I’ve never been much interested in UFOs. Or in space aliens.
Recently, though, a psychotherapist friend in the U.K. recommended a book to me on a closely related topic. It’s entitled Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens, by Susan A. Clancy. And it’s a fascinating read.
Clancy claims that many alien abduction beliefs are caused by a little-known phenomenon called “sleep paralysis”. It occurs when one’s sleep cycles become desynchronized and a person wakes up before the paralysis that accompanies dreaming has worn off. Usually, dream content bleeds into that limbo state. The result is a mysterious, and often terrifying experience that can last up to a minute.
Clancy says that some people, baffled by that experience, will visit a hypnotherapist to find answers. While in the suggestive state of trance, the patient’s mind begins a wide search for scenarios to explain those scary and confusing memories. Sometimes therapists, believing in aliens, will suggest to their patients that they’ve had an alien abduction experience. In other cases, where no such suggestions are made, the patient’s mind pattern-matches to the closest thing possible: our culturally prevalent UFO and alien abduction imagery. The affected person slowly starts to conclude that they’d been kidnapped by Star People.
Clancy does a good job in demonstrating the unreliability and malleability of our memories, and how easily they can be altered – especially, inadvertently, when under hypnosis. She uses the example the well-documented problem among some therapists of inculcating false memories of sexual abuse in their patients.
The author says that fantasy-proneness and scientific illiteracy are often part of the abduction belief recipe. But she sites, in every single case, one factor above all: a deep and profound need to find meaning in one’s life:
“After two years of intense alienography, this is what I conclude. Aliens are entirely and extremely human, the imaginative creations of people with ordinary emotional needs and desires. We don’t want to be alone. We feel helpless and vulnerable much of the time. We want to believe there’s something bigger and better than us out there. And we want to believe that whatever it is cares about us, or at least is paying attention to us. That they want us (sexually or otherwise). That we’re special. Being abducted by aliens is a culturally shaped manifestation of a universal human need.”
Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens, by Susan A. Clancy.