How might an ontologically flooded and trauma-aware lens approach the topic of the (so-called) alien abduction phenomena? That’s the question this piece seeks to answer.
There’s a number of complex terms in that short sentence so first some context setting is important.
I say so-called alien abduction phenomena because first I don’t agree with the concept of alien as I believe no being is alien(ated) within the Cosmos. Also the framework of abduction is potentially problematic or at least misleading and not necessarily the best frame to understand this phenomenon. But I want to be very clear—so-called should not be interpreted to indicate a debunker or skepticist position. There’s a preponderance of evidence that something is going on that goes under the name of alien abduction, though what exactly it is is a more open question than many would like to admit.
So while I will raise questions around what I consider to be the often simplistic model of ETs/aliens as well as abductions to explain this highly anomalous phenomena, it would be very annoying as well as potentially disrespectful to those who understand themselves to be abductees, to keep calling it the “so-called” alien abduction phenomena. So I will use the conventional terminology of alien abduction however I do so with strong reservations.
The notion of ontological flooding is at the heart of this site (it’s in the subtitle). This piece follows up on two earlier ones—this one which details what ontological flooding is and this one which explores the relationship between ontological flooding and trauma. Those pieces are vital theoretical background for this piece. A very very short version of which is that ontological flooding refers to opening to non-ordinary, highly strange, and anomalous phenomena and treating them as real enough. These phenomena fall under Charles Fort’s notion of intermediatism: the phenomena are viewed as both partly real and partly unreal simultaneously. This framework will be extremely important as we proceed.
Trauma is any experience that is too intense and/or too fast in its occurrence for the human nervous system to process at the moment. Highly strange and/or mystical encounters tend by their nature to be very intense and very rapid in their occurrence. Hence they are prime territory for traumatization.
Consequently, highly strange (or ontologically flooded) trauma involves mystical or spiritually intense experiences that cause trauma. And perhaps no topic of highly strange/mystical encounters causing trauma is as well known as the alien abduction phenomenon.
While this topic is a highly charged one by its nature I’ll argue that much of the theoretical interpretation surrounding abductions has been (and continues to be) really flawed. As previously mentioned, I will in what follows—assuming the principle of ontological flooding—argue that there is some real phenomenon going on under the name of alien abductions. I’ll argue however that bringing in a trauma-sensitive lens will allow us to break out of a number of problematic logjams when it comes to the theoretical understanding of this phenomena.
In order to begin to wade into these (ontological) waters we need to look at the question of hypnotic regressions, which have been core to the entire alien abduction lore. Hypnotic regressions have arguably been the single most important methodology to the surfacing of claims of alien abductions and for the reason they’re extremely relevant to this discussion.
I’ve written on the topic of hypnotic regression in the field of past life regression. The major points covered in that piece are relevant to this one, as regressions are involved in both scenarios. In the past life piece I argued that the process of hypnosis does bring up relevant psychic data. It is not however automatically the case that the psychic data surfaced by the process is necessarily from one’s own past life. The argument is too complex to repeat here (read the piece for that) but its consistent with an ontologically flooded lens where the phenomena is taking to be real (enough) but where our framing or understanding of the phenomena is left more open-ended.
So what if something similar applies to the alien abduction phenomenon? Namely that the process of hypnotic regression does bring forward legitimate psychic content but not necessarily what it is generally assumed to be—namely the conventional abduction narrative of the regression bringing forward a completely accurate personal memory of being taken onto ships, replete with ETs, experimentation, and all the rest?
In the past life regression piece I mentioned that there are the diehard past life regression proponents who I believe are wedded to a very outmoded metaphysics on the one side. With the other side being skeptic/debunkers who are out to dismiss the process outright. As I noted (weirdly) both camps adhere to the same underlying modernist epistemology whereby the question is whether interior experiences in consciousness are judged whether they get objective external reality “right” or not. I argued that both sides were potentially wrong as a consequence of their shared and largely unexamined philosophical agreement with each other. This binary confusion is a species of what I’ve elsewhere called on the site Hegalienism, i.e. the application of Hegelian dialectical thinking to the alien phenomenon.
The same dynamic applies in the case of hypnotic regression in the alien abduction literature. There are two camps: one who believes very strongly that regressions reveal cases of genuine abduction for the individual; the other debunker/skeptics. Both camps are too often beholden to a modernist epistemology and metaphysics which means there is an occulted third element in play between their seeming opposition.
Neither side is willing to take deeply into account the constructed nature of all memory through the medium of language—the fancy philosophical term for which is post-metaphysics.
In other words, phenomenologically the abduction experience through regression brings forward real experience of the variety that Fort called intermediatistic, i.e. it’s both real and unreal simultaneously. But what if these memories are not necessarily experiences of the individual’s actual abduction just as with past life regressions they are not necessarily the past lives of the individual undergoing the process?
The critical-skeptical-debunkers would call that a false memory but it’s a false memory only if one is bound to the notion that the process is to uncover objective truth about one’s own life. If we take off that framework the abduction memory in question need not necessarily be false as such but simply not automatically a personal experience of that individual person. In the past life piece I mentioned that when an individual undergoes a hypnotic regression what they may be experiencing are ancestral memories, collective human experiences, or even what others term parallel lives. They could also be purely symbolic constructs that nevertheless have truthfulness within them without having to be actual historical concrete objective memories or events.
Take that lens and apply it to abduction phenomena brought about through hypnotic regression. A person undergoes a hypnotic regression, experiences memory of an alien abduction, but that abduction is potentially an ancestral memory or a collective human memory not necessarily a personal memory of that individual. The hypnotist would (likely) then promote the idea that the abduction experience is of that person (which again may or may not be a valid interpretation). A debunker would come along and argue that the hypnotist is implanting a false memory in the mind of a vulnerable individual.
Both positions, I’m arguing, could be wrong. The experience could be real (contra debunkers) but also not necessarily of a supposedly repressed personal memory of abduction (contra hypnotic regression school). Incidentally, this perspective would equally apply whether the data of the abduction came through a hypnotic regression or though a dream, psychedelic journey, or meditative process.*
For the record I’m not arguing that that hypnotic regression does not or cannot ever bring forward genuine suppressed memory of an individual’s contact encounter. Just as I’m open to the possibility that hypnotic regression could bring forward memories of a person’s past life. I’m simply raising the possibility that there can be cases in which it does raise genuine conscious experience without having immediately to interpret it in a very individualistic modernist outlook (“my past life”, “my alien abduction”).
This accords with my overall thesis that the UFO/contact phenomena broadly (and abduction more specifically) would fit within the psychic state/realm and therefore how we judge the truthfulness or falsehood of such phenomena depends on the nature of the psychic realm from whence the experience originates. Understanding the psychic realm allows us to be open to a multitude of possibilities such as hypnosis (or related processes) revealing ancestral or collective human memory.
We could even theoretically combine the two and argue for a hypothetical way in which a person undertaking a hypnotic regression could encounter a past life in which there was an alien abduction. A significant part of ontological flooding is, as I say, keeping the universe weird. That is to say it’s important to keep open a multiplicity of possible understandings always on the table.
The result of all this is to say that it is very difficult to determine with any real certainty whether such memories are ancestral, past lives, parallel realities, symbolic, collective human, or some combination thereof. What is more concrete and clear however is that these memories and experiences are of a traumatic nature and it is to trauma therefore that we should be looking for illumination on how to work with these memories.
Peter Levine’s book Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past, A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working With Traumatic Memory is a crucial resource in this context, which as the title suggests is interested in the specific nature of traumatic memory. The text explores how trauma affects memory and also how to understand the specific nature of traumatic memory and therefore how best to work with it in a healing process. Levine’s focus in the text is not of course on alien abductions but I'm suggesting that highly weird anomalous induced trauma, like the alien abduction phenomena, perfectly fits with Levine’s overall insights on the nature of traumatic memory.
In short, within that text Levine argues that there is explicit cognitive memory and implicit body memory. Sometimes we have explicit memory of a traumatic encounter—say a car accident. Many other times not as our nervous systems will tend to dissociate—right before the moment of impact in the car, before the assault, before the emotional abuse goes full tilt, or before the intense medical intervention. The body, the implicit memory system, does however register the experience.
The dissociation at the moment can be very healthy IF (an enormous IF) we know how later to come back to the experience and resolve it in ourselves. If not, then the experience lingers and begins to wreak pervasive and hidden damage in the person’s life: emotionally, physically, energetically, mentally.
In other words, my hypothesis is that alien abduction narrative is the body’s memory of some anomalous highly strange encounter registered as traumatic. Notice that this has the upshot of not having to take a position whether the Phenomenon is inherently evil (aliens = demons) or inherently positive (aliens = angels/gods of New Age channeled texts). In either case the registration and the body memory will be the same. Therefore the healing protocol would be the same in either case.
Levine makes a very important point in his text—namely that the implicit body memory should be treated as ultimately trustworthy but not necessarily in every specific detail. The memories can be fuzzy, non-linear, metaphoric, and should not necessarily be treated literally but also not simply to be denied as untrustworthy because it’s not a linear, objective account. In exactly the way that I’m arguing hypnotic information should be treated.
This view would equally apply to the alien abduction phenomena. Again something real is going on and the implicit body memory is registering it as such but not necessarily every detail is 100% objectively or literally true. Which is why the frames of alien and abduction might be need to be called into question in certain cases. Those images may be a form of implicit body memory which overall registers the trauma but does so through filtered unconscious lenses of film & television, as well as medical trauma from daily life. That latent imagery and background worldview may then filter the anomalous experience to, in part, shape the experience into the framework of the ET "medicalized" abduction. The underlying structure and registration of a traumatic highly strange encounter would be valid but not necessarily the literal content of the experience—i.e. aliens, craft, experimentation, etc.
Applying Levine’s trauma lens to the alien abduction narrative, the overall psychic disposition of it can be treated as something to be worked with (for healing). It doesn’t require believing every aspect of the memory as literally true but doesn’t have to be discounted or debunked either. This insight blows some serious holes under the water of the entire abduction research agenda, as well as the debunking agenda, as both sides approach the topic from trying to prove or disprove experiences when the memory is not an objective rational explicit form of memory and should not be treated as such either pro or con.
By applying a trauma lens to the alien abduction phenomena our focus shifts away from proving or disproving the experience as well as creating various narratives or theories about “what the phenomenon means”. With a trauma lens the focus shifts towards how to heal from the experience whatever it may or may not mean. It’s a more pragmatic, concrete, existential focus.
In the past life regression piece I gave a few examples of how healing can take place with the content of psychic data arrived at through hypnotic regression (and/or shamanic journeying**), even if that memory is not specifically of one’s own past life. The same goes for the abduction phenomenon.
Please note: I’m suggesting it’s possible people are having memories of abduction encounters through such processes thought they might not be their own. As previously mentioned an alternative framing example I offered in the past life regression piece is that it could be ancestral memory, which is interesting to consider in light of the well established tendency of contactee and abductions to occur through multiple generations of a family line.
In the past life regression piece I examined a case where a person had a recurring nightmare/hypnotic vision of being trapped in a violent scene, frozen and unable to move, as a family member was assaulted. In that scenario healing looked like entering safely into the vicinity of the scene psychically (though not directly into it so as not to re-traumatize) and then to choose to act in the scene to a positive resolution—rescuing the family member and running away or using self-defence to destroy the attackers. The first option employs the flight dynamic whereas the second used fight—both are ways to get out of freeze and thereby more fully come into resilience and regulation.
The same would go for someone who has experienced what they believe to be an alien abduction. This approach theoretically could be of great healing value whether that experience came through a hypnotic regression, a dream/nightmare scenario, psychedelic journey, or some other type of liminal encounter. Practically speaking whichever way (or ways) the memory surfaces it can be worked with under the principle of ontological flooding, i.e. as real (enough).
The trauma lens brings a greater precision to both the type of memory that is involved here (implicit body) and the process by which to work with that memory towards healing and resolution.
In the alien abduction lore there is the consistent theme of the person being frozen/paralyzed or unable to move in some way. In trauma language this is the freeze response. Think a possum playing dead. By bringing an ontologically flooded and trauma-sensitive lens to the topic some crucially important light is shed. Accordingly in this approach we don’t have to get caught in all the investigations about whether alien abductions are real or not, whether this person really did or didn’t have one, and the like. We don’t get sidetracked with all those other questions. The focus and intention is on healing the psychic experience itself. The abduction “memory” would simply be taken as what it is. In Fortean language some parts real/some parts unreal at the same time (just like any other experience or memory incidentally).
Whatever else may be said about the alien abduction phenomena the memory of such experiences is an image and experience of trauma. Everyone can agree on that point even if they disagree whether the experience is “real” or not. It’s amazing and extremely disheartening to realize that alien abduction research—both the proponents as well as the debunkers—have never sufficiently studied the nature of memory construction nor how traumatic memory in particular functions. They have not brought the proper tools to bear on the topic and as a result more suffering and confusion (on all sides) has occurred.
In contrast, with this perspective, as with the so-called past life regressions, the practice would be to safely enter “nearby” to the scene but not directly back into the scene. Consider that process something like a trauma-sensitive version of Jungian active imagination practice. The upshot of which is this process can be done without the need for hypnotic trance and I would argue staying in a more relaxed but very conscious waking state is a much healthier way to go about this process. It allows for much more modulation of and choice within the experience. It also more naturally facilitates proper boundaries for the individual which can be compromised in a hypnotic or trance state.
As the individual re-enters “nearby” but not into the scene directly choice opens up. At this point their feelings become a key source of information as to how to proceed. Do they feel rage towards these “aliens”? If so, they could allow themselves in their visualization a deep permission to (safely) let their rage act in the scene, perhaps including annihilating the aliens, burning down the whole scene of the abduction, until it feels completely eviscerated and neutralized in their experience. By "thawing" out the freeze and then working through the fight energy (rage) they come back into a more integrated balanced state of being.
Interestingly Ann Druffel’s book on How to Defend Yourself Against Alien Abduction ends up supporting aspects of that idea. Druffel studied a number of abductees who claimed they were able to repel the experience. Druffel’s research lead her to claim that there were nine key practices to repulsion which include “mental struggle”, “physical struggle”, “righteous anger”, and “protective rage.” Druffel isn’t approaching the topic from the standpoint of trauma-aware ontologically flooding; she sees these entities as classic ETs and never questions the basic metaphysics of that viewpoint. Nevertheless it’s quite fascinating that individuals, accidentally or otherwise, hit upon methods for their own healing particularly through connecting to their inherent energies of fight/rage/self-defense, which it turns out is precisely how to heal from trauma rather than suppressing it and having it to turn into a freeze response (Levine called this Waking The Tiger).
Bringing the specifically trauma-aware lens to bear is crucially important in this context. The earlier abduction researchers, e.g. John Mack, brought a therapeutic lens to the process of working with individuals claiming abduction experiences. He sought to give people reassurance of their basic sanity and to tell their story, which was an importantly thoughtful and caring step to be sure. But it was not a process that included ways of dealing precisely with the memory on the level of a psychic phenomena nor on the dysregulating impact on the nervous system it may have had.
From a trauma informed and ontologically informed lens the memories of abduction and experimentation—whoever they ultimately belong to, whether the person with the memory or someone(s) else—are unfinished experiences. They are undigested psychic phenomena causing ongoing pain and suffering due to their incomplete nature.
Bringing a trauma view to bear in that case is about completing the experience so that it may release. With an ontologically flooded view we are able to take the phenomena as a consciousness experience as real (enough) but not bound to a series of major metaphysical assumptions and narratives of whatever variety. The focus becomes much more pragmatic and healing oriented—completing the memory which is an unfinished experience still caught in a kind of traumatic loop. Once that loop is closed and therefore broken, then a person would be free to make sense of their own experience.
This view could accord in certain respects with that of a Whitley Strieber for whom the contact and abduction process was a (potentially) spiritually initiatory experience. Neither all love and light nor necessarily purely demonic either but trickster-y as George Hansen argued. I’ve written on social movements as initiations and what happens when initiations fail, namely people stay stuck in trauma. The same tragically can apply on an individual level with unhealed highly strange trauma like the abduction phenomena.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, trauma is it’s own species of Fortean intermediatistic reality; trauma is both real and unreal simultaneously. Trauma becomes a lens through which the world becomes viewed, usually in very clouded tones. This piece of data is really important to remember in terms of abductions given the traumatic memory is both real and unreal simultaneously. Hence neither a debunker nor a believer be.
Furthermore traumas are, as Anngwyn St. Just has argued, fractals that will replicate themselves over and over again until they find resolution. This fact could help explain the phenomena of repeat abductions. In other words, many individuals suffering alien abductions could be suffering incomplete initiations either their own and/or a familial one and/or a specifically cultural one and/or a collective human one. Here again we see the need to focus on the healing resolution and completion of these experiences rather than a sole focus on proving or disproving their reality according to modern Western rational standards.
If Strieber’s perspective holds any weight than it opens up the possibility that the meaning and framework we bring to bear to understand this experience depends on how a person ultimately relates to the experience at least as much, if not more, than the experience itself. In other words, a person on the far side of the resolution of their trauma may have a very different view of it's meaning in their life compared to someone still in the throes of the trauma.
Which leads to the possibility that “they” (The Aliens/ETs/The Visitors) might be neither the demonic beings of a Druffel’s articulation nor yet the heavenly angelic entities of say a Dolores Cannon. Perhaps how “they” appear depends largely on how we approach them. When approached in a trauma-based lens they become projections of such a threat-based environment—creepy, menacing, shadowy invasive. Whereas if the individual is in a state of deeper oneness with Life perhaps they appear more as supportive beings. Or as some third option, like Vallee’s comparison of these entities to fairies who are classic trickster beings and do not easily fit into simple categories of all good or all bad.
This piece posits that the alien abduction narrative is due, in part, to the memory of a traumatized nervous system and additionally that abduction research has failed to take seriously the traumatic nature of the memory. As McLuhan said, the medium is the message. The medium of the alien abduction phenomena is highly strange trauma, hence that is it’s message. Further research and healing practice needs to orient to the understanding of the (co)constructed nature of memory, the ways in which implicit body memory functions specifically in traumatic memory, and an ontologically flooded (or weird naturalist) ontology. Only then will we learn to complete these unfinished experiences and then perhaps gain greater clarity as to it’s meaning or at minimum (and perhaps more importantly) true healing.
* This outlook could also help shed light on the phenomena of supposed recovered memories of ritual sexual abuse during the Satanic panic of the 1980s/90s. Maybe individuals were contacting such experiences in the field but weren’t personal to them. Hypnotists promoted the notion that there were recovering actual objective personal memories of those people and skeptics came into to debunk them all as false memory.
** In fact in the past life piece I argued strongly that I believe learning shamanic journeying is actually a better process to similar ends than hypnosis insofar as journeying involves a more active stance by the individual rather than hypnosis which leaves open the possibility of implanted memory construction and an overall receptive (and potentially helpless) posture in the process.