UFO Conjecture(s)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

UFOs: Alone in the woods with your thoughts and a wish-fulfillment

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.

Steeped in Freud’s Psychoanalytic oeuvre – everything remains tinged by human sexual drives (it’s obvious to me: TV shows and ads, books – 50 Shades of Gray – movies, music, and crime) – I find it not surprising that the grand old man’s psychologic take is having a renaissance among thinkers.

But it’s Freud’s non-sexual material(s) that apply here, to what I’m about to propose.

Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams never really registered with me. Nor does Jung’s theses of the unconscious archetypes.

Dream analysis and explanation still elude science and psychiatry.

Neurology is having a hard time with dreams also.

Philosophy’s approach, like neuroscience’s and psychology’s, with an accent on what is consciousness, leaves much to be desired too.

However, Freud’s theory of wish-fulfillment in his dream book, although not applicable to dreams, does offer a possible explanation for some (many?) UFO sightings and UFO encounters.

As an advocate for the psychological/neurological stimuli as a cause or elaboration for some (many?) UFO accounts, it’s a small step, for me, to see wish-fulfillment as an ingredient or base for what some UFO observers think they have seen or encountered.

Drab lives, with sexual frustration, could easily spark a wish to see or experience something unique or unusual.

Today, the public (the masses) with their need to have fifteen minutes of fame – that damn Andy Warhol perquisite for life – could evoke, and often does, a wish-fulfillment, and in some, at the edge of geekiness, would use UFOs to bring that about.

We often find, don’t we, that those who’ve seen a UFO or had an experience are people with a prior-to-their incidents interest in science fiction and its accoutrements (movies, TV shows, books, magazines): Kenneth Arnold, the Trents(?), Desvergers, Betty Hill, Travis Walton, the Mothman sighters, et al.

That would be the basis for their wish-fulfillment, the underlying material(s) for their claim to unique human experience.

Freud’s book, although scrapped for its dream analysis, can be and is a useful tool to explain or delineate how UFO wish-fulfillment works: the psychological mechanisms applicable to a UFO sighting/encounter.

My thesis, here, requires an understanding and acceptance of the unconscious and how it works, not for dreams, but for other things that pop up from the human psyche.

Nick Redfern’s paranormal entities (Bigfoot, Nessie, ghosts, et cetera) likewise often derive from wish-fulfillment.

Sure, there are real, tangible, odd things that appear in the human arena, but those things, themselves, are spurs to unconscious or even deliberate elaboration(s) which would account for the diversity one finds in UFO reports and such recountings as those of Spanish UFO researcher, Jose Antonio Caravaca.

If we could lie UFO sighters and experiencers on a couch, eschewing hypnosis, but applying psychoanalysis’s technique of “free association,” I bet we’d find the underlying cause – or need – for UFO (and paranormal) sightings: a wish-fulfillment.

But who in “ufology” wants to do that? UFO buffs either want to deny a UFO reality or any inclination to attribute mental configurations to the UFO phenomenon or they want to see UFOs as part of an ongoing, ubiquitous extraterrestrial intrusion.

Anyway, wish-fulfillment explains, to some of us, what’s going on when someone has what they ostensibly report as a UFO sighting.

(Even a Thomas Mantell could have been afflicted by a need to see hat Skyhook balloon as a strange aircraft above his airplane; did anyone or has anyone really scoured Captain Mantell’s background and interests?)

Wikipedia’s curt page on wish-fulfillment shows how the idea is not really dealt with.



  • If your thesis is true, then the number of UFO reports should be proliferating because we surely lead drabber lives now than at any time in recorded history - an age of societal ennui - although I suppose it's hard to see anything weird when you spend all your time watching Storage Wars or staring at your iPhone.

    However, whilst this idea undoubtedly accounts for some sightings by individuals and is therefore worthwhile, it wouldn't account for sightings by multiple individuals, particularly if they were independent of each other (as was the case, for example, in Shag Harbour in 1967).


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • I think Thoreau had it right

    "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. "

    It's quite clear that for those seeking to ascribe to themselves a transcendent experience, claims of alien abduction or related phenomenological happeneings are tempting because popular culture has primed people with the necessary core elements of a convincing narrative.

    Regardless of if the claims are a concious fraud, or a subconscious creation, the underlying etiology seems to be the same: the experience gives the individual permission to become someone else; to discard of themselves the mundane and trivial.

    By Blogger Ross, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Yes, Paul...

    Some sightings are exempt from the thesis.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • We are voyeurs to this phenomenon and wish to participate, and I suppose if cynical, you could call the varieties
    of delusions regarding it, a spectrum disorder. In another cynical point of view, in some ways, through the intermediaries of electronic media, there is less direct interaction with life itself, and more isolation. Cell phones glued to heads, the reliance on corporate media, the lack of political participation, etc. The phenomenon is more democratic than our nation. Anyone can participate and bring their baggage along and become part of a transpersonal quasi-religion. No degree or orthodoxy required.The wish of mankind is to understand what if any purpose there is to life as well as seeking to end our planetary isolation , as well to find, what could become, another sacrificial king, superior knowledge of what constitutes a profound mystery. Quite a wish list.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Rich:

    back when I was earning my Psychology degree, I was a Freudian--actually, what you would probably call a neo-Freudian. I have no doubt that Freud's insights have a lot of truth to them, but I don't think they are the whole story. In any case, let's stipulate that people have unconscious drives and motivations. Let's also stipulate that one such motivation is wish fulfillment--the desire to appear more interesting and important than one really is.

    That would seem to explain stories such as military officers claiming to have been at locations they weren't at and to have had experiences that never occurred, for example.

    That does not explain stories that are ego-dystonic or are emotionally neutral. In my experience, most UFO reports fall in that category. We know that some--in fact, I would say most--perceptions that people have are simple unadorned reports of objective reality. If that were not true, I think humanity would have gone extinct long ago. In Freud's words, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The ego dystonic nature of abduction reports is the basic characteristic that motivated John Mack to regard abduction accounts as something other than purely false.

    The problem with the wish fulfillment explanation is that it can be invoked to explain virtually ANY report of anything that doesn't leave tangible evidence as being imaginary or fictitous. It borders on being unfalsifiable and therefore useless as a scientific hypothesis.

    If you want to invoke unconscious motivations as an explanation for something, you have to be prepared to state ahead of time what the limits of that explanation are. What would you accept as refutation of that hypothesis?

    By Blogger Larry, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Larry:

    In light of the re-vitalized debate about consciousness and unconsciousness, I'd dip into that to flesh out my views.

    And I'll present, upcoming, something about that here.

    Let me say, that, for me, Freud was right about many, many things.

    Although I was stunned, and taken aback, from my friend Jeffrey Masson's expose of Freud's errant and cowardly turn-around about child molestation, I still find Freud to cover lots of human bases, correctly and imaginatively.

    And wish-fulfillment is one.

    For unconscious motivation in projections or wish-fulfillment when it comes to UFOs, one can be rampant and cavalier, the unconscious not being open to easy scrutiny.

    Wish-fulfillment can be applied to UFO sightings without much backwash from those who would wish to say wish-fulfillment fails as an explanation.

    What is their prima causa for UFOs?

    That they are real things, seen by normal people, in the normal course of everyday life?

    Perhaps, as Paul Kimball hints, that is the case, but the record of UFO reports, flush with their bizarre details -- See Caravaca's accounts here and at his blog(s) -- one has to posit mental aberrations for many -- not all! -- but many UFO accounts.

    As a psychologist, you more than anyone, knows that.

    You write, "The problem with the wish fulfillment explanation is that it can be invoked to explain virtually ANY report of anything that doesn't leave tangible evidence as being imaginary or fictitous."

    That isn't a problem, it may be the reality, the truth.

    To look beyond wish-fulfillment is to not see the forest for the trees.

    As an ET advocate, which you are, right?, one has to shake you loose from that hypothesis, as it is more arcane, esoteric and improbable than my views of wish-fulfillment or projective mental constructs, somewhat like those suggested by Jung.

    I was in communication with John Mack, right before his untimely death.

    (He contacted me thinking our MediaWatch site was the source of a disparaging review of his abduction work. It wasn't but we exchanged e-mails and phone calls about his work.)

    John Mack's views are not as you cite: "something other than purely false."

    He thought there was some mental hanky-panky (my words) involved in the abduction scenarios.

    Will Buesche, his associate and an experiencer, (and a sometimes visitor here) could clarify Dr. Mack's views.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Of course, then again, what of those who found the experience terrifying to some degree, or at a lesser level of emotional turmoil, being haunted by the experience? It certainly would be a case for extreme emotional self mutilation. Just to play devil's advocate..I am not speaking of long term effects but immediate reactions..There is a study just beginning over in the U.K of how individuals process anomalous experiences. Of course this deals with the post experiential thought processes rather than anticipation or expectations.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • This leads me back to the idea I posited in my book, that some advanced non-human intelligence is interacting with us as a way to inspire us to imagine a much broader world (for lack of a better term - interesting and fulfilling also work) than the one to which we have confined ourselves (or been confined, depending upon how you look at it). That's what art, in all it's forms, does, and I see the paranormal as an artistic presentation (and sometimes co-creation). Thus, in a sense, "they" are encouraging us not just to "wish" (upon a star?)... but ultimately to make those wishes come true.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Paul:

    Caravaca's "external agent"?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Yes, I suppose so, if I understand what he's getting at.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Paul's use of art as a medium of possible paranormal expression is interesting.

    Would not some of the works of Picasso reveal an expression of the distortion of ones perception?

    There may be numerous interpretations for a Picasso art piece, but those interpretations are not what the artist himself had envisioned.

    In other words, what I see and interpret is not necessarily what was intended be in relationship to reality.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Some regard this phenomenon as planned, staged and so forth, and while the idea that "advanced non-human intelligence is interacting with us as a way to inspire us to imagine a much broader world" , in my own subjective reality tunnel this is another wish and it is yet be fulfilled in any meaningful way. I wish it were otherwise.
    Dada and surrealism as a form of non verbal communication, or Breton, Artaud etc did this more effectively, in my book, than this phenomenon, which I think has had the opposite effect IE paranoia, lies, fantasies, delusions, etc. Again, I wish it were otherwise.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • The problem, Bruce, is that you're being far too narrow in your definition of "this phenomenon," whereas I extend it to the entire range of what we would call paranormal or supernatural encounters (including, for example, Saul on the road to Damascus, or Henry Alline being "ravished by the spirit" in the woods outside Falmouth in the 18th century). And yes, some of the experiences are puzzling, even frightening, but as I point out in my book that's all part of the big picture. We willingly subject ourselves to horror all the time (haunted houses, rollercoasters, The Blair Witch Project and films like it) because it is another way of stimulating our imagination. I can think of no case where there has been actual, verifiable physical harm done by our interactions with this intelligence (if, in fact, those interactions have occurred), and where we may use that interaction as a spur to do evil ourselves, then that's on us, not them.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Tim,

    You've hit upon the co-creative nature of great art, whether it's different people interpreting a Picasso painting in different ways, or each audience seeing a unique concert by Bruce Springsteen every time he performs because their interaction with him - and how he reacts to it - changes the equation. As my good friend Greg Bishop has postulated, we're the audience, yes - but we're also very much the co-creators for an advanced non-human intelligence.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, August 18, 2013  

  • Paul
    I absolutely agree that this phenomenon is attached at the hip to other paranormal and experiential anomalies. Where perhaps we differ is in the concept of a singular superior intelligence behind the scrim. I suspect there is not one cause, but several in both neurology and in the environment that works much like weather. There is no single root of causation for say, rain. Not to say that on the surface, there is not cause for this illusion. The real challenge is our own perceptions that are severely limited in what we can sense. I suspect what it may be is a cellular form of intelligence, much as how the manifestation of a flower is self organised but keyed to the environment.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Monday, August 19, 2013  

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