Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, October 2016
An Interview with:
Chris Hancock, LCSW, a Tennessee Psychotherapist who delves into Anomalous Phenomena
by: Brent Raynes
Brent Raynes: Chris, please tell us a little about yourself and what has drawn you into the study of reported spiritual phenomena, near death experiences, and even UFO contact encounters?
Chris Hancock: Thanks, Brent, for the opportunity to introduce myself to your readership and be part of the AP tradition. I'm a native New Yorker who’s long known my home was in the South. My Father is from the deep South and undoubtedly that’s a big part of why. I spent a fair amount of time touring down here as a musician in my twenties as well, and every time I never wanted to leave. It was largely sentimental I guess. So after several years in Boston post college and a few years in NYC pursuing my MSW, I moved to Nashville in 2001 with a little encouragement from a close friend who was relocating there. About 6 months into my new start in Nashville I met the woman who would become my wife and the rest as they say is history. Otherwise, I've been working as a clinical social worker/psychotherapist ever since, currently in private practice since 2007. And I still do some music, avocationally.
My interest in all sorts of spiritual, mystical and otherwise anomalous phenomenon traces back, primordially, to the typical things for someone from my generation- Star Trek, ET, Close Encounters, Twilight Zone, V, etc. Coming across Whitley Strieber's Communion in High School introduced me to the abduction phenomenon. I devoured that book in a few hours and again multiple times. I was also reading Huxley’s Doors of Perception at the time. All I can say is Communion, in concert with Doors of Perception, left me with a profound sense of "knowing" that what was being described was absolutely at least possible. Hence, the birth of my Possibilism view. Later, while browsing through a bookstore in 1994 to find some reading material for a tour my band was about to embark on, I came across the Abduction, by Dr. John Mack. Suffice to say, I've been a Mack-ian ever since. Even through periods where my interest in these areas took a back seat, such as during my graduate studies, or when my interest naturally ebbed, I retained a fascination with Mack and his work, following him to whatever degree I could. Passport to the Cosmos, Mack’s second and final book is equally as compelling to me, if not more. Otherwise, probably starting in early college I developed a deep curiosity about the Eastern spiritual traditions, eastern thought in general and the esoteric wisdom schools.
The older I get, and the more content and stable my life becomes, the more passionately preoccupied I become with the possibilities for what we can discover about the nature of the multi-universe, the consensus reality bubble in which we live, the purpose for life on this plane, the question of consciousness (what is it, where it lives, non-locality, etc) and the possible interactivity we have with the spiritual world, other energies and intelligences. I could go on but that's probably enough for the first question!
Brent Raynes: You recently formed Support for Extraordinary Experience (SEE). Please tell us about SEE, why you formed it, and what you are hoping that it will achieve?
Chris Hancock: SEE is a natural outgrowth of my desire to take my psychotherapy practice out of the box, because that's more and more where I'm living. In fact, if I'm going to keep working as a therapist, I don't see that I have a choice, really. It’s viscerally pulling and pushing me. For the last 3 1/2 years I've been the psychotherapist in residence for the local chapter of Starborn Support- a private support group for Experiencers and their loved ones. It's headed up by my friend Debi Tripp who I met serendipitously- but by design or course- I'm convinced. It's been a privilege to know her, to meet and work with other Experiencers, hear their stories, learn more about how the phenomenon presents, how it affects people, and hear the sometimes wildly different perceptions of the motivations behind the "others."
So, my preexisting fascination with all things mystical/psycho-spiritual and anomalous was the foundation. An experience of being literally briefly walked-into by a (presumably negative or dark) spirit/entity while participating in a makeshift séance in India, as well as my experience with Starborn Support lit the fuse. What set it off though, if I had to nail it down, is my work starting a few years back with a remarkable individual that I still see who, in my view, is a case of genuine Spiritual Emergency if there ever was one. Her subsequent Emergence/Awakening process is still unfolding, in utterly profound and unpredictable ways. It took two psychiatric hospitalizations before we even realized what was going on. The third hospitalization, hopefully the last, was what sealed the deal. She went through, from what we can gather, an intense shamanic/hero's journey- the dark night of the soul, psychic dismemberment, shades of ego death, resurrection and rebirth sequence, replete with what appeared to be stigmata burns on her heels. She has pictures. It’s incredible. Nearly perfectly round. All the while she was, for all intents and purposes, catatonic. Anyway, at this point she’s on no psychiatric medication and functioning at the highest level I’ve seen yet. Her life is entirely spirit guide-led and healing service oriented. She takes no money for any healing service she performs, because that’s the mission she was given, and accepted. Now, we may never arrive at a complete understanding. So the not-knowing is as compelling as the glimpses of knowing we're able to more or less stumble upon. But it's clear that what looked like and could easily have been classified as multiple episodes of organic psychosis is, in this case, not so simple.
As Stanislav Grof, the Czechoslovakian Psychiatrist who coined the phrase "Spiritual Emergency" in the 80’s described, people who experience traditional psychotic episodes, let alone repeated ones that lead to hospitalization and treatment with psychotropic meds, don't tend to get better following each episode. Their condition may not worsen, their functioning may not deteriorate, but they usually don't get better-- as in, clearer, more aware, more creative, more tapped in, more productive, intuitive, and higher functioning. People in Spiritual Emergency, if it's recognized for what it is, and given the proper support, DO tend to get better in these ways. So this has been, and still is a profound clinical and human experience for me. It reinforces how much there is to learn, how much we still don't understand and in my view, the ways Spirit interacts and perhaps calls some of us- akin to the shamanic illness/calling- sometimes without warning. So this was the final inspiration for launching SEE.
In going forth, I hope for the opportunity to work with more folks experiencing any and all things that can be classified, even potentially, as Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE). A gifted psychic medium I met with recently told me my central gift- my contribution- was in my ability to "hold space" and ground people as they process and integrate non-ordinary experiences. The aforementioned individual I have walked alongside through her emergence process echoes this, and so, hopefully I can continue to offer this to others. As to where SEE will actually go, I don't know. I’m trying not to get in the way of the “plan” as it were. The Tarot has indicated I have to be patient-patient-patient, let it unfold, be exceptionally discerning with regards to what is actually happening with people, and be entirely open to SEE becoming something other than what I may have originally conceived. Funny enough, I've gotten so much enjoyment from meeting and talking with different healers, shamanic practitioners and psychics in particular, in the interest of building a kind of wraparound service for future SEE clients, that I've started to wonder if some part of it might be a podcast, a show, or some form of media where I sit down with Experiencers and open-minded practitioners of all kinds- to help raise awareness, educate, and maybe even entertain. Who knows? But for now, SEE is a pilot customized therapeutic and consultation service for people having extraordinary experiences and/or professionals treating them that could use some guidance. It's being offered in-office service for local clients, and by phone or secure video for those outside the Middle Tennessee area.
Brent Raynes: At this point, do you have any favored theory or theories that you may feel will best eventually explain the anomalous phenomena that you are pursuing?
Chris Hancock: Yes, and no. My overarching ethos is Possibilism, as mentioned earlier. I try to stay open to and investigate anything and everything that I come across. I'm dubious of all purpose, encapsulating theories especially in regards to “boarderland” phenomena because of how little we really seem to understand; how limited our perceptual abilities are in this dimension, if you will. Also, in my conventional psychotherapy career, the early years in particular, I tended toward being a bit of theory wonk, perhaps to the detriment of developing my intuitive skills and to my therapeutic presence, and ultimately, my clients' best interest. I've realized that people in need don't usually care about theories, by and large, they just want a therapist who’s present, perceptive, compassionate, actually gives a crap, and fully shows up. That's the only thing that's ever helped me. So I'm trying not to do the same thing in this area-- especially in working with people who tend to feel alienated, marginalized, and ripe for labeling for having undergone experiences or events that sit squarely outside "consensus reality."
I am reading about Dr. Edgar Mitchell’s Quantum Hologram Theory, of which I know you are quite familiar given your involvement with FREE, and your readers may be as well. Quantum mechanics and the New Paradigm Science obviously holds incredible promise as for how we may further our understanding. Just take the discovery (confirmation?) of quantum entanglement alone. And the way the new science is proving what the mystics have been saying for centuries-- such as the opposite of a profound truth being not a falsehood, but another profound truth. We could spend a lifetime contemplating these things alone, right? And as you and I have discussed, I lean toward the view that all the various anomalous phenomena should not be investigated as disparate, discreet occurrences, but as variations on a theme-- as manifestations with common root, common mechanisms. That’s why I envision SEE being a therapeutic outpost for anyone experiencing ANY type of phenomena that has altered their reality. Could be literally anything. Otherwise, Jon Klimo's Cosmological Dissociation theory as pertaining to channeling is something I'm finding very compelling lately as I'm doing some sitting/space holding for the aforementioned client who has rather spontaneously opened up to channel recently. But as far as a total conceptual theory that can explain it all, I think we're far, far from that. I think the key is in the quantum realm, but as Thomas Edison said long ago, "We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything." I suspect that's still the case, really.
Brent Raynes: What are some of your favorite authors and works in this field?
Chris Hancock: Well, foremost on the ET/Abduction side, the work of Dr. John Mack has my heart. His initial conclusions based on hundreds if not thousands of interviews with experiencers that they evidenced no known psychopathology as a group aside from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that could otherwise account for or explain their experiences was a watershed moment for me, as a psychotherapist in particular. I was taken with one of David Jacob's earlier books "Secret Life," about the hybridization theory, though where he's gone since has left me cold, I'll just say that. I follow people like Grant Cameron and Richard Dolan closely. Outside this area, I really like the afterlife investigation work of Stafford Betty mostly based on the communications of well-vetted mediums. In a primordial sense, I draw on Joseph Campbell's archetypal mythology-- the Hero's Journey as a conceptual template for individual's psycho-spiritual emergencies- notably those that begin spontaneously and follow the classic death- resurrection and rebirth symbolism. As far as parapsychology and consciousness studies, I refer to the work of Jeffery Mishlove, Stanley Krippner and Charles Tart. Stanislav and Christina Grof’s work on Spiritual Emergency of course is/was foundational. Also, on the purely psychological/transpersonal psychotherapy side of things, I'm partial to Multiplicity of Mind-related models, as evidenced through Transactional Analysis and Ego State Therapy models, Roberto Assagioli's Psychosynthesis, and more recently, Dr. Richard Schwartz' Internal Family Systems model-- the latter two I feel further our understanding of what Self is, and what Essence really means.
The implications of these models especially for those who have experienced trauma- of whatever origin- are significant. Of course, Carl Jung and other Jungian luminaries like John Weir Perry and Dr. David Lukoff are shaping my thought. Dr. Lukoff was responsible for getting a new classification of Spiritual or Religious Problem into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) used in conventional psychiatry and much psychotherapy practices. I'm excited for the opportunity to meet both Dr. Lukoff and Stafford Betty in a few weeks as they're both speaking at the annual ACISTE conference-- a training organization for life coaches, spiritual counselors and mental health therapists treating people having STE's. What else? Dion Fortune, the 19th century occultist/psychologist's work "Psychic Self-Defense" is opening my eyes wider to the history of the Western Mystery Tradition and helping me more sharply distinguish between objective psychic attack and subjective psychic disturbance. I'm also studying the Tarot and other divination traditions, exploring modern energy work methods with the assistance of shamanic practitioners I'm meeting and working with. I'm about to start plowing the NDE literature, probably starting with Dr. Kenneth Ring, which I know is vital. It’s an exciting time in my career I tell you. A time of great change and expansion. I’m so grateful.
Brent Raynes: To date, have you investigated anyone's stories that have had a strong influence on your thinking in these strange matters?
There are many stories of high strangeness I've read about and heard, especially over the last three or so years. I can't say I've personally intensely investigated any, but that may change as I head further down the rabbit hole! I did attend the Experiencers Speak Conference in Maine a few years back. I got to hear about the Linda Cortille Brooklyn Bridge Abduction incident, albeit an abbreviated version, from hers truly. Also heard a compelling summary of the Allagash Abductions, as well as Tom Reed's famous family abduction experience. I'll tell you whose case really gripped me was that of William Konkolesky, a MUFON field investigator from Michigan with his own history of abduction and personal interest-taking by ET's. He has a book out which is on my list. He gave the most sober and convincing account I've personally ever heard. I was floored.
Brent Raynes: Have you had any personal anomalous experiences yourself?
Chris Hancock: Other than the aforementioned séance/walk-in experience in India, no, not that I'm aware of. But that was enough to convince me of the existence of a world beyond, and showed me it ain’t always love and light! There are indeed unhappy souls surrounding us. It was quite scary for a few moments anyway. A few minutes into our friend trance channeling a spirit, suddenly my body temp dropped to the point of shivering. And just at the moment I thought I was about to projectile vomit, it instantaneously left me and I returned back to normal. Well, not normal. I was never that to start with, and how would you return to normality after something like that anyway? That same spirit, presumably, proceeded to take over another member of the circle, and it got even darker. But it was all alright in the end. I think my friends actually ushered the spirit on.
Brent, thank you so much for the interview. I hope we do it again in the future. In the meantime, if anyone has questions or needs therapeutic assistance with processing and integrating any type of Spiritually Transformative Experience, I can be reached at (615) 915-3892 or through my FB: www.facebook.com/SupportforExtraordinaryExperience.