Stress Management for UFOlogists
Research Material Provided by:
John F. Schuessler
Mutual UFO Network, Inc.
Post Office Box 369
Morrison, Colorado 80465-0369
All human beings experience various forms of stress every day of their lives. Since ufologists are human beings, they cannot expect to be stress free. In fact, they experience some unique forms of stress very much like that experienced by explorers, research scientists, and entrepreneurs. Ufologists are busy collecting data associated with anomalous events, interfacing with research institutions and government agencies, dealing with the most varied populations of humans possible, lacking sufficient funding and support, and usually doing this as an unpaid second job. These factors naturally subject ufologists to additional forms of stress that they would not otherwise experience. Why do some individuals handle the stress better than others? How can UFO organizations help their workers deal with stress? Are there some common sense steps available to ufologists for stress relief? This paper provides answers to these questions and more.
What Causes Stress?
Stress results from the interaction between a person and his environment. It appears when there is a discrepancy between the demands made upon a person and his perceived ability to respond to these demands. Stress can result from both positive and negative events.
Some General Thoughts About Dealing With Stress
We live in an ever-changing world. That means change is natural, but that same change is what produces the demands on people that results in the stress in their lives. Since change is an evolutionary process, dealing with it requires patience with one's self and others, education and learning, and the passage of time.
If a person can stand out as assured, oriented, educated, in control, and conforming to high standards as a source of honor, strength and maturity; then that person will be able to deal with stress in a healthy and productive way.
The individual can be as stressed or stress-free as they decide to be. Start by diagnosing what is going on that is causing stress. Then take responsibility for your own actions. Realize that it is not your job to fix everything or do everything. Since stress in natural and can be either positive or negative, your job is to manage stress to a comfortable level.
Our society tends to drive people to seek instant gratification in everything they do. There is also a tendency to expect others to do what ever it takes to help you achieve this instant gratification. This isn't likely to happen very often and so it becomes a source of frustration and disappointment.
Happiness is key to stress reduction and you are as happy as you decide to be. Be a beacon of light - have a positive outlook. Celebrate your accomplishments and try to catch other people doing things right. Don't dwell on the negative outcomes. Do not despair. Your capacity to respond will match any challenge that may confront you. Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled.
Some Sources of Stress for Ufologists
While the methods addressed in this paper may be useful for dealing with the normal sources of stress such as: job, family, illness, death, divorce, marriage, retirement, finances, and other normal stress producing events, I will only address some of the specific sources of stress experienced by ufologists, as follows:
1. Too many UFO reports
2. Too few UFO reports
3. Lack of access to the latest tools for detection and identification of UFOs
4. Lack of the necessary funds to travel and conduct extended investigations
5. Lack of time
9. Experts and their egos
11. Government cover-up
12. Public appearances
Dealing With Ufological-related Stress
Ufologists must deal with some unique stress-generating situations. Whether or not they are successful in dealing with these situations will depend on their response to stress in general, plus some knowledge and understanding about the cause of ufological-related stress. Because we are all unique individuals, there is no 'one size fits all' approach to stress management. However, the following information may be useful in forming your own approach to ufological-related stress.
Too Many UFO Reports:
While this may not seem like a big problem to everyone, some people are frustrated by it. If you live in an area where UFOs are frequently reported, you may feel over-worked and under appreciated. A single UFO incident can take hundreds of hours to properly investigate and document. It all begins with a report to the media, police, or UFO organization. Then you must locate and contact the witnesses, do a screening interview and then visit the site of the incident. Site visits may lead to additional witnesses. Collecting and safeguarding physical evidence is an important part of the job as well. Seeking possible explanations can take as much time as the basic data collection phase of the investigation and often involves revisiting the site and original witnesses. Before the case is ready for peer review or closure, the job of documenting every facet of the case can take a lot of time.
If you are in a "hot" area, you may get additional reports while you are still working on the first incident. Often, the tendency is to jump on the new case and put the original one on hold because a fresh case can be more exciting than the grunt-work phase of the original case. After this happens two or three times, you may be getting very frustrated at the workload you are seeing and the lack of gaining closure on any of the incidents. As a result, many good cases never get past the investigator's notebook or tape recorder.
There is a simple solution to this problem. It is called teamwork. Sharing the workload with other investigators can drastically reduce the frustration-induced stress. In addition, it can result in a faster, more complete investigation. There is a lot of common sense in the old adage - "two heads are better than one."
Too Few UFO Reports:
Some areas of the world seem to have very few UFO reports. Whether this is because there is no agency available to collect the reports, or it is against the sociological norm for the area, or UFOs are not seen, is not relevant to the stress management issue.
When a person becomes a UFO investigator, he/she expects to conduct investigations. That is why they spent the time and energy to become a certified investigator. Having nothing to investigate is as frustrating as having too many reports to investigate.
The stress caused by this situation may be relieved by using the time to study past cases, get familiar with the history of ufology in your area, to establish contacts with the police, weather, military and business officials, and to develop a well-stocked field investigators kit. Also, through networking you may establish contacts where you can assist other investigators in UFO hot spots.
Lack of Access to the Latest Tools for Detection and Identification of UFOs:
It is unusual for a volunteer UFO investigator to begin his/her quest with a fully outfitted investigator's kit. Usually, the kit is developed a piece at a time as the investigator's budget permits and generally consists of a field meter, camera, video recorder, Geiger counter and a few other items. Even then, the investigator may never have the funds available to buy expensive pieces of analytical equipment or have access to well-stocked research laboratories.
Lacking the proper tools to do the job is a very frustrating situation. This is especially true when the investigator encounters physical evidence in a case and has no way to determine what that evidence means.
It is also frustrating to know that most military installations, national laboratories, private laboratories and universities have tons of equipment capable of providing the answers we are seeking and we have no way to get them involved in the investigation.
The stress reliever in this instance is a bit more difficult to find. Initially, you must be satisfied you have done everything you can do and be proud of that accomplishment. However, by following the industry technique of "continuous improvement," you can build on your successes by teaming with other investigators having access to additional equipment; developing contacts in local businesses that can assist with laboratory work; affiliating with local police agencies to tap their forensic capabilities; and perhaps eventually establishing a working relationship with government agencies to gain their technical support.
Lack of the Necessary Funds to Travel and Conduct Extended Investigations:
UFO reports can occur anywhere. Many reports come from remote areas of the state or country. This means the closest investigator may be miles away from the scene of the incident. Since a thorough investigation may take days or even weeks to complete, this means the investigator must be financially able to establish a base near the scene of the incident and remain their until the investigation is finished or make numerous trips to the scene. Since few investigators are independently wealthy, taking the dollars from the family budget for an extended stay or repeated trips can be very stressful to the investigator and his/her family. It may even mean that the annual family vacation must be aborted in favor of the investigation, something that is never forgotten by the family members.
Since money problems are very high on the list of stress makers for most people, this can be a difficult situation to face. Again, however, it is important for the investigator to do the best job he/she can do, while minimizing the impact on the family. Celebrate the success of the investigation even if it cannot be as extensive of you would like it to be.
This may be a situation where teamwork is almost mandatory in order to accomplish the whole investigation. With several people on the case, it can go much faster and require less time in the field. One team member can handle the witness interrogations while another is collecting and documenting physical evidence and another is working with local police and county agencies. To reduce costs even more, the team may choose to camp out in the field during the investigation.
And last but not least, the Mutual UFO Network, the National Institute for Discovery Science, or other groups may be able to help with the field work by assisting with the cost of the investigation, supplying additional field investigators, and helping with the laboratory analysis of the physical evidence. Such teamwork can significantly reduce the investigator's out-of-pocket expenses.
Lack of Time:
In our fast-paced society, we all feel the pressure of too much to do and too little time to get it all done. For the ufologist, this can be highly stressful because many ufologists work at full-time jobs, have family and societal duties and still conduct extensive UFO investigations.
Initially, this can be a devastating problem for ufologists. The drive to do a good investigation can become so intensive that work and family duties can suffer. The answer to this problem is found in maintaining a balance. It is the same as maintaining a balance between work and family life. For the ufologist, however, the balance must include a third factor - their UFO investigations.
I have heard it said that the most frustrating and least useful aspect of ufology is the machinations of the debunkers. Debunkers are experts at the use of disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda. They provide prosaic explanations for everything. If the first story gets challenged, they simply generate another story and do not even apologize for changing their position. No information or data supplied by the ufologist is ever good enough for them. Truth, honesty, ethics and things like that are foreign to their way of operating because it might erode their position. They seldom do real investigations. Most of their explanations are canned and used over and over so that they do not feel it necessary to do investigations. All this is very frustrating to the ufologists that conduct extensive investigations, record every little detail of a UFO incident, assemble statistics, maintain vast databases, and probably most of all, respect the good and honest witnesses who report their UFO incidents.
Perhaps it would help ufologists to deal with the debunkers if they understood why the debunkers act in such a manner. This is best described in The Argument Culture, a book by Georgetown University professor Deborah Tannen. These machinations are an example of what the cultural linguist Walter Ong calls "agonism" or "programmed contentiousness." Agonism does not refer to disagreement, conflict, or vigorous dispute. It refers to ritualized opposition.
Professor Tannen says: "The way we train our students, conduct our classes and our research, and exchange ideas at meetings and in print are all driven by our ideological assumption that intellectual inquiry is a metaphorical battle. Following from that is a second assumption, that the best way to demonstrate intellectual prowess is to criticize, find fault, and attack." Further, she says: "Many aspects of our academic lives can be described as agonistic. For example, in our scholarly papers, most of us follow a conventional framework that requires us to position our work in opposition to someone else's, which we prove wrong. The framework tempts - almost requires - us to oversimplify or even misrepresent others' positions; cite the weakest example to make a generally reasonable work appear less so; and ignore facts that support other's views, citing only evidence that supports our own positions." This approach "fosters a stance of arrogance and narrow-mindedness." There is much more of value in The Argument Culture, but in these few words, I believe Professor Tannen has clearly exposed the operating technique used by most debunkers.
With this information in mind, it is fairly obvious that we are stuck with a continuing tirade by the debunkers and it will continue until they all die off. They are unable to change - they are programmed to act as they do.
Fortunately, most ufologists have no desire to play the debunkers game. Programmed contentiousness is viewed as dishonest, unfair and unethical. It puts an end to exploring ideas, uncovering nuances, comparing and contrasting different interpretations of a particular work, and gaining a deeper and more accurate understanding of the material. It kills the quest for open-minded inquiry.
Even knowing all of this, ufologists still allow themselves to be stressed by the actions of debunkers. A good investigator is likely to be provoked by a debunker's announcement that a certain UFO was actually Venus when everyone knows that Venus was not visible at the time. A debunker's demand for "all of your investigative files so I can identify the UFO," is another provoking ploy. They play on your ego by saying "I have never seen any credible evidence of a UFO," hoping you will try to provide some evidence that will convince them. Will it convince them? No! Their debunker's pre-subscribed dogma will not allow it. If all else fails, they will claim it is your responsibility as an investigator to respond to their demands. Don't fall for that ploy. Only you and the organization you represent can define your responsibilities.
A formula for avoiding stress caused by the actions of the debunkers is to follow industry's lead in looking for "value added" in any interchange or effort. If there is nothing to be gained from responding to them, then don't do it. Apply your energies where they will make a difference. Don't play their game. It takes two to make a game and if you do not respond to their provocation, then they do not have a game. They lose and you are not stressed.
Criticism is usually stressful and the world is full of critics. In ufology, a lot of criticism stems from the "beliefs" held by the critic. You may be criticized because you accept the extraterrestrial hypothesis or you do not accept it; because of your stance on abductions; the way you conduct an investigation; whether or not you attend meetings; which organization you support; your views on the conspiracy theories; and just about everything else you accept or do.
It is more difficult if your critic is someone you respect in the field, a co-worker, a family member, someone from your church, an alumni pal, or a business acquaintance. Nevertheless, the game is the same. The critic wants you to believe and act as they do whether or not it makes any sense. Critics pride themselves at being good at pushing your buttons to get you to respond.
You may find that personal criticism is the most difficult stress maker of all. It strikes at your personal being. It attacks your ego. It affects your self-image in a number of ways. It makes you feel like you did something wrong. It points out that you are not conforming to pre-described norm and this hurts even if you don't agree with that norm. It may make you mad. And worst of all, it may make you want to give up - to quit.
If you are more experienced in dealing with people, you will quickly recognize the critic's style and be able to deal with it. However, ufologists are generally caring and honest people. That is why they try to help the victims of UFO events. If you are in this category, you may find it difficult to refute the criticism until you have developed the necessary skills to do it. At that point, the critic may explain that they were just playing the part of the devil's advocate. My response to that claim is that "only the devil needs a devil's advocate."
Be an optimist. Critics are almost always pessimists. If you doubt the wisdom in remaining optimistic, consider the study done by researchers at the Mayo Clinic. They found that mind and body are linked and that attitude has an impact on the final outcome, death. They found that optimistic people live about 19 percent longer than pessimists.
In the dark ages of ufology, some thirty to forty years ago, ufologists were afraid to tell their employers about their interest in the subject for fear of retribution or loss of employment. Fortunately, employers are more enlightened today. The equal opportunity laws and privacy laws thwart their attempts to control employees' private lives. Industry leaders are becoming more open to new experiences and ideas because of the fast-paced changes in science and technology. Many things that were once seen as impossible are now a reality or are on the horizon, soon to become a reality. People have a right to a life outside of work and most companies today encourage that to happen. Unfortunately, this is not true for many government workers who must still conform to the old rules of the game.
Some ufologists cause a problem with their employers because they expect to be able to spend their working hours steeped in their UFO interests. They expect their employer to be as interested as they are; but this is seldom the case. Employers are generally interested in the success of their business and everything else is secondary. Admittedly, some employers still want to own their employees and control their lives. The good news is that the legal system will eventually get them for it if they don't run themselves out of business due to their archaic ways first.
A good way to control stress associated with your employment is to lead a balanced life. Ufology does not need to be all consuming. An employee can have a strong interest in UFOs, do investigations, participate in the work of non-profit corporations and still be equally involved in their job at the same time. The third part of the balance involves maintaining a happy personal life as well. Balance is a good stress reliever.
Experts and Their Egos:
A lesser, yet still significant source of stress for ufologists comes from the so-called experts. Many experts are so wrapped-up in themselves and their findings that they belittle the work of others in the field. Some are considered to be experts because of their long-time involvement in the field. Others are instant experts because of their credentials. Experts make broad declarations based on their findings and expect everyone else to agree with the result. At times they will "take another look" as some older case and come up with a sudden insight explaining it. When they do this, they are assuming the style of the debunker.
Most ufologists do not see themselves as experts. Instead they are workers in the field, trying to add information to the database and to discover the realities of the big UFO mystery. They recognize that this is a work-in-progress and want to contribute to the eventual solution. To these workers, the expert is often an icon to be admired and supported. When this expert says and does things that belittles the work of others, or expounds on their personal bias in cases, the worker is often dismayed or stressed over it.
While it may be natural to get mad or disgruntled by the proclamations of the experts, there is an easy way to relieve the stress of the situation. Just remember that the experts are people too. The may have interesting credentials and a significant public image. However, they are on the same journey as you. The do not have all the answers yet and in fact, may not be any closer to the real answers than you. Otherwise the UFO mystery would be solved and the experts would no longer be needed. Work with them and learn from them, but don't turn them into idols.
Much of the stress we feel comes from lack of communications. Some people need to be constantly in contact with others, interchanging ideas and getting feedback. Others don't need as much contact. All, however, are stressed if they do not get the amount of communications they need. Some join UFO organizations in order to improve their access to information. They may not know what they want, what kind, or how much communication they need; but if the organization doesn't measure up to this nebulous definition of need, they quit. Some solve their need for increased communications via the Internet. They may not care about the quality or depth of the material they are getting on the Internet as long as their communication need is satisfied. They may send a letter or e-mail to someone and then expect an immediate reply. If they don't get it, then they are mad and stressed over it.
This is a difficult problem to solve. It is based on expectations and often these are unexpressed expectations. It goes without saying that there would be a lot less communication-related stress if every individual and organization would improve the communications process. While this may eventually happen, you do have control over half of the communication process. Communicate as little or as much as is required to satisfy your own comfort level; but don't set a stressful level of expectation for the communication you expect in return. You do not and cannot control how much or how little other people participate in the communications process. It even helps to strive for quality, not quantity in these exchanges.
A 1997 public opinion poll showed that 82% of Americans believe the government is hiding evidence of intelligent life in space and a 1996 poll showed that 49% of Americans believe the government is concealing UFO information. My guess is that more than 95% of ufologists believe the government is concealing UFO information. This is a very frustrating situation. Most ufologists are hard working, church-going, proud citizens. Many are veterans of the various armed forces and some had UFO experiences while in the military.
Additionally, ufologists are generally well versed in advances in science and technology. They know about all of the technological devices available to military agencies that have the ability to detect, locate, track and identify UFOs. At the same time these ufologists are unable to tap into any of this technology while investigating UFO cases and so they must be content with eyewitness testimony, trace effects, photographs and videotapes as their documentation of UFO events. When they try to remedy this situation by contacting government agencies, they are usually given the idiot treatment. Is there any wonder they are stressed about it.
Yelling about "government cover-up" isn't going to help much either. The cover-up has been going on for fifty years and is pretty well entrenched. There are experts with big budgets controlling this information. Verbal attacks on the government get lost in the noise of the hundreds of other groups attacking the government. If you are going to make headway on this problem, then concentrate first on improving the quality of your investigations and the depth of your documentation. Don't allow your results to languish in your file cabinet. Get the information out to the public.
Perhaps you can affiliate with non-profit groups that can act as a body to establish a working relationship with some government agencies that could eventually result in an open flow of UFO-related data in real time while a UFO event is going on. Such a venture could help government agencies reestablish a level of trust within the American public, something that is badly needed. This is at least worth a try.
Public speaking can be stressful. It exposes you to an unknown audience, unusual questions, and unknown outcomes. Some people cannot do it without a carefully prepared text in front of them. Others have the ability to speak in an impromptu fashion. All experience some level of stress during the process. Unfortunately for any ufologist with a fear of public appearances, it is still important to do it. It is a part of the communication process that exposes more and more people to the details of the UFO mystery.
Most people can eventually overcome the fear of public speaking and then they find it very rewarding. Something to keep in mind when asked by the local radio or television station, newspaper, or service club, is that you have the information they want and need. You are in control of that information. The more often you appear, the easier it gets. If you want to improve more quickly, then join a local Toastmaster's Club or take some courses at a local educational institution. The additional bounty gained in making public appearances is that it improves your speaking skills and self-assurance level for work, home and service organizations.
Sources of stress are everywhere and need to be dealt with or they can be debilitating. I have noted a few of the sources of stress experienced by ufologists, but the list could go on and on. The main thing to remember is that you can be as stressed or as stress free as you decide to be. Don't let others assign stress to you.
The Organization's Role in Stress Management
Belonging to a UFO organization can be a source of stress or a source of stress relief, depending on your own attitude and expectations. The organization is only as good as the people that belong to it.
A UFO organization can provide a lot of guidance and support to its members. As an umbrella, it can provide rules, standardized processes, bylaws, databases, connections, networking, communications, and rewards that cannot be gained elsewhere. Unless you are a complete loner that doesn't care about working with others for a common solution to the UFO problem, then affiliation with a UFO organization can be helpful and rewarding.
A UFO organization can also be a source of stress, especially if you have a high level of expectation of what the organization should do for you. Standardization of processes and reporting is important in science and engineering, but some ufologists aren't interested in that so it is stressful to them. The organization may also levy a demand for respect among its members, ethical behavior, business-like performance, and more, in the same way that any other corporation works. Some people find such responsible behavior to be stressful and avoid it.
Some simple barometers or indicators of an organization's condition are energy level, attitude, and perseverance. There are other measures, of course, but these will help you see what you need to do to help the organization to be the best it can be.
Energy level is a measure of the vitality of the organization. What is the energy level? Are members for the most part positive, active and motivated; or are they listless and apathetic? Do members arise to do what is required of them? You can make a difference in every one of these measures and find it to be a stress relieving experience.
Attitude means a lot. Does the organization care about its members? Is it a positive, living, expanding organization? Is it aloof and exists only for itself? What kind of attitude do you expect of the organization? Again, your participation and guidance can make the organization a raving success.
Perseverance determines the long-range success and ultimate life span of the organization. Are the UFO investigations being conducted and documented in a timely manner? How well are members persevering? Has the membership been dropping or rising? How many people who became members over the past five years are still active? You are key to perseverance in the organization and working on this issue can be a rewarding and stress relieving experience. The alternative is more stressful.
The organization provides a way to meet a diversity of needs and interests. The organization provides for unity in diversity of actions, a condition in which different individuals concentrate on different activities. Each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing. The diversity found in the organization relieves the pressure on the individual to do everything, a stress-mitigating factor.
Attitudes and Practices That Affect Stress
Physical care and mental care are key factors leading to a healthy and stress free life. Some simple rules that will help you deal with stress and maintain a balanced life are as follows:
· Let stressors only touch the surface of your life. Remain calm and serene inside.
· Do not neglect your health.
· Safeguard you nerves and force yourself to take time for rest and relaxation.
· Get sufficient rest - sleep eight hours each night.
· Have high ideals and translate them into action. This leads to joy, satisfaction and enthusiasm.
· Maintain a positive attitude.
Stress is a natural condition. While some kinds of stress are positive and others are negative, we cannot escape stress. That means we need to deal with the stress in our lives and through our actions control it. Since ufologists are exposed to some unique types of stress due to the nature of the job, it is important to understand there are ways to control and handle that stress. Working on the greatest mystery of our age should be an enjoyable and challenging experience. By learning to handle the stresses associated with the job, it will be a rewarding experience.