Sensory Deprivation – What it Actually Means
First off, I think the term ‘Sensory Deprivation’ sounds a bit scary, like what might be used to torture a prisoner, by placing them in solitary confinement in a dark cell with nothing else. Yikes! Doesn’t sound fun, does it? That is completely the opposite of the effect of floating in real life. Let me explain.
We are all familiar with the basic 5 senses: Seeing, Touching, Hearing, Tasting and Smelling. The input we get to those senses is, at a basic level, our safety net for survival. It is our body’s first alert system that seeks to protect ourselves by sensing danger around us. Seeing a dangerous animal, feeling the prick of a cactus, tasting food that has gone bad, hearing a car approaching behind us, smelling smoke, all trigger our body to release stress hormones called Cortisol. These hormones help our body deal more effectively to react to the stressor by triggering our ‘Fight or Flight’ response. They trigger our body to move blood from our brain and central organs to our extremities so we can run faster, or fight back harder. In this mode, when the body is providing less blood, and therefore oxygen, to our brains. We are no longer thinking as clearly as before the stressor occurred. Solving a math problem or creating the next new ‘Million Dollar Idea’ is the least of our worries when our life is on the line.
With floating, you are restricting the input to these 5 senses. That’s where the term Sensory Deprivation came from. While floating effortlessly in the quiet darkness, no new stressors are triggered. You are free to drift to a place where your mind is not actively searching for these potential stressors. However, that is only part of the story. During your float, the high concentration of Epsom Salts (aka Magnesium Sulfate) in the water will be detoxifying your body of the cortisol still circulating in your body from previous stress events. You may not even be aware that you were carrying around this residual stress, or in cases such as those suffering from acute anxiety like PTSD, you may, unfortunately, be fully aware of this burden of stress.
As your body is healing from stress, the blood and oxygen flow back into the central organs and brain. This is when your mind can give your 6th sense your full attention. Merriam Webster defines the Sixth Sense as: ‘a power of perception like but not one of the five senses; a keen intuitive power’. Your Ego Mind can become overwhelmed by stress from the basic 5 senses, residual stress, as well as those things imagined as stressors in everyday life. Your Authentic Self, the part of you that connects you to Universal Knowledge and Pure Love, is released into your awareness. This shedding of the cloud created by the Ego Mind is what I refer to as ‘Floating Naked’. Answers that were previously blocked by the stressed Ego Mind, can now be understood. A feeling of contentment and focus is awakened. Your now uncluttered mind is open to learning and expressing creativity in ways that may surprise you!
Well beyond just stress relief and relaxation, the sense of contentment and enhanced understanding, focus, learning and creativity are some of the true results of floating or flotation therapy. This is clearly very, very distant from the idea of deprivation. Find out what you are depriving yourself of without flotation therapy!