Unusual Personal Experiences: An analysis of the data from three national surveys conducted by the Roper Organization © 1992 Bigelow Holding Corporation, Las Vegas, NV
By John E. Mack, M.D.
February 15, 1992
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Professor of Psychiatry
The (this) Roper Survey, conducted between July and September, 1991, suggests that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American men, women and children may have experienced UFO abductions, or abduction related phenomena.
Mental health professionals have, with a few exceptions, maintained an arms length attitude toward this phenomenon. There are several apparent reasons for this. The abduction stories are so unusual, so outside of reality as we have known it, that psychiatrists, psychologists and others have relegated the matter to the margin of their consciousness, assuming it to be some sort of odd delusional system or other form of mental or emotional disturbance, material perhaps for late night television or the tabloids. When abductees have turned in their distress to mental health professionals they have often become still more troubled when an attempt is made to place their cases in a familiar psychiatric category or to attribute their experiences to some other sort of trauma or troubled family relationships. Abductees know and fear this response and so, by and large, steer away from mental health professionals, preferring to seek out members of the network of people who specialize in the investigation of UFO related phenomena.
In spite of these considerations, it is important that mental health professionals become familiar with the basic features of the abduction syndrome, even if they do not choose to specialize in offering treatment and support to such cases. For abductees, though they are not usually mentally ill, may experience considerable emotional distress, confusion and social isolation, being reluctant to speak about their experiences out of fear of being labeled crazy and becoming further isolated. Their traumata have four dimensions: 1) The physically and emotionally intrusive abduction phenomena themselves, which may have recurred repeatedly during the lifetime of a particular abductee; 2) The personal isolation the experiencer has undergone, reinforced whenever their communications are misunderstood or treated as a form of strangeness or evidence of mental illness; 3) The shattering of socially agreed upon or consensus definitions of reality, which abductions bring about and that abductees, like ourselves, must undergo in their confrontation with this phenomenon; 4) The fact that the trauma, whatever its source is not over i.e. abductees cannot prevent its recurrence or protect their children and other loved ones from its effects.
Above all, mental health clinicians should learn to recognize the most common symptoms and indications in the patient or client's history that they are dealing with an abduction case. These include fears of the dark and of nightfall; nightmares, especially containing repetitive accounts of being taken by threatening figures inside a craft or enclosure; other fears or phobic symptoms (which may later prove to be related to an aspect of the abduction experience) that seem unrelated to what is otherwise known of the patient's life; a history of small beings or a presence around the patient's bed as a child, adolescent or adult; reports of unexplained missing time episodes; the appearance for no apparent reason of small cuts, scars or odd red spots; encounters with strange intense light, or even close-up sightings of oddly shaped craft.
It is possible that after the showing of the intensely promoted CBS miniseries docudrama in May, which will treat the abduction phenomenon with dramatic seriousness, great numbers of abductees and others who may fear that they are "experiencers" will turn to mental health professionals in their anxiety or self-diagnosed concern. It is especially important that these clinicians have sufficient knowledge of the phenomenon to be able to respond appropriately. They need to be open to the possibility that something exists or is happening to their clients which, in our traditional Western framework, cannot or should not be. We also need to know to whom mental health professionals can turn for further information or help.
I would like personally to invite you to attend a lecture given by an experienced researcher in the field that will provide further information about the abduction phenomenon and give you an opportunity to answer questions that you may have. Please consult the enclosed card for details.
John E. Mack is Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School at The Cambridge Hospital, and Founding Director of the Center for Psychological Studies in the Nuclear Age. As a child and adult psychoanalyst he has applied the insights of depth psychology to the nuclear weapons competition, the global ecological crisis and other collective phenomena that threaten our survival. His publications include A PRINCE OF OUR DISORDER, a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).