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Tripping in a float tank

What does complete sensory deprivation feel like?

Ferdinand Vogler
Feb 18, 2016 · 3 min read
Let me read this article for you.

“Psychologists stuck 19 healthy volunteers into a sensory-deprivation room, completely devoid of light and sound, for 15 minutes. Without the normal barrage of sensory information flooding their brains, many people reported experiencing visual hallucinations, paranoia and a depressed mood.

You get into a light and sound absorbing capsule filled with salt water that has the same temperature as your skin. Besides not seeing or hearing anything, your body doesn’t put up any energy to regulate its temperature. You float weightlessly. The theory is: you are left alone with nothing else but the sensations that your mind delivers.

Flashing lights, wild hallucinations

I went into the capsule without any expectations. I thought it would be a very quiet place for about an hour. And it was… exactly that. No mind games, trips to parallel universes or encounters with extraterrestrial entities.

But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead of stomping out of the capsule and demanding a refund for the missed mental rollercoaster I felt very relaxed and deeply focused. Like a shortcut to a peaceful state that most people only achieve after a lot of meditation practice. Half an hour in I underwent some interesting experiences. Everything was pitch black and I couldn’t tell if my eyes were opened or closed. I did see morphing shapes of color. Just like the afterimage you see after looking into the sun, only much more subtle. Maybe you know that feeling of hearing your body when you wear ear plugs. You feel the regularity of your breathing. I suddenly became aware of the sound of blood rushing through my veins, stomach, spine, my joints — with every heartbeat my body is performing and operating.
I am a biological system.


Ninety minutes have passed and dimmed lights awaken my zero-g snoozing. I open the lid and sit in the shallow water for a moment. Suddenly I know what people mean with “being in touch with yourself”. I take a icecold shower, get dressed again and leave the institute. The streets are jammed with cars, it’s rush hour in Zurich and the weather is freezing. Compressed air escaping from the bus hydraulics, howling winds, cars honking, smartphones buzzing, beeping and that distinctive WhatsApp whistle. I have become sensitive to even the slightest sounds. This is what we deal with everyday? Maybe there really is something to creating your own quiet place — be it in salty water or sitting on the floor of your apartment. I found it to be very benefitial. Try it for yourself and don’t expect any miracles.

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