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I’m still getting caught up on some items I want to make sure readers know about after my recent “finish The Portent draft or die” session of the last two weeks. A couple days ago I directed readers to Jack Brewer’s UFO Trail about true conspiracy theories. I have one more post from the UFO Trail that should not go unnoticed. This one is about the use of hypnotic regression in ufology: “You’re Getting Sleepy… and Misled: Regression Hypnosis in Ufology.”

Honestly, calling Jack’s essay a post doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like an expose — and a thoughtful one at that, full of serious information and useful links.

To say the least, the use of hypnosis in regard to alleged alien abductions is controversial within the ufology community. If you’re simply embracing the idea of such abductions without ever looking into the problems, flaws, and misuse of hypnosis techniques, you can’t claim to be seriously engaging the subject. I’ve blogged several times on this here (mostly quite a while). There’s a lot of good information on the web from serious researchers on memory and hypnosis. This is a good example of an issue that has gotten attention from the mainstream. While there is naturally skepticism over alien contact, one of the things driving that skepticism is the problematic nature of recovered memories. In other words, you can’t dismiss the problems by saying researchers are creating data because they’re skeptical. Rather, they’re skeptical of the whole idea because recovered memory research reveals significant problems in not just accuracy, but distortion. Here is a sampling:

In short, hypnotic regression and the memories it allegedly “retrieves” is not a sound method for genuine memory retrieval. Personally, I don’t think the research invalidates every claim or every part of every claim. I just wouldn’t trust the method at all. Other approaches ought to take precedence care to preventing the sorts of flawed results noted in studies like these. Readers know I don’t buy the idea that aliens are abducting people (I’d need to know there are aliens and they’re coming here; that’s a reasonable starting point). I’m in the Leah Haley camp, that some of this stuff is real but has nothing to do with aliens.




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5 Responses to “Hypnotic Regression: A Critique”

  • Jack Brewer says:

    Thank you very much, Doctor. Your attention to the subject matter is most appreciated.

    I would agree that identifying regression hypnosis (RH) as an unreliable memory retrieval tool does not in and of itself negate all aspects of reported experiences. As you suggest, it is, however, an ineffective investigative tool that has a high potential for emotionally traumatizing the research subject, at least as typically being practiced and implemented by self-described abduction researchers. There are of course additional detrimental effects and high risks that are virtually inherent to the activity.

    I think a primary concern should be the welfare of the witness, combined with research methodology that is most effective and accurate. There are obviously much better means of accomplishing the objectives than the use of RH.

    Thank you for your interest and support. I think the topic should be a priority to all of us sincerely interested in witness care and accurate explanations.

  • MSH says:

    agreed – especially about the welfare of the witness. That seems to get lost.

  • Philip White says:

    Who truly knows what is in the brain and how it can process various accumulated information and stimuli and subsequently regurgitate them as a new and previously unrecognizable, blended output? How is it that I can go into a deep REM sleep and that some person I don’t usually think about becomes a pivotal character in a vivid, color dream with a detailed cast of characters (some known – often with illogical connections – and some completely new), a complete script with dialog, plot and sometimes terrifying action sequences.

    And such a dream, in its midst, can seem so astonishingly real that you find yourself questioning whether it is indeed a dream. And then you wake up, filled with anxiety and exceptionally grateful to realize that it was all just a very strange dream. And after such dreams you often speculate to discern how some aspects might have been the result of your real-world experiences, and (often) how many are not. You can sometimes see some things in a dream that you apparently absorbed rather subconsciously, as though you were aware of them, but only very peripherally.

    Yes, a dream like the above one may seem very real, during it. But is there not also some aspect of a professional hypnotist/psychiatrist probing “validating” types of questions in a way that they are also mixing with false data already in one’s mind? It would be very interesting if there were historical data of such recovered memories, before modern alien abduction “experiences” (are there?). Would 19th century recovered memories sometimes be filled with fairies and mythical beasts? Are there presently many recovered memories featuring creatures like bigfoot? If these recovered alien memories are false, I would expect them to similar to those “experiencing” other popular phenomena.

    And what about our current-day culture, so saturated with media, films and books about all manner of strange phenomena? How many are virtually programmed to have such an experience?

    So, do recovered memories not likely share much in common with mere dreams?

  • Linda Anne Walters (Lyn) says:

    Hi Dr Heiser,

    Don’t know if you would be interested in this or not. Joyce Ahrens (and her husband, now deceased) were both treated with hypnosis by John Carpenter back some years ago. In fact, he was in Roswell for one of the last AoD conferences a while back. I am fairly certain that she still has the transcripts, if you would be interested in reading them. I read them several years ago. You can probably contacted her through her FB page.

    Also, would it be possible for you to send me some type of address where I can mail something to you in a couple of weeks or so(just to the email above)? It can be a work address or p o box is fine, TY.

    Shalom and many blessings.

    In His Love, Lyn Walters

  • MSH says:

    Thanks, Lyn. I’ll reply to you via email.

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