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Fwd: Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers - New York Times

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  • Frits Westra
    August 9, 2005 Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers By BENEDICT CAREY http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/09/health/09alien.html Abducted: How
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 13, 2005
      August 9, 2005
      Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers
      By BENEDICT CAREY

      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/09/health/09alien.html

      "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens," by
      Susan Clancy. Harvard University Press, $22.95.

      People who have memories of being abducted by aliens become hardened
      skeptics, of a kind. They dismiss the procession of scientists who explain
      away the memories as illusions or fantasy. They scoff at talk about
      hypnosis or the unconscious processing of Hollywood scripts. And they hold
      their ground amid snickers from a public that thinks that they are daft or
      psychotic.

      They are neither, it turns out, and their experiences should be taken as
      seriously as any strongly held exotic beliefs, according to Susan Clancy,
      a Harvard psychologist who interviewed dozens of self-described abductees
      as part of a series of memory studies over the last several years.

      In her book "Abducted," due in October, Dr. Clancy, a psychologist at
      Harvard, manages to refute and defend these believers, and along the way
      provide a discussion of current research into memory, emotion and culture
      that renders abduction stories understandable, if not believable. Although
      it focuses on abduction memories, the book hints at a larger ambition, to
      explain the psychology of transformative experiences, whether supposed
      abductions, conversions or divine visitations.

      "Understanding why people believe weird things is important for anyone who
      wishes to know more about people - that is, humans in general," she writes.

      Dr. Clancy's accounting for abduction memories starts with an odd but not
      uncommon experience called sleep paralysis. While in light dream-rich REM
      sleep, people will in rare cases wake up for a few moments and find
      themselves unable to move. Psychologists estimate that about a fifth of
      people will have that experience at least once, during which some 5
      percent will be bathed in terrifying sensations like buzzing, full-body
      electrical quivers, a feeling of levitation, at times accompanied by
      hallucinations of intruders.

      Some of them must have an explanation as exotic as the surreal nature of
      the experience itself. Although no one has studied this group
      systematically, Dr. Clancy suggests based on her interviews, that they
      tend to be people who already have some interest in the paranormal,
      mystical arts and the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors. Often
      enough, their search for meaning lands them in the care of a therapist who
      uses hypnotism to elicit more details of their dreamlike experiences.

      Hypnotism is a state of deep relaxation, when people become highly prone
      to suggestion, psychologists find. When encouraged under hypnosis to
      imagine a vivid but entirely concocted incident - like being awakened by
      loud noises - people are more likely later to claim the scene as a real
      experience, studies find.

      Where, exactly, do the green figures with the wraparound eyes come from?
      From the deep well of pop culture, Dr. Clancy argues, based on a review of
      the history of U.F.O. sightings, popular movies and television programs on
      aliens. The first "abduction" in the United States was dramatized in 1953,
      in the movie "Invaders From Mars," she writes, and a rash of abduction
      reports followed this and other works on aliens, including the television
      series "The Outer Limits."

      One such report, by a couple from New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill,
      followed by days a particularly evocative episode of the show in 1961. Mr.
      Hill's description of the aliens - with big heads and shiny wraparound
      eyes - was featured in a best-selling book about the experience, and
      inspired the alien forms in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the
      Third Kind" in 1977, according to Dr. Clancy.

      Thus does life imitate art, and vice versa, in a narrative hall of mirrors
      in which scenes and even dialogues are recycled. Although they are
      distinct in details, abduction narratives are extremely similar in broad
      outline and often include experimentation with a sexual or procreative
      subtext. "Oh! And he's opening my shirt, and - he's going to put that
      thing in my navel," says one 1970's narrative, referring to a needle.

      "I can feel them moving that thing around in my stomach, in my body," the
      narrative, excerpted in the book, continues. The passage echoes other
      abduction accounts, past and future.

      In a laboratory study in 2002, Dr. Clancy and another Harvard
      psychologist, Richard McNally, gave self-described abductees a
      standardized word-association test intended to measure proneness to
      false-memory creation. The participants studied lists of words that were
      related to one another - "sugar," "candy," "sour," "bitter" - and to
      another word that was not on the list, in this case, "sweet."

      When asked to recall the word lists, those with abduction memories were
      more likely than a group of peers who had no such memories to falsely
      recall the unlisted word. The findings suggest a susceptibility to what
      are called source errors, misattributing sources of remembered information
      by, say, confusing a scene from a barely remembered movie with a dream.

      In another experiment, the researchers found that recalling abduction
      memories prompted physiological changes in blood pressure and sweat-gland
      activity that were higher than those seen in post-traumatic stress
      syndrome. The memories produced intense emotional trauma, and each time
      that occurs it deepens the certainty that something profound really did
      happen.

      Although no one of those elements - sleep paralysis, interest in the
      paranormal, hypnotherapy, memory tricks or emotional investment - is
      necessary or sufficient to create abduction memories, they tend to cluster
      together in self-described abductees, Dr. Clancy finds. "In the past,
      researchers have tended to concentrate on one or another" factor, she said
      in an interview. "I'm saying they all play a role."

      Yet abduction narratives often have another, less explicit, dimension that
      Dr. Clancy suspects may be central to their power. Consider this comment,
      from a study participant whom Dr. Clancy calls Jan, a middle-age divorcée
      engaged in a quest for personal understanding: "You know, they do walk
      among us on earth. They have to transform first into a physical body,
      which is very painful for them. But they do it out of love. They are here
      to tell us that we're all interconnected in some way. Everything is."

      At a basic level, Dr. Clancy concludes, alien abduction stories give
      people meaning, a way to comprehend the many odd and dispiriting things
      that buffet any life, as well as a deep sense that they are not alone in
      the universe. In this sense, abduction memories are like transcendent
      religious visions, scary and yet somehow comforting and, at some personal
      psychological level, true.

      Dr. Clancy said she regretted not having asked the abductees she
      interviewed about religious beliefs, which were not a part of her original
      research. The reader may regret that, too.

      The warmth, awe and emotion of abduction stories and of those who tell
      them betray strong spiritual currents that will be familiar to millions of
      people whose internal lives are animated by religious imagery.

      When it comes to sounding the depths of alien stories, a scientific
      inquiry like this one may have to end with an inquiry into religion.

      Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
    • Cliff Gieseke
      Has anyone done a survey of those who have experienced a vivid abduction experience to see what percentage have had vivid dreams, and are good visualizers?
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 13, 2005
        Has anyone done a survey of those who have experienced a vivid abduction
        experience to see what percentage have had vivid dreams, and are good
        visualizers? Many of us, including myself, never have vivid dreams and
        cannot even visualize the face of a loved one. Abductee therapist Constance
        Clear (died 21-Oct-2003) told me that she too had such limited visual
        ability. Some people who apparently sometimes have vivid dreams and can
        visualize rather well express surprise when I tell them that I cannot
        visualize even a loved one's face. They assumed others experienced like
        they did. ... I have taught military students from all over the world for
        many years, and I sometimes ask a class (typically several different
        countries represented) about their experiences with vivid dreams and
        visualizing ability in general. The results vary from class to class, and
        the ability to have such experiences seems to be randomly distributed. It
        seems to have nothing to do with culture, race, education, or intelligence.
        My wife (author of "Where Is The Music? - The multiple near-death
        experiences of a world traveler" has had very vivid "alternative reality,"
        or whatever you might call it, experiences in dreams, during meditation and
        during three near-death experiences. I cann't help wondering what
        percentage of those who are "abductees" (had a vivid experience of being
        one) fall in the catagory of being good visualizers and having (at least
        occasionally) vivid dreams. Are any of these "abductees" people who have
        never had vivid dreams and are poor visualizers such as Constance Clear and
        myself? ... I am surprised that their is so little interest in this area.

        -- Cliff Gieseke

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Frits Westra" <ufo-net@...>
        To: "UFOnet Mailing List" <UFOnet@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2005 5:17 AM
        Subject: [UFOnet] Fwd: Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian
        Kidnappers - New York Times


        > August 9, 2005
        > Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers
        > By BENEDICT CAREY
        >
        > http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/09/health/09alien.html
        >
        > "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens," by
        > Susan Clancy. Harvard University Press, $22.95.
        >
        > People who have memories of being abducted by aliens become hardened
        > skeptics, of a kind. They dismiss the procession of scientists who explain
        > away the memories as illusions or fantasy. They scoff at talk about
        > hypnosis or the unconscious processing of Hollywood scripts. And they hold
        > their ground amid snickers from a public that thinks that they are daft or
        > psychotic.
        >



        --
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        Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
        Version: 7.0.338 / Virus Database: 267.10.8/71 - Release Date: 8/12/2005
      • Roger Anderton
        The sceptics try to explain away alien abductions as being experienced by a certain psychological profile, which they call fantasy prone; that would correspond
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 14, 2005
          The sceptics try to explain away alien abductions as being experienced by a
          certain psychological profile, which they call fantasy prone; that would
          correspond to what you are asking about visualisers; i.e. their claim is
          that abductees are fantasy-prone/visualisers and the experience is not real.

          There is a recent survey claiming this, extending the idea of fantasy-prone
          personalities in with victims of sleep disorder; presumably some
          fantasy-prone/visualisers suffer from sleep disorder and some
          fantasy-prone/visualisers do not:


          Alien abduction stories brought down to earth
          By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent, in
          Denver
          (Filed: 18/02/2003)

          People who believe that they were abducted by aliens
          are victims of a sleep disorder, an American study suggests. The disorder
          may also account for visitations by angels, demons and vampires.

          A personality profile of "abducted" people showed
          that almost all suffered from sleep paralysis, a condition in which
          terrifying sensations and sinister figures from the world of dreams intrude
          upon the waking brain. They suffered symptoms of post traumatic stress
          similar to those of Vietnam veterans.

          According to some polls, tens of thousands of
          Americans claim to have encountered aliens, a phenomenon explored in Steven
          Spielberg's television series Taken.

          Dr Richard McNally, a psychologist at Harvard
          University, studied 10 adults who claimed to have been kidnapped by
          extra-terrestrials. Most were firm believers in tarot cards and astral
          projection and were prone to fantasy. But, significantly, they had all
          suffered episodes of sleep paralysis.

          During REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, the body is
          unable to move. About 30 per cent of people suffer from sleep paralysis,
          from which they wake up and are partially conscious of being paralysed.

          Five per cent of people also experience waking
          hallucinations. Sufferers can see figures in the room, flashing lights,
          experience feelings of levitation or simply a sinister presence. Eight of
          the 10 people who thought they had been abducted had consulted "experts" in
          recovered memory to find out more about their experiences.

          During these sessions they began to recollect more
          details. Many studies have shown that attempts to recover supposedly lost
          memories can plant false memories.

          Dr McNally said: "When you piece together the New
          Age beliefs, the hallucinations, the fantasy proneness and get a little help
          from the memory recovery folks, you have yourself an alien abduction."

          Psychologists have argued that sleep paralysis and
          hallucinations can explain many paranormal phenomenon.

          "In Newfoundland, it's called being visited by the
          Old Hag," said Dr McNally. "In southern United States, it's being ridden by
          the witch. In Europe in the Middle Ages, it's the incubus and succubus. In
          Cambridge, Massachusetts, it's space aliens."

          The volunteers were also asked to write an account
          of their abduction and then listen to a 30-second tape of their memories
          while their heart rates and perspiration levels were monitored.

          "Heart rate and skin conductance responses were at
          least as great in alien abductees when they heard memories of being abducted
          and molested by aliens as people with genuine traumatic events."



          Leader: Mind monsters


          Robotic head under your skin


          Phantom events remembered


          Scientists show the dissent of man


          connected.telegraph


          Newsroom - American Association for the
          Advancement of Science


          Starship memories [31 Oct '02] - Harvard
          University Gazette











          © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.





          at:
          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/02/18/waa18.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/02/18/ixnewstop.html








          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "Cliff Gieseke" <cliffgie@...>
          To: <ufonet@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2005 3:15 PM
          Subject: Re: [UFOnet] Fwd: Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian
          Kidnappers - New York Times


          > Has anyone done a survey of those who have experienced a vivid abduction
          > experience to see what percentage have had vivid dreams, and are good
          > visualizers? Many of us, including myself, never have vivid dreams and
          > cannot even visualize the face of a loved one. Abductee therapist
          > Constance
          > Clear (died 21-Oct-2003) told me that she too had such limited visual
          > ability. Some people who apparently sometimes have vivid dreams and can
          > visualize rather well express surprise when I tell them that I cannot
          > visualize even a loved one's face. They assumed others experienced like
          > they did. ... I have taught military students from all over the world for
          > many years, and I sometimes ask a class (typically several different
          > countries represented) about their experiences with vivid dreams and
          > visualizing ability in general. The results vary from class to class, and
          > the ability to have such experiences seems to be randomly distributed. It
          > seems to have nothing to do with culture, race, education, or
          > intelligence.
          > My wife (author of "Where Is The Music? - The multiple near-death
          > experiences of a world traveler" has had very vivid "alternative reality,"
          > or whatever you might call it, experiences in dreams, during meditation
          > and
          > during three near-death experiences. I cann't help wondering what
          > percentage of those who are "abductees" (had a vivid experience of being
          > one) fall in the catagory of being good visualizers and having (at least
          > occasionally) vivid dreams. Are any of these "abductees" people who have
          > never had vivid dreams and are poor visualizers such as Constance Clear
          > and
          > myself? ... I am surprised that their is so little interest in this area.
          >
          > -- Cliff Gieseke
          >
          > ----- Original Message -----
          > From: "Frits Westra" <ufo-net@...>
          > To: "UFOnet Mailing List" <UFOnet@yahoogroups.com>
          > Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2005 5:17 AM
          > Subject: [UFOnet] Fwd: Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian
          > Kidnappers - New York Times
          >
          >
          >> August 9, 2005
          >> Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers
          >> By BENEDICT CAREY
          >>
          >> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/09/health/09alien.html
          >>
          >> "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens," by
          >> Susan Clancy. Harvard University Press, $22.95.
          >>
          >> People who have memories of being abducted by aliens become hardened
          >> skeptics, of a kind. They dismiss the procession of scientists who
          >> explain
          >> away the memories as illusions or fantasy. They scoff at talk about
          >> hypnosis or the unconscious processing of Hollywood scripts. And they
          >> hold
          >> their ground amid snickers from a public that thinks that they are daft
          >> or
          >> psychotic.
          >>
          >
          >
          >
          > --
          > No virus found in this outgoing message.
          > Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
          > Version: 7.0.338 / Virus Database: 267.10.8/71 - Release Date: 8/12/2005
          >
          >
          >
          >
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