Ryan Hurd. Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night. Hyena Press, 2011.

This short book is based on the author's own experiences of what used to be called 'aware sleep paralysis' and is now called 'isolated sleep paralysis'. It gives some of the basic background, tips on how to avoid it, and for the more adventurous, tips on how to induce and exploit it for psychological development.

ISP is one of the scariest things that people can experience, involving senses of paralysis, pressure on the chest, hallucinatory figures and noises, and it is not surprising that it has been associated with all sorts of supernatural and paranormal beliefs from ghosts, to witchcraft assaults, demonic possession, the work of fairies and other petty supernaturals, to their latest interpretation as alien abductors. (For an example of such an experience interpreted in UFO terms see Visions of the Night.)

Hurd argues that the apparitional figures encountered in these experiences are images of the experients' worst fears, and are moulded on their cultural expectation. They are images of the individual and cultural ideas of the "the worst thing there is". He makes the intriguing point that the 'bad doctors' of alien abductions reflect the somewhat ambivalent nature of the medical profession in modern society, and our fears of technocratic medicine. They also probably reflect the very scary nature or doctors and medical procedures for young children.

Hurd lists some of the precipitating factors which include shift work and disturbed sleep patterns, stress and anxiety, fatigue, personal and existential crises, overuse of stimulants and sleeping on your back. A history of childhood sexual abuse or of post traumatic stress disorder are also major contributors, and the incidence of ISP is particularly high among refugees and asylum seekers.

In examining UFO abduction stories it should be noted that Hurd, in many ways echoing the now largely forgotten work of Celia Green and Charles McCreery that ISP can lead into much more complex dream experiences, including visits to fabulous realms, and into lucid dreams. The similarities to abduction and contactee tales are obvious.

Hurd walks a fine line between neurological and depth psychological approaches, with an open mind towards possible paranormal influences, though unlike many writers in this field he does not seek to bludgeon other people into accepting these possibilities.

He suggests that whether one regards the figures that are encountered in these experiences as aspects of one's own personality or having some sort of autonomy, they can be communicated with and stop becoming sources of threat into sources of powerful psychological insight.

While this might not be to everyone's taste, this little book does suggest a much more balanced and healing approach to alien abduction and other anomalous personal experiences and I would recommend it to anyone having them, a far better choice than falling into the hands of abduction finders, exorcists, self proclaimed psychics etc. -- Peter Rogerson

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