Recently I have been reading the words of Marlene Steinberg, MD, in her 1999 book The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation — The Hidden Epidemic.
It is an interesting book in general, but I read with intensity a particular chapter, Chapter 15: “Aliens from Inner Space: UFO Abductions, Past Lives, Near-Death Experiences.”
Here she conveys her hypothesis that alleged alien abductees are in actuality sufferers of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The content of the abduction experiences are in actuality metaphorical screen memories of childhood trauma. These screen memories can play out in dissociative trance states in which hallucinatory externalizations of inner alters “alien” to the “abductee” host personality act out the aforementioned screen memories.
The strangeness experienced both bodily and perceptually throughout the alien abduction experience can, she maintains, be adequately explained by the distortions, illusions and hallucinations commonly experienced in severe DR/DP.
In her eyes, alien abduction experiences represent a double-dose of dissociation. Not only was the memory of the original childhood trauma dissociated from consciousness , giving rise to amnesia, but the memories themselves were subject to dissociation, giving rise to distortions, erasures and metaphorical manifestations of the root memory. Evidently the aim of the substitution is to reduce the emotional impact of the actual traumatic memory.
Though I have read the suggestion elsewhere before, the notion that transforming the actual perpetrator into an alien will somehow soften the blow of a traumatic experience still strikes me as ridiculous. To have a trusted figure abuse you as a child would certainly be a traumatic experience and a screen memory would be understandable. An alien abduction would not appear to be a choice cover-story if the intent is truly to lubricate the truth, however.
These “screen” experiences and memories are themselves traumatic on multiple levels. They isolate the abductee socially, for there is considerable difficulty when it comes to sharing the anomalous experience with others. Even if one accomplishes it, others may seem to doubt the abductee’s sanity or even subject them to ridicule.
Given the apparent reality of aliens, their telepathic powers and technological magic, the anxiety of uncertainty arises regarding the nature of reality on the one hand and the potential possibility of their utter fucking insanity on the other. There may also be identity confusion produced by the assertions of the aliens, who often claim to be ancestors or parents to the abductee, or who claim more directly that the abductee is “one of them.”
Despite this, I somehow manage to feel certain that had Steinberg read John Mack’s book, Abduction, she would have found only more support for her notion, particularly in the abduction cases which involved both past life memories and a “duality of consciousness.” This duality arises in some abductees who seem to be host to an alter that identifies itself as alien. It has distinct knowledge as well as memories of a life as an alien. It can sometimes even “take over” the body during an abduction and work alongside the aliens as one of them, or even switch on partially or completely during mundane life, as suggested by Budd Hopkins in his books Witnessed and Sight Unseen.
If she were to have read the other literature, especially the later literature, perhaps she would interpret the notion of transgenic children that represent a cross of both alien and human as a symbol of synthesis or integration. Signs that the barriers distinguishing the host and alter are breaking down.
Dissociation does not explain why the alien abduction schema explained so many other aspects of my experiences, memories and dreams, however, and how they relate to those of so many other people.
Many, such as Jacques Vallee, suggest that the answer resides in the fact that the UFO and alien abduction phenomenon are merely modern upgrades of age-old mythologies. Steinberg seems to agree when she writes:
“Carl Sagan … pointed out that the fantasy life of people has always been influenced by the prevailing cultural images in all times and places. When everyone believed that gods regularly came down to earth, gods were what people envisioned as fearsome otherworldly beings. In the Middle Ages, when demons were in vogue, it was incubi and succubi. Later, when fairies were widely believed in, it was fairies that were said to paralyze and rape human victims. Now, in the space age, when we are sending spaceships to Mars and have begun to think aliens might exist, aliens descending from space ships are the imaginary predators that people see in their dreams and flashbacks.”
Within the second flashback I had there was what only could have been dissociative distortion, for the tall, slim and “muscular” Gray alien by my bedside was devoid of a face. It was shadowy, contoured, but blank. If the true perpetrator was not the creature I saw plus a face I dissociated away, then the creature itself was a cover. If the intention is to substitute a known identity with an alien one, why replace the true perpetrator with an alien just to wipe the face of the screen memory clean?
Rather than merely an amnesiac gap of “missing time,” Budd Hopkins suggested, the aliens often create false or misleading memories. These screen memories that substitute for the real memories buried beneath amnesia. For the most part Steinberg could dismiss these alleged alien-imposed screen memories as she did with respect to an apparent memory of a deer tied to an abduction event: it was merely the hallucinatory exteriorization of an animal alter alongside alien alters.
What makes considerably less sense to me is how this fits into the first flashback I ever had. I encountered a frowning, wrinkly reptile-like alien who then looked into my eyes and after explaining some things telepathically went on to throw me into a “screen memory” cover story for our encounter, or so it seemed. He was now a grinning doctor in a white lab coat, holding a clipboard. He was working with scientists and he was here to give me a check-up. Most importantly, I feel, was the fact that he and his team were still clearly aliens.
He was not an alien, she would claim, but a screen memory for an actual human dick-head that traumatized me in my youth. I get that. Yet why would I double-wrap the true dick with fiction — so that he can safely fuck with my mind for the rest of my life, delivering all the implicit agony while protecting his identity in the selected distortion of explicit memory? Why would I have “nested” screen memories, both depicting an alien encounter?
My mother was oppressive as well as subtlety manipulative, but she never hit me, nor has my father. I watched my friends get physically abused by their father, but I was never physically abused. I have never been sexually abused.
I know I’m sensitive. I know I have dissociative tendencies, I have had what must have been hallucinations and its becoming increasingly less of a leap for me to fancy the notion that I may have an alter sharing my headspace, but all of this without a triggering mundane event in sight? All of this ex nihilo? Without rhyme or reason?