Date: Fri Mar 11 1994 07:48:56 Subj: Virginity Thieves UFO - Aliens stole my virginity 03/

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Date: Fri Mar 11 1994 07:48:56 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: Virginity Thieves UFO ------------------------------- Aliens stole my virginity 03/06/94 THE TIMES OF LONDON Dark White: Aliens, Abductions And The UFO Obsession by Jim Schnabel, H Hamilton Pounds 16.99 pp304. The forms that psychiatric symptoms take appear fairly fixed; it is their content that changes from culture to culture, epoch to epoch. Hence there are delusions and hallucinations the world over but what the hallucinated hear and the deluded believe is heavily coloured and moulded by their context. In the 19th century, if the records of the Bethlehem Hospital are anything to go by, the psychiatrically ill were preoccupied by sex and religion. Today's patients are more troubled by hypochondriacal worries about cancer, political interference involving the CIA, the KGB and the IRA and, to judge by the contents of Jim Schnabel's beguiling book, by kidnapping and exposure to a myriad of sexual and gynaecological indignities by aliens from outer space. The abductees, as Schnabel courteously terms them, currently pour into the offices of America's psychotherapists, telling stories of dark deeds in sterile operating chambers aboard gleaming spaceships humming with hi-tech machinery. His ironic, wry account contains all the classic UFO stories, each one of them worthy of a Spielberg movie. There is Richard Shaver who, in 1943, began to be interrupted by strange voices and forced to do things he didn't want to do. Psychotic? No a strange race of aliens, inhabiting the centre of the earth, were focusing deleterious rays on the benighted man. Eventually, they took him down to their underworld where a siren named Nydia tried to get him to engage in forms of sexual behaviour shocking to a crane-operator from Detroit. In an earlier age, he might have been dispatched to the local mental asylum, but the 1940s were to provide the overture for the great UFO opera which plays to vast houses to this day. Reports were already appearing regularly of sightings of strange objects and lights in the sky. By the 1960s, reports of abductions by 5ft humanoids, with putty-coloured heads and a propensity for conducting medical examinations (with special attention to the reproductive organs), had reached epidemic proportions. By the 1980s, the accounts had become utterly ridiculous which did not prevent millions of people believing them absolutely. A typical account is that provided by science writer Whitley Strieber, who described being hauled out of his bedroom by the blue meanies and into a messy chamber with a vaulted ceiling, where the atmosphere reeked of Cheddar cheese and the aliens smelled like cardboard and cinnamon and zapped his head with a needle. Following a rather unpleasant session with a female alien and a scaly proctoscope, he woke to find himself naked on his living-room couch, whereupon he calmly went upstairs, cleaned his teeth and went to bed. Given the well-known psychological law that there is nothing so far-fetched that a sizeable number of seemingly reasonable people won't believe, the wildest ufological claims have been accepted uncritically by millions of people in America. However, society is split. At what Schnabel archly terms "higher levels of culture", the UFO debate has evolved into discussions, after a few drinks, of hoaxes, hallucinations, weather balloons and Venus. However, "for low-rent people who bought tabloids and mistook Spielberg movies for reality", accounts of women being inseminated on operating tables in spaceships by pinkish translucent-skinned humanoids with metallic eyes were simply evidence that out there in the night sky an alien menace hovered. As Schnabel points out, many eminent psychiatrists have taken a cold, sceptical look at UFO claims; they have concluded that most of the accounts reek of paranoid fantasy, manic elaboration and, in many instances, blatant fraud. Many of the abduction cases involved the use of hypnosis for verification; under hypnosis, the stories became more bizarre and compelling. It took until the late 1970s before a sustained assault on the reliability and validity of hypnosis was mounted. In study after study, subjects were shown to confabulate and embellish. One critic, Martin Orne, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, warned: "If the hypnotist has beliefs about what actually occurred, it is exceedingly difficult for him to prevent himself from inadvertently guiding the subject's recall, so that (the subject) will eventually `remember' what he, the hypnotist, believes actually happened." I could not have put it better myself. More careful psychological studies of the personalities of "abductees" showed a tendency towards high intelligence, high creativity, lowered self- esteem, emotional immaturity, egocentricity, confusion about sexual identity, mild paranoia and, in the words of one researcher, "a tendency, under stress, to slip into `more or less transient psychotic experiences' involving a loss of reality testing along with a confused and disordered thinking that can be bizarre". In short, the sort of people that I, as a practising psychiatrist, spend some of my time, and with modest success, persuading to take a rest, some medication and another perspective. What does Schnabel make of these strange accounts? In much of the book, he hedges his bets, yet he comes down on the side of the sceptics. It is difficult, he admits, to ignore the phenomenological, sociological and psychological links between alien abductions and a host of other unsual experiences, not to mention sheer mental instability. He concedes that the reported experiences appear capable of being triggered by stress, a desire for attention, a shot of mescaline, a hypnotic trance, and involve such fundamentally similar experiences as bedroom presences, levitation, flight and sexual sensations. There is, too, the remarkable ability of people to produce information they do not remember receiving. Even incidental, unconsciously absorbed information can invade consciousness. Schnabel quotes female therapists who treat Vietnam veterans for post-traumatic stress syndrome and who have themselves begun to suffer "flashbacks" about their own "combat experiences". He is drawn to the theory put foward by Princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes who, in a remarkable book entitled The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind, argued that, up until the end of the second millennium BC, human introspection, evaluation and decision-making in unusual situations were always performed unconsciously by the right side of the brain which delivered commands in the form of hallucinated voices and sometimes visions to the obedient left. These voices and apparitions, in the course of time, became interpreted as the voices and visions of gods initially benign, wise, omnipotent gods to whose authority all regions and sciences attempt to return. The myriad extraterrestrial beings are merely the latest in a long line of elaborations which the human mind constructs and then becomes bemused by. Other theories haul in the temporal lobe, the phenomenon of multiple personality, the sexual dimorphism of the limbic system and anthropological views on spirit possession. In the end, though, confronted by the extraordinary proliferation of ufological reports coupled with bizarre, complicated and often ludicrous deceptions involving nasal x-rays, scars, disappearing grey-stained sheets and sand-and-seaweed-covered struggles on the beach, Schnabel admits defeat.

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