Sensory deprivation tank experience, Part 2a. (Meet the tank.)

Continuing with my personal war on claustrophobia, I went for my second session in the sensory deprivation tank last weekend. Actually, it’s more of a battle against the tank at the moment. I can focus on the claustrophobia part in earnest once I get past the tank part.

I took a pic of the tank when I went that first time, but I didn’t post it – an omission that didn’t make sense, I realized afterward. It would’ve been useful as a visual aid as I described my experience! So I’ll present the tank in this post, and then I’ll write about my actual second experience in the next.

Meet my foe:


Sensory deprivation tank

Sensory deprivation tank


May I just say that I’m not proud of this pic, but I was working with a difficult subject, so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, I know. There’s just no way to make this thing look appealing. It’s an ugly S.O.B. and no amount of lipstick is going to change that.

The tank is oblong and angled; I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it reminded me of a coffin. It’s actually quite coffinesque, complete with six sides.

The second time I went, Callaghan came with me, and he took pics of the tank while I was inside:


Sensory deprivation tank, front view (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)

Sensory deprivation tank, front view (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)


Evidently, there are “sensory deprivation tanks” that allow for light, music, colors (I’ve heard a couple of mentions of colors, but I’m not sure what that means… colors of lights…?) and communication with a staff person via intercom. I’ve seen pics of these tanks online. They’re round and they look like pods, serene and blue, with lids that close like clamshells.

Whereas this thing I go into looks like a cross between a coffin and an ice chest.


Sensory deprivation tank (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)

Sensory deprivation tank (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)


This tank is exactly what it says it is: it’s designed to deprive you of your senses. It’s used for flotation therapy, too, but you don’t get to control the environment with niceties that contradict its name.

It’s pitch-black inside, and there’s no option for light. There’s no sound, and no option for music. There’s no intercom, so no option for communication.* There’s no level change or ledge or shelving inside, and nothing to grasp… the interior walls and floor are slick, and there’s nothing to hold onto. The tank is filled with heated water, so the air inside is humid and warm. You’re floating on top of the nearly-body-temperature water because it’s loaded with Dead Sea and Epsom salts; your body is suspended in a zero-gravity environment.

It almost feels like your body doesn’t even exist. And that, I suppose, is one of the broader points of the experience: you lose sense of your physical self, so you can go in the other direction and explore inward, in the depths of your mind, and outward, maybe, into an expanse of limitless unknown, where you can make discoveries about yourself and your place in the universe, and so on, and so forth.

So far, the only epiphany I’ve had in the damn tank is that I still get mad when I get hit.

The tank got on my bad side when it shut me in before I was ready that first time. It also made me angry at myself, which fueled my motivation even more. There’s nothing like losing to light a fire under your ass.

I will put myself into this tank until I can withstand it for a full hour with the door closed and no one else in the room. Then we’ll see who has claustrophobia!!

Plenty of people (probably most people) enter this tank for sensory-deprived flotation therapy, and they have a lovely time from the get-go with no problem at all. But for a claustrophobic person – I’m thinking it’s safe to speak on behalf of us all – this tank presents a considerable mental challenge. That’s why I’m doing it. I’m up for it. BRING IT.

Part 2 of Day 2 coming on Tuesday.


*When the staff person told me that there’s no intercom/communication system, I asked her how someone could alert her if there was a problem requiring immediate assistance. She assured me that they could hear if someone was “splashing around in there.”

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