After he began to remember his “abduction” experiences in late 1985, Whitley Strieber underwent intense physical and psychological symptoms. In Communion, he writes:
I had a feeling of being separated from myself, as if either I was unreal or the world around me was unreal. . . . In the ensuing days, I experienced more bouts of fatigue. I would be working and suddenly would get cold and start to shake. Then I would feel so exhausted that I could not go on, and crawl into bed quivering and miserable, sure that I was coming down with the flu. . . . Nights I would sleep, but wake up in the morning feeling as if I had been tossing and turning the whole time. . . . My disposition got worse. I became mercurial, frantic with excitement about some idea one moment, in despair the next.
What Strieber describes here overlaps with symptoms I’ve suffered throughout my adult life. On top of these physical and psychological ailments, I also had night terrors as a child, usually precipitated by illness and fever and accompanied by extreme despair. I had no explanation for these experiences, at least until my early twenties when I read Communion, after which, I began to believe my nightmares related to nonhuman intervention and that the “change” I’d undergone was more than the product of my imagination. Much more recently, during the arduous process of exploring my own childhood trauma and studying the literature of psychic fragmentation, I came upon a richer and more nuanced explanation than aliens, though it doesn’t necessarily preclude a nonhuman element. Most specifically in Donald Kalsched’s The Inner World of Trauma:
“The resistance thrown up by the self-care system in the treatment of trauma victims is legendary. As early as 1920, Freud was shaken by the extent to which a ‘daimonic’ force in some patients resisted change and made the usual work of analysis impossible. So pessimistic was he about this ‘repetition compulsion’ that he attributed its origin to an instinctive aim in all life towards death. . . . Most contemporary analytic writers are inclined to see this attacking figure as an internalized version of the actual perpetrator of the trauma, who has ‘possessed’ the inner world of the trauma victim. But this popularized view is only half correct. The diabolical inner figure is often far more sadistic and brutal than any outer perpetrator, indicating that we are dealing here with a psychological factor set loose in the inner world by trauma—an archetypal traumatogenic agency within the psyche itself. [T]he traumatized psyche is self-traumatizing.”
While this psychoanalytical model can (and if true must) be applied to everyone, to one degree or another, it seems especially relevant when trying to understand more mystical or otherworldly experiences, such as those reported by Strieber, with his seemingly endless re-enactments of trauma at the hands of apparent “aliens,” and his countless “screen memories.” Writing about alien abduction, Jeffrey Kripal quotes near-death-experience (NDE) author Kenneth Ring, who contends that “a history of child abuse and trauma plays a central etiological role in promoting sensitivity to UFOEs and NDEs.” Ring agrees that “such conditions tends to stimulate the development of a dissociative response style as a means of psychological defense,” and links this dissociative response to an ability to “‘tune into’ other realities where by virtue of his dissociated state, he can temporarily feel safe regardless of what is happening to his body. In this way . . . dissociation would directly foster relatively easy access to alternate, non-ordinary realities.”
Finding Strieber’s accounts may have given me a suitably cosmic lens through which to look at my early trauma; at the same time, part of what made that lens helpful may have been the degree to which it obscured the truth and made it more palatable to me. It was only as I drew closer to integrating those early experiences that I became willing to put down the cosmic lens and see what things looked like with my own eyes, and began to see the traumatogenic agencies at work, and at play, in my own life: a recurring, in fact continuous, relationship with some unseen “other,” in the form of a visceral sense of foreboding, childhood nightmares, and apparent alien encounters as an adult.
Through the act of writing this quasi-non-fictional narrative, I have begun to see what an archetypal agency looks like, feels like, and does, at the level of personal experience. I have begun to see why I always felt “possessed by some diabolical power or pursued by a malignant fate,” and why Strieber’s tales of power, which look more and more like part of a psycho-cosmic cover–up, have held such a deep and lasting fascination for me: because they provided indispensable ingredients for the assembling of my own crucial fiction.
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