Aliens and Alien Abductions >> Aliens and Alien Abductions >> Alien Abductee Stress
Alien Abductee Stress
Post by Noah on Dec 5th, 2003, 7:02pm
Thousands of people claim that they have been abducted by aliens. Are they lying? Research suggests that, in many cases, those making the claim truly
believe it happened.
"In case after case after case, I've been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of the feelings connected with this, the self-doubt," John Mack, a psychiatrist at Harvard University who has worked with people who claim to have been abducted, told PBS' NOVA. " I worked with people over hundreds and hundreds of hours, and have done as careful a job as I could to listen, to sift out, to consider alternative explanations. And none have come forward. No one has
found an alternative explanation in a single abduction case."
Research in the journal Psychological Science sheds light on the consistency of those powerful feelings by showing that those who claim to have been
abducted share traits with people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Previous research has shown that when Vietnam veterans with
PTSD heard 30-second audio "re-enactments" of their trauma, they exhibited psychophysiological activity. "For example, their heart rate will go up, their skin conductance activity, the sweating on the palm of the hand, will increase," says Richard McNally, a psychology professor at Harvard University. "Individuals who do not have PTSD but who have experienced traumatic events typically will not show that reactivity."
When McNally gave a similar test to people with memories of alien abductions, he found that their reactions were the same. "In fact, the actual magnitude of the reactions was at least as great as those reported in previous studies on people with post-traumatic stress disorder," says McNally. "It seems to
underscore the power of emotional belief, that if you genuinely believe these things have happened, these terrifying events have happened, then you tend to
show the emotional profile, the physiological profile consistent with that belief."
Budd Hopkins, executive director of a foundation for people who believe they've been abducted by aliens called the Intruders Foundation, thinks this validates their stories. "I thought this was quite a wonderful thing, because it's exactly the results we thought the scientific community would present if they actually looked into the cases."
But McNally believes these are false memories formed during "sleep paralysis," a common condition where someone is half awake but can't move, and sometimes
experiences dream-like hallucinations. "Merely because someone experiences intense emotions surrounding a particular memory does not itself confirm that the memory actually indicates something happened," says McNally.
Hopkins, who gets about five new reported abduction cases a week, would counter the sleep paralysis contention with the fact that not all abductions
are reported to happen at night, and that there are also physical marks left after abductions, which are called "scoop marks."
While McNally thinks such insights into the power of false memories has important implications on court cases involving "recovered memories," others
believe we might not get to the truth using conventional science. "We're dealing with a phenomenon which violates our sense of reality, and which operates in this gray area between the physical world and the subjective or mythic or other-realm world," Mack told NOVA. "We're being asked to prove this by the methods of the physical sciences alone. But those methods, in my view… will not yield its secrets."
by Karen Lurie