, Betty in a later version deleted the giant noses from her aliens and Barney in his later version described the aliens as small in height, gray skinned and hairless and similar to an aboriginal native American tribe he had seen pictures of. However he always referred to them as “men” which is the one consistency. When Betty is returned to their car she sees Barney sitting inside it, in a kind of daze. Betty asked Barney “Do you believe in flying saucers now?” and he replied “... don’t be ridiculous. Of course I don’t.” (Matheson 1998: 63). To me this dismisses the entire alien abduction explanation of the event. If one of the two abductees a minute or so after the incident says it has nothing to do with aliens, we must give that a lot of weight.
When they arrive home the first thing Betty does is take many long showers with plenty of scrubbing because she somehow felt “dirty”, and Barney goes into the bathroom to inspect his genitals. He also felt dirty and took several showers . Isn’t this just how rape victims react?
Again, a reading of the original transcripts of the hypnosis shows that what the Hills saw blocking the road were men, not aliens. During the regression to the original sighting, Barney uses the word “fellow” to describe the person in the UFO who was looking at him. At a later point in the story, after being stopped by some sort of roadblock, he says “There’s a man there! Is – is - is – he a Captain?” He describes one as a red-headed Irishman and another as “like a German Nazi”. Dr Simon asks “Do they have faces like other people?” and Barney replies “They’re men. All with dark jackets. And I don’t have any money”. (Barney anticipated a robbery when he worried that he had little money, apparently afraid the “slim pickings” would antagonize the assailants.) When describing being closer to them, he said “I saw a group of men, and they were standing in the highway” and they “flagged me down”. Then he says” it did not seem they had different faces from white men.” Even Betty said “I was afraid when I saw the men on the road.” She used the word “men” both in and out of hypnosis when describing how the abduction phase of the story began. (To this author, the descriptions are consistent with an outlaw motorcycle gang or toughs of that era flagging the car down and diverting it to a side road.) The fact that Barney originally described the bad guys as having faces like white men and then later had two versions of aliens shows how he was being influenced by his wife’s descriptions of her dreams and from science fiction.
In regards to the screen memory, Betty describes the interior of the UFO as having doors, stools and other typical 1961 human building attributes, not what we would expect of a real space ship. The alien captain spoke English according to Betty but according to Barney in his earlier version they seemed to use telepathy or humming as they had no mouths or ears, even though they could smile. Appreciating the illogicality of all this, Barney asked Dr. Simon if one could recall a dream of a UFO under hypnosis. Clearly Barney was smart and not as naïve as Betty or all the people who prefer to believe Betty’s version.
Years later Betty said "In fact, if you have a crime committed against you, and you go to have hypnosis, you can't testify. Because there's no way to test what is real, what's fact, what's fantasy.” Note that she was referring to the incident as a crime.
A few days after the event while driving in Portsmouth Betty panicked when they drove past a car that was partly blocking the road. And she was having vivid nightmares of a roadblock by men in dark clothes. In his hypnosis Barney said he was afraid that “they were going to capture us.” Remember this was the very first widely reported abduction by space aliens in the English speaking world. In 1961 there was no history of such so why was he so afraid unless it was a bunch of hoodlums?
Following the encounter the top of the front of Barney’s shoes were found to be scuffed. This would substantiate his statement that he was dragged by his arms towards something or place when he was abducted. [but according to Hopkins and all modern writers, aliens beam their captives thru the air and don’t drag them along the ground] According to Barney the bad guys were rough and tough and threatening with him but Betty reported they were chatty and friendly. Isn’t this typical of a scene where bad guys plan to rape a woman and don’t like her male escort?
Back home Betty noticed that her dress had the hem and seams torn off and she put it in a closet and never wore it again. Again this sounds like evidence of a sexual assault.
I think that Barney neurotic or had a conversion hysteria as a result of the assault. The warts around his penis were a classic conversion symptom, and were not caused by aliens. Betty however became more severely disordered, more like a schizophrenic or at least very dis-sociative. For many years after she would take UFOlogists to supposed alien landing sites which were not, and point out UFOs which were airplanes and even street lamps and argue with the investigators when they tried to explain the obvious. She even said her cat could fly. Skeptical Inquirer columnist Robert Shaeffer wrote the following:
"I was present at the National UFO Conference in New York City in 1980, at which Betty presented some of the UFO photos she had taken. She showed what must have been well over two hundred slides, mostly of blips, blurs, and blobs against a dark background. These were supposed to be UFOs coming in close, chasing her car, landing, etc... After her talk had exceeded about twice its allotted time, Betty was literally jeered off the stage by what had been at first a very sympathetic audience. This incident, witnessed by many of UFOlogy's leaders and top activists, removed any lingering doubts about Betty's credibility — she had none. In 1995, Betty Hill wrote a self-published book, A Common Sense Approach to UFOs. It is filled with obviously delusional stories, such as seeing entire squadrons of UFOs in flight and a truck levitating above the freeway."
Nevertheless I believe something happened to Betty and Barney that night in 1961 but it wasn’t space aliens or UFOs but a gang rape.
Here is a third example of dis-sociation and repressed sexual assault memories with space aliens as a protective cover or screen memory: Budd Hopkins’ book Missing Time (1981) discusses one Steven Kilburn who had a strange feeling about a certain stretch of road. Under hypnosis he talks about the alien in these words “I don’t think I really see him, but I do” While the Hills’ aliens walked normally and Betty Andreasson’s aliens floated and hopped, Steve Kilburn’s aliens hobble as if having bad knees. Steve reports feeling a hard finger poking him in the back, and that it hurt further down, a rod pokes his stomach while sliding back and forth and a thing moves his legs apart. He recalls a wand twice as thick as a thumb, about 7-8” long. He reports feeling “embarrassed, somehow violated”. So again it sounds like a rape with an alien abduction as protective screen memory In his next book Intruders, Hopkins had a psychologist test his nine subjects and it was found that they had mild paranoia, low self-esteem and issues with trust. I’ve read Kenneth Ring’s book The Omega Project and in it he writes that abductees are more likely to have a history of sexual abuse than the general public.
In Intruders Hopkins discusses one Kathie Davis, another so-called abductee. In that book we learn that she has colitis, which can be deadly serious, an irregular heartbeat, chronic psycho-somatic illnesses and insomnia and severe anxiety. She routinely sees a psychologist for “buried trauma” which was exactly the right thing to do. But instead, Hopkins sees all this as a result of an abduction by space aliens rather than conditions which could pre-dispose the patient to think they were being abducted, or as symptoms of sexual abuse with the spacemen story as a cover. Kathie would not even consent to being interviewed at home. We learn that her father was distant and menacing, he said he would “whack her butts” if she ever lied, and when she felt an abduction coming on was afraid to wake him up or he would get mad. When she woke her mother she told her to take an aspirin or her heart medicine. Callousness or actually good advice? Kathie’s description of the UFO was hardly convincing – she said she saw it “dimly” and “didn’t want to look at it.” The aliens were also vaguely described as dark things that pinched and touched her. Her neurosis / hysteria / dis-sociation gets a lot worse when she claims she was pregnant but the aliens somehow stole her unborn baby from her womb to raise it on their own. Hopkins, like Jacobs, likes to write about these cross-breeding programs but ask your self if you were an alien why would you want to breed with someone as physically and mentally debilitated as Kathie Davis. Moreover she had low education. Finally think of all the stress poor Kathie was living with and remember that stress is a cause of attacks of Hysterical Neurosis and of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Next let’s consider Whitley Strieber in his first big seller Communion. Speaking of stress as a precursor, this poor fellow suffered from chronic and major anxiety disorder even before his so-called kidnapping by spacemen. He writes that he was extremely fearful living in NYC and he moved to Texas but was “even more fearful” there. He describes himself screaming with fear a lot, remembers his father screaming a lot, as did his wife and their son. He was even afraid the moon would explode! He moved to a remote cabin where he set up an expensive security system and kept a shotgun beside his bed. When he saw a blue light on the roof he was terrified. Regarding his abduction he later saw an owl and assumed it was a screen memory. He seems not to have thought that the owl was simply an owl while the abduction memory was a screen for a sexual assault or several. Consider these tidbits from one of his hypnosis sessions regarding the events of Dec. 1985. An alien asks him if his penis is as hard as it can get! Strieber confesses to love one of the abductors and says one made him sexually aroused. He mentions an anal probe and he says one alien wanted to insert something in his mouth. Need I say more about that case?
Many other cases in the more recent literature by female abductees involving unwanted insertion of a penis or a tube into their vaginas with warnings to forget what happened, and these sound like sexual abuse in the case of younger females and possibly guilt-ridden suppressed sexual fantasies by older females. With girls, in some cases the event occurred after they wandered away from their families at picnic or recreation sites into nearby woods, a typical place where rapists lurk. According to two of the Tujunga Canyon contactees*, known as Jan and Emily, they were sleeping in their car at the side of a road when approached by aliens. It turns out that Jan had been repeatedly sexually molested by her stepfather since she was seven. * Druffel, Ann, and D. Scott Rogo. 1989. The Tujunga Canyon Contacts. (2nd ed.) New York: Signet.
Finally a personal story re: a female friend of mine. There was (I believe) an attempted rape by her brothers (who were younger and shorter than her) when they were all sleeping in a motel but she insists it was space aliens trying to probe her with an instrument. (one held her hands, the other her feet and the third took out the rod-like instrument from his tool box). She has never read anything about alien abductions and has no interest in UFOs – not even my book - yet she described the classic Gray type of alien except they were silver. Perhaps this screen memory has worked so well that that is why she exhibits no neurotic symptoms.