Demystifying Aliens Troubles Abductees

"UFO abductions are real," claims Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist John E. Mack. After hearing dozens of stories world-wide of extraterrestrial creatures taking men, women and children against their wills on beams of light through walls and windows into strange crafts, Dr. Mack proposes a startling hypothesis: "The aliens are conducting an intergalactic breeding program combined with a brotherly warning of impending doom if the Earth doesn't change its warlike and ecologically wasteful ways."

In Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (Scribners), Dr. Mack presents thirteen case studies which reflect his work with over 100 people of various ages and economic backgrounds, from three-year-olds to major political figures. Most of these people have no history of mental illness, alcoholism, or substance abuse that might compromise their reports.

The peculiar nature of their experiences led him to a disturbing realization that alien encounters occur in a different reality—one that is outside normal human consciousness. It is this peculiar territory, the domain of the encounter, that makes it so hard for the outside observer to accept the reality of the abduction accounts. It is this same peculiarity which gives these stories their mythlike power to change our world-view.

There is little or no physical evidence to explain the eerie memories of traumatic episodes like kidnappings, medical operations, loss of time, and sexual encounters. However, these experiences of alien contact have as powerful an impact, or more so, than the familiar physical world. The abductees are ultimately left with deeply troubled feelings that profoundly alter their perceptions of themselves, the world, and their place in it.

Many abductees who failed to find relief in conventional psychotherapy sought the novel treatment that Dr. Mack offers. He helps them cope with their experiences through a synthesis of "holotropic breathwork" (a form of yogic breathing that Dr. Stanislaus Grof has developed into a substitute for psychedelic therapy) and hypnosis, combined with applications of regression techniques. These methods are commonly used with individuals exposed to a wide variety of paranormal encounters, including near-death experiences and other psychic, mystical, or spiritual phenomena. Suspecting that the abduction phenomenon fits the above category, Dr. Mack introduces a therapy style to stimulate what he calls a "co-creative understanding between the therapist and client." He enters into the psychic space of the abductee to help the person understand and cope with the events that have happened there.

The information gained in those sessions imply that abductions take place in another dimension of reality that is inaccessible by a purely cognitive process. If alien encounters with humans occur in an altered state of consciousness, Dr. Mack reasons, it is not likely that the experiencer's report of the incident(s) will simply reflect a remembered item lifted from his or her consciousness.

Dr. Mack proposes that the interplay of feelings and intuition between the experiencer and the investigator yields a greater understanding toward the alien connection—that emotions are more essential to create an "evolved perception" for evaluating the experience. Through Dr. Mack's empathic support, some clients find relief in discovering the ineffable power and beauty of an expanded reality unexplained by human concepts of space and time. Others are devastated when they must accept their memories of these experiences as true occurrences.

Given the recent controversies over therapist-induced false memories, Dr. Mack’s interactive procedure makes the bizarre UFO abduction reports easy targets for scepticism, if not ridicule. His critics charge that he abuses the techniques of hypnosis by shaping the memories of his subjects to suit his vision of an intergalactic future. His view that UFO phenomena reflect a larger perception outside of "rational" scientific explanation is suspected of tainting the expectations of his clients. On occasion, Dr. Mack is accused of telling a client, "If you think the aliens are bad, keep thinking about it until you realize that they are good." Hypnosis expert and psychiatrist Richard Ofshe of the University of California, Berkeley, admonishes: "If you convince someone they’ve been brutalized and raped, and you encourage them to fully experience the emotions appropriate for this event—and the event never happened—you’ve led them through an experience of pain that is utterly gratuitous."

Responding to Dr. Mack's debunkers, supporters point to a 1991 Roper poll that found that four million people have had at least some abduction-related experiences. "Until John [Mack] came along," says researcher Caroline McLeod, "there wasn’t enough credibility for this subject to support methodological investigation." Dr. Mack’s clients admit that his methods do not accurately disclose factual happenings outside of the physical world, but the wealth of shared experiences of the similarity of reported memories suggests that another world exists beyond the physical that affects human lives.

"We have lost the faculties to know other realities," says Dr. Mack. "The abduction phenomena violates the core belief in our culture that there is a total separation between the spirit and physical world." The extraterrestrials seemingly exist in both worlds, in dimensions that humans are incapable of perceiving without their help. The mystery remains why many abduction experiencers are left with anxieties, nightmares, bodily lesions, sinus headaches, and other stress disorders unaccounted for other than by the alien encounter stories as revealed through hypnosis.

In one case history, hypnosis uncovered repressed core memories of an abduction-related trauma which allowed a woman to reestablish an intimate relationship in a failing marriage. The session revealed that she was formerly subjected to intrusive reproductive procedures on an alien craft. The rape-like incident, buried deeply in her psyche, had obstructed physical contact with her husband until Dr. Mack aided in making the distinction between the physical aspects of human intimacy and sexuality from the alien trauma. Dr. Mack also cites caseload evidence that these encounters have been responsible for healing physical conditions ranging from cures in leukemia to recovery from paralysis. Other clients recalled past lives and observed a continuity of personal growth over more than one lifetime with the assistance of alien beings throughout these lives!

Abduction experiences appear cruel at times, says Dr. Mack, but are ultimately spiritually transformative. Most of the individuals who suffered from abductions were terrified because they felt helpless throughout the invasive procedures inflicted upon their bodies. The strain of the nightmarish episodes also isolated remaining family and friends. One abductee shares his fear that the experiences may recur at any time to his friends or his children: "We’re not relieved of our continuing unrelenting other-world melodrama."

Yet, against seemingly overwhelming odds, many abductees come to feel that these crises translate into a life-changing process that has deep importance and value. Based on his clients’ testimonies, Dr. Mack envisions UFO abductees as an alternative model for evolutionary consciousness development. He believes that these powerful and disturbing abductions break conceptual barriers of human conceits, psychological defenses, or established points of view to enable one to transcend a limited perception of life. Like pioneers on a hero’s journey, abductees undergo their own ego-destroying terror and expand their consciousness to unknown dimensions of the cosmos and human psyche. "With the opening of consciousness to new domains of being," writes Dr. Mack, "abductees encounter patterns and a design of life that brings them a profound sense of interconnectedness in the future." This reward may compensate them for their suffering as involuntary prophets of this millennium’s new revelation.

(Digest by Clayton O. Montez, Atlantic University.)