“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.”
—Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit
In 2010, after reading Norman O. Brown’s Life Against Death, I threw together a bunch of notes to try and sum up Brown’s insights. Brown’s work reinterprets certain of Freud’s ideas and places them in a larger, more metaphysical context. I have certain reservations about drawing on Freud’s psychological models at all, partially because of Freud’s dismissal of child sexual abuse as harmless. On the other hand, I consider Freud’s work to be invaluable (however out of fashion), and no one is without their blind spots (a fact that this present exploration is about). There is compelling evidence (see Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious by Paul C. Vitz) that Freud was himself a victim of sexual interference as a child (that he was seduced by his nanny).
In Life Against Death, Brown describes culture as the collective product of repression, negation, and sublimation, a kind of external matrix created and maintained by infantile drives to recover the lost object of the mother’s body. According to Brown, both culture and the ego-identity that arises from it (or in tandem with it) are empty of substance, because both belong to a fantasy-generated reality and are images of the past, superimposed onto the present. Brown writes of how death anxiety “is relative to the repression of the human body; the horror of death is the horror of dying with what Rilke called unlived lines in our bodies.” He presents the “construction of a human consciousness strong enough to accept death [as] a task in which philosophy and psychoanalysis can join hands—and also art. . . Only if Eros—the life instinct—can affirm the life of the body can the death instinct affirm death, and in affirming death magnify life” (p. 109).
When a child’s life force or libido desires the love-object of the mother and is separated from it, the child withdraws into fantasy by identifying with the love-object and having a fantasy relationship with an internally generated image (like Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho, inspired by real-life “mother’s boy” and prototypical serial killer, Ed Gein). The life force is hijacked by the still-forming ego and used as an energy source to create a fantasy-based relationship with reality, and with the body. Eventually, this develops into both sublimation and desexualization, intellectual, abstract beliefs through which to interact with reality—or rather, not to interact with reality. “The transformation of object-libido into narcissistic libido [i.e., through creating an internal image of the love-object] obviously implies an abandonment of sexual aims, [hence it is] a process of desexualization.”
For Brown, the religious idea of “soul” (i.e., life force separate from the body) is “the shadowy substitute for a bodily relation to other bodies.” Narcissistic fantasy caused by traumatic separation creates a “spiritualized ego,” via the idea of a self separate from the body, i.e., a “soul-self,” though personally, I prefer the term “mind-self,” albeit a mind with a religious bent to it. When the original sensual-sensory experiences prove too painful for the infant’s psyche, the child’s senses close down. One result of this closing down is what Freud called “genital organization,” when the life force becomes trapped inside, and limited to, the genitals. In a larger sense, the erotic, sensual, bodily awareness is imprisoned in a matrix made up of early patterns of trauma and loss, patterns which have been woven together into a de-eroticized ego identity. “Primal fantasies” occur during this formative stage when the life force is being redirected away from the body; being primal, these fantasies occur in a qualitatively different state of awareness to our present state, hence they cannot be remembered, only reenacted, consciously or unconsciously. Mostly, they are reenacted unconsciously, throughout our lives, as neurotic, delusional behavior. They exist only as “hallucinations in the present which serve to negate the present.”
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 (and interpreted by Kripal). Strieber, with his seemingly endless re-enactments of trauma at the hands of apparent “aliens,” and his countless “screen memories.” In the final section of his article dealing with alien abduction, 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.”
Ring is careful to suggest that such “attunement” is “not a gift of dissociation itself, which only makes it possible, but of a correlated capacity, that for what is called psychological absorption.”
Hence “it is the ability to dissociate that governs access to alternate realities,” but these alternate realities cannot be explained by the psychological mechanism of dissociation. And there is more. Such “encounter-prone personalities” and “psychological sensitives” come to develop “an extended range of human perception beyond normally recognized limits.” . . . . Ring concludes, in a bold but extremely common move in the alien abduction literature, that such traumatically transformed individuals may well represent “the next stage in evolution.” [Emphases added]
After he began to remember his “abduction” experiences in late 1985, 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. On many occasions, I would wake from a profound dream, possessed by the visceral and overwhelming certainty that something terrible had happened, either to me or to reality itself. Something had been altered in some fundamental way, and everything was now terribly and irrevocably wrong. The change I perceived was tiny, infinitesimal, yet it had left me adrift on a dark, indescribably vast sea of confusion and despair. Whatever had happened, my reaction to this incomprehensible awareness, like Strieber’s, was primal: I literally fled the scene of the “violation,” desperate to get as far away from my bed, room, and house, as possible. On more than one occasion I ended up in the street in my pajamas before coming to my senses. Whatever I was fleeing followed me.
“[T]his was an unusual experience, to say the least, and I can assure you that it is just as amazing as it sounds. There is no elegant way to dismiss it as an illusion or some sort of ‘imaginal’ experience. It was real.”
—Whitley Strieber, Solving the Communion Enigma
I had no explanation for these experiences, at least until my early twenties when I read Strieber’s Communion. After that, 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. Among the literature I consumed, I read accounts of abductees who experienced molecular transformation at the hands of “the visitors.” I was twenty-five or twenty-six when I experienced what I took, at the time, to be my first conscious memories of “alien interaction.” I was staying at a Buddhist community in France during the winter, planting trees in exchange for food and board.
As the dream-memory began, I found myself among a group of young people, possibly school children. We were in “the firm and relentless hands of government” (here and elsewhere I am quoting my journal from the time), waiting to go underground. Very few of us knew what was about to happen. I seemed to know more than most, but even so I had little idea of what to expect. There was something about “watches”—possibly we were asked to remove them. Then we were ordered, compelled, to be enclosed in a dark space for a period of hours, by way of preparation, perhaps as a kind of quarantine or acclimatization process. I was aware, already, that we were going to encounter the unknown, and that it might involve other life forms. There followed then our delivery into the underworld, by what means was unclear, but at the end of which we arrived at a well-lit complex which I knew was under the ground. All I remembered of this area upon waking was a sort of bar or buffet, a counter with seating that seemed to go round in a circle. There were some receiver-transmitter apparatuses, like TV sets, mounted well above our heads at regular intervals. From this salon, secret bar, or waiting room, presently, we were moved to another place. This second space was curiously insulated: no air seemed to get in there, yet we were breathing.
We were amidst the other beings. Upon waking I couldn’t remember the actual contact with these mysterious figures, only that, little by little, we realized where we were and what was happening. The experience was incredible beyond belief, strange beyond my wildest imaginings, terrifying with an intensity I would not have dreamed possible. No words could do it justice. Yet at no time were we in any danger, of harm or even of physical-mental abuse. So far as I remembered, we were not subjected to any of the “ordinary” abduction procedures, but this might have been due to gaps in my recall. The only thing I clearly remembered was a small black child, the very first amongst us to see one of them, turning to me and saying, “Jesus!” I looked at what he was seeing and said the same. This one word—“Jesus”—seemed to sum up all the vastness of the new world before us, all of the horror, wonder, and awe that possessed me and annihilated all that was left of my reason, on seeing this incredible, unacceptable sight.
The beings were blue. There was something about their eyes, not black, but somehow hollow, as if I could see right through them. The beings themselves, their skin or their form, seemed fluid; not like ordinary solid matter but more alive, more livid. Yet the beings were partly human, I knew this instinctively. I also knew that this was a memory of the past, I was almost sure of it; because, if it were only a dream, there would be no reason for the intensity of my emotions. Yet I brought to it my present level of awareness, including knowledge of other people’s accounts of similar experiences, so I was curious as to just what these beings were. They seemed to be neither like the “grays” nor like the “cobalts,” but rather somewhere in between.
At one point, I said to someone: “They’re a hybrid?” A military figure, old, immensely dignified, and known to me, affirmed my question curtly, without explanation. I was aware that we were being kept from interfacing with the higher order of beings (I referred to them as the “thin ones” in my original account) by this human, military presence—not for our (or their) protection, but to keep us from the truth and to deny us the uplifting and illuminating soul experience of contact with the “pure breed.” I was in no position to lament this, however. The most prominent feeling in the dream, being face to face with this incredible life form, was one of wonder. I knew that it was not human, and I could find no way around this realization. My whole being, including physically, was shaken in a kind of apocalypse of the soul. I felt my world being torn apart just to look at them. Yet at the same time, I was aware of somehow forgetting the experience even as I was having it. My everyday reason would not allow me to carry the burden of this revelation, and even as it was being forced to acknowledge the reality of what it was seeing, it was busy denying its existence. It would do so as continually and as thoroughly as it could, until no trace remained.
I was aware that the forgetting, which was inevitable, was less a result of deliberate maneuvers on their (human or alien agencies) part, more the result of my own self-protective instincts. It seemed like it would be a relief to forget, and that I would surrender the memory willingly if only the boundless terror would go with it. Yet what I was so afraid of was hard to explain. Then I blacked out. There was a hole in the plot, a hole so large as to render the plot incoherent. I couldn’t remember the interface, or even if there was one, nor the exact form or features of the beings. Nor do I recall the return to the surface, if we were indeed under the earth.
One thing I remembered clearly on waking was the phrase INTELLIGENT LIMBS. The phrase occurred and recurred throughout the experience. The concept was of an intelligence that spreads out and takes hold from many (maybe infinite) different points at once, like the roots of a tree, while remaining at the same time hidden, hence protected. I interpreted this as a description of the hive-like activities of the “visitors.” Each one of them moves about as a limb, neither separate nor independent, because guided by the intelligence of the head. Yet at the same time they were expendable, because when you cut off a limb, another immediately takes its place. Like the heads of the Hydra, the beings were mere extensions of a central force, or “head”; should the “limb” be injured or captured, the intelligence could simply be withdrawn and redirected, leaving only an empty and useless shell, and possibly not even that.
After this, the dream descended into nightmare. I was in a car and the light went out. I was waiting for someone or something when an eerie sound began to engulf me. I was afraid, confused. I climbed out of the car to try to ascertain what the sound was and only then realized that it was coming from inside the car. I climbed back inside and realized that it was the radio, which had been turned off before. It was tuned to no particular station, emitting a sort of high insistent hum or whine, with an underlying buzz or crackle that could easily be mistaken for distant voices. I had candles on the dashboard, like an altar, and they burned down in a matter of seconds. Something was not right. An unknown influence was changing all the laws of physics, and of nature.
I was paralyzed. I felt as though contained in a powerful field of energy, one that caused both an internal tension and an external paralysis in me. It was like I was exploding, but contained, with no way to let it out. There was a sound in my ears like a plane crashing and taking off at once: the high ascending roar/whine which I had by then come to associate with astral projection. I was in my bed now, I realized, as well as inside the car, yet the new awareness brought no relief. I was mortally afraid, because I had already come to associate the paralysis with them. I felt their presence all around me and yet I was helpless to act: all I could do to protect myself was to keep my eyes closed. The feeling was hideous, unbearable. How could I have ever wished for this? No one could endure such an encounter, these beings were inhuman. The mere fact of their existence filled me with a horror bordering on nausea.
It occurred to me that the force that trapped me and seemed to crush me and to tear me apart at the same time was the force of my own fear. I lay in my bed, curled up in terror, the only thing between me and the vast unknowable darkness that wanted to devour me the thin layer of bedding which I had wrapped around me and covered my head with. Even as I did so, I knew it was hopeless, but the alternative—to draw back the covers and gaze into that abyss—was unthinkable. This happened again and again, while in the dream, it was as if nothing changed. I was in the car, waiting for their arrival, for disaster, and I continued returning to my bed and going through the same sensations, the same terror. By this time I didn’t even know if I was awake or asleep, whether the beings were present or if they were about to arrive. And the moment I started to doubt it and they began to recede, I began to call them back. As soon as they responded, and I knew it was real again, I would have done anything, anything, to escape them. It was as if my desire was too terrible for me to endure.
Finally, after countless repetitions of this process, the dream was released, all the way into nightmare. I climbed out of the car and went down towards the forest, knowing I would encounter them but compelled to go, as if by an external force. I saw a patch of red ahead of me, a small figure in the darkness. They were not human: they were waiting for me. Then, as I looked at them, they faded away. “Ordinary” people took their place, several of them around a sort of table in the forest. I was laid down on the table to be treated. For some inexplicable reason, I trusted these “people.” I kept looking at the one in charge, the doctor. There was something about him: he was disturbingly real, nothing like dream faces that change and blend myriad features together. His face was fixed, I could still see it clearly when I woke. He was fleshy around the neck, with fat cheeks, sweaty, slightly unshaven, with curly dark hair that receded extremely, bald on top. He was wearing thick lens spectacles with a dark plastic rim. As I lay there, he leaned forward and inserted a large needle into the back of my neck. I knew that the treatment was not for any disorder but more for immunity, some kind of acclimatization. As I lay there I began to realize that the whole purpose of my trip underground was just this: acclimatization, to get us used to these beings.
The other people held me down, although I wasn’t struggling. The doctor injected me again in the same place. I grew slightly afraid and began to want to get away. The doctor told me then that he would need to inject me many, many times. I think he may even have said “thousands” of times! I cried out, “Not tonight!” He shook his head, “No, no,” and I experienced relief. Something changed then in my point-of-view, and I began to grow suspicious of these “people.” They weren’t quite right, there was something about them. A scene ensued: Two of the “people” (all of them were wearing bright anoraks and track-suit type clothing), were struggling with a child who was refusing to go with them. They were supposed to be the boy’s parents, but he sensed that something was wrong. The father grabbed the boy and slapped him. He said, “Fran! Be a good girl Fran!” The boy shouted in horror, “I’m not a girl! I’m a boy!”
It was obvious now: the cat was out the bag. The “people” were not his parents at all—they didn’t even know what sex he was! They were some kind of synthetic beings, robots. The “father” slapped the child over and over again, then dragged him towards a house. I watched in impotent horror. I was beginning to suspect malevolence on the part of these beings where I had so fervently prayed for benevolence. There was a big ditch in the middle of the field, full of real people. I prayed that they were sleeping and not dead. At that moment one of the robots who was holding me earlier—and who also had very distinct features—staggered over to the ditch and keeled over. Another robot, an exact replica, stepped out to replace him. I realized then that these “robots,” whatever they were, had a very limited life span and were for temporary use only. The “visitors” used them to get the situation arranged according to their needs, then stepped in without encountering any resistance. I was trapped in a plot I could never hope to understand. The alien robots looked like humans and they had been among us for a long time; now they had received a new program and were to begin the executions. They killed with a single shot between the eyes. At times, they even killed on a whim, being licensed (or programmed) to do so, and this was the only sign they gave of spontaneous action. The only single human emotion they seemed to have picked up on was that of sadism! For half the dream, I was even identifying with one of these killing machines.
As I awoke from this experience, I recalled an earlier dream I’d had: just before waking, still in darkness, I had felt, physically felt (without any corresponding dream to account for the sensation), a needle entering into the back of my neck and liquid flowing into my body. I was deeply afraid. I was a pawn in the hands of something I did not even know existed; or rather, something I could not admit existed.
The sense of foreboding, of some intrusive presence, some alien “other” lurking in the shadows of my sleep and at the edges of my consciousness, had been palpable throughout my life, as palpable as a strange figure in the room that did not belong there. In Communion, Strieber describes a similar sense of foreboding before his memories of “contact” first begin to surface. It may even have been an affinity for that lurking paranoia—a shared sense of foreboding—that drew me to his work in the first place, which caused it to resonate so deeply for me.
The “easy” answer to that sense of foreboding was that, like Strieber, I had been abducted by aliens. But that kind of answer raised a thousand other questions.
“The familial metaphor is called into play as a basic model of propitiating any overwhelming event whatsoever.”
—Greg Mogenson, A Most Accursed Religion
In the beginning, my predominant feelings for Strieber were a mix of fascination, sympathy, and affection laced with envy. Increasingly, over the years, I began to feel less and less envy and more bewilderment, exasperation, and frustration. Strieber always impressed me as a man wrestling with gigantic questions, haunted, driven, dedicated, and painfully earnest in his quest for understanding. A searching mind, full-bodied and big-hearted, he also struck me as a “straight-up sort of guy.” Probably what appealed to me most about him was his combination of sincerity and intelligence, being qualities I value highly in others. There was also something touching about him: for all his knowledge, eloquence, and insight, he came across as a simple, conventional family man from Texas with traditional values—a square.
On the surface, and despite his outré tales of courting and loving the alien, Strieber seemed to uphold basic human values. His combination of simple humanness with the startling nature of his experiences held a very basic appeal for me over the years (as I suspect it has for many others). At the same time, from what I have gleaned of his personality outside of his writings, he and I never seemed all that compatible. Where Strieber comes across as extroverted and brash, assertive and impatient, I am withdrawn, reserved and tentative, especially with strangers. We were worlds apart as individuals—as far apart as Yorkshire and Texas. Yet his experiences, and most of all his evocative writing skills, drew me into his world, both inner and outer, and made me feel intimately involved with it—almost like a family member.
As the recent Occult Yorkshire series testifies, just as with Strieber, there is at least as much evidence in my past for some sort of human interference as there is for “aliens.” Yet it wasn’t till my forties that I started to see this fact. Until then, it had been aliens all down the line.
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. Through writing—exploring the subject in a literary form—I 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.
 “The turning point of the development is the subordination of all sexual partial-instincts to the primacy of the genitals, and thereby the subjection of sexuality to the function of reproduction. Originally it is a diffused sexual life, one which consists of independent activities of single partial instincts which strive towards organic gratification.” Freud, “XXI. Development of the Libido and Sexual Organizations,” is in the 15th paragraph. http://www.bartleby.com/283/21.html