1 | 2
| 3 | 4
from the Unseen - Page 3
Quest for Proof
the early years of my work, I tried to establish that "abductions"
really were taking place in a literal, physical sense. Sometimes
there were reports of missing people, or of physical lesions
or marks left on experiencers' bodies after an encounter, or evidence
that a type of "implant" was left under the skin, presumably
so the beings can monitor their whereabouts.
physical literalness was certainly what most interested the Harvard
Medical School committee. But over the years my own emphasis has
shifted. I have become convinced that something mysterious and real,
not merely the product of the experiencer's mind or psychosocial
influences, has been occurring. But larger questions arise as to
how we define reality, which is intimately tied to the methodology
or way of knowing that is being pursued.
the case of the abduction phenomenon, the physical findings, when
present, are quite subtle. They are insufficiently robust to stand
on their own or to measure up to mainstream science. The larger
question for me has become how we are to consider reports of powerful
experiences for which the physical evidence is meager and runs counter
to the consensus view of what is possible. Forcing these accounts
into a psychiatric box, or dismissing them out of hand, may lead
to the loss of information that is immensely important for understanding
ourselves and our universe.
a psychiatrist is not primarily concerned with whether what patients
are telling him about their lives is factual or true. Useful work
can be done by exploring the meaning of what is reported without
knowing how much of it should be taken literally. Methodology is
a matter of concern within the mental health professions and is
sometimes synonymous with good technique or being helpful to a patient
or client. There is little at stake theoretically or philosophically.
in the case of the alien abduction phenomenon, which challenges
the fundamental ontological paradigm of our society, the stakes
are much higher. If these experiences are true, then even my severest
critics will acknowledge that we exist in a different cosmos than
the one in which most of us, including myself, thought we were living.
The consequences are not only scientific, but also affect every
institution of our culture.
have come to disagree with the medical school's investigation
committee about the methods used to establish or refute the reality
of the abduction phenomenon. The committee members emphasized the
need for more psychological tests to see what might be wrong with
these individuals. They suggested that patients consult with mainstream
psychiatrists unfamiliar with the phenomenon and that we explore
other explanations, like sleep paralysis (experiencers are often
unable to move during encounters, but are usually not asleep). Finally,
the committee wanted a further quest for physical proof. Nevertheless,
when the implications are so great, how we assess the reality of
what a person reports in the absence of compelling physical evidence
becomes a matter of immense importance.
evaluating experiencers, I begin with the same clinical assessment
I would undertake with any other patient. In particular, I assess
if there is anything in the person's background or mental
condition that could shed light on what has been reported. Hypnotic
relaxation enables memories to come forth or helps the experiencer
get in touch with emotions, but is not of much value in establishing
what is factually true. I try and determine if a person has anything
to gain by inventing such a story, or if he or she has been influenced
by other individuals or the media.
I ask, are these patients persons of integrity who are not given
generally to fantasy or distortion of reality? Talking with close
friends and relatives is helpful in this regard. Is the feeling
expressed by the experiencer appropriate to what is being reported?
The sheer intensity of terror or other emotion that comes forth
when encounter experiences are recalled can help determine if something
momentous has in fact occurred.
1 | 2
| 3 | 4