Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Psychoanalytic Search for the Origin of Yeti and Sasquatch Tales

While looking for journals pertaining to Sasquatch, I stumbled upon Fabula, a "Journal of Folklore Studies" printed in Germany. In it was an essay titled Abominable Snowman or Bigfoot: A Psychoanalytic Search for the Origin of Yeti and Sasquatch Tales, written by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries. In this article he tries to prove that "sightings are most likely of a delusionary, illusionary and hallucinatory nature" caused by "people living in isolated environments under conditions of severe stress". I find this hard to agree with. I have read hundreds of recorded sightings (most of them on, and in books like The Sasquatch and Other Unknown Hominoids, by Grover Krantz) and I can't even recall one where the eye-witness was under "conditions of severe stress." The large majority of recent sightings I have read involve the eye-witness driving on a highway and seeing one of these creatures cross the road.
Manfred also tries to claim that we can look at "the dream process as the model for the origin of the belief in giants and cannibalistic hairy monsters." In other words, the "myth" of Sasquatch stems from "an interplay of traces of fantasy and reality to make sense of the ever threatening outside world." This makes me ask myself, why would so many people imagine the same exact creature, and why wouldn't they be able to notice that they are fantasizing? What is causing this sudden lapse into dreamworld, and why is it that the only thing they imagine is a giant hairy man? It seems he had attempted to answer these questions by stating that there are "great similarities in the process among children and primitive man" in that they more easily ignore "boundaries between fantasy and reality." By primitive man he is referring to the native societies of America and Asia who acknowledge the existence of Sasquatch. He then goes on to explain that in the similar images of Sasquatch are most likely caused by phobias (and he uses the example of a child's feelings of aggression towards the father in the Oedipal stage) that create the illusion of a man combined with an ape or bear. He suggests the animal in many cases is a mental symbol of a father, while the ape or bear is mixed in because the are "many rituals and tales dealing with apes and bears." So with that he covered why Natives and children may believe they see Sasquatch, but as for those "modern" adult men and women have seen the creatures, he merely contends that "conditions of severe stress mobilized defenses and subsequently more primitive psychological processes became operational."
While Manfred's ideas of the human mind reacting in this way are not impossible, I find it very hard to believe that these circumstances account for every single one of the thousands of supposed encounters with Sasquatch. As with physical evidence, his explanation of the large number sighted and casted footprints of these creatures was that "some individuals, in an attempt to master their fears of such strange creatures, are engaged in a total identification process. Imitation and impersonation becomes a consequence." I personally cannot imagine such a large group of people who have this mental problem, and how exactly does this issue enable the person to grow large feet? Although this article was very interesting to read, I find the hypotheses presented very hard to believe.

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