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Isolation Tank - The story of a ‘mystical’ device for the exploration of the human consciousness.

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Isolation Tank The story of a 'mystical' device for the exploration of the human consciousness. Human evolution can be described as a constant expansion of our consciousness, physically by reaching new places and mentally by exploring different realities. These explorations have offered us the knowledge to develop from the primitive, unarmed creatures we were, to today's 'wise' men who are able to predict and to some extend control the forces of the nature. During the 20th century humankind have reached physically into space as far as up to the moon and mentally explored within its own self in depths never reached before. The story of the Isolation Tank (IT) is a story of a device created to explore new realities within our brain never experienced before. This essay gives a brief definition of what the IT is and the historical framework in which it was created. Furthermore, it is discussed whether people do experienced different, unfamiliar realities through the IT as early studies on IT have supported, or whether the 'bizarre' experiences recorded in the IT where a myth as more recent studies suggest. ...read more.


According to the early studies on the effects of the IT, it is suggested that people go through four main states (Bexton, Heron & Scott, 1954; Lilly, 1956; Zuckerman, 1964). Firstly a person experience a sense of relaxation for a few minutes before it enters into a second state of severe 'hunger' for stimuli. At this second state the brains 'starves' for external stimulation and is described as a highly stressful and frustrating experience lasting about 45 minutes. If a person succeeds to control him/herself and remain in the tank enters into the third state. The third state is a state of relaxation similar to the one when we are daydreaming. Finally, after this third state it is reported that some people have experience a fourth state were various 'unfamiliar' feelings ranging from experiences of unknown realities, vivid inner-self trips, spiritual peaks and hallucinations occur (Bexton, Heron & Scott, 1954; Lilly, 1956; Zuckerman, 1964). These rather bizarre findings intrigued scientists to find how does the IT affect humans. According to Dr. Lilly (1956) the unique stimuli-free environment of the IT has succeed to activate for the first time in a control and systematic way innate mechanisms of the brain that help us to reach higher states of consciousness otherwise reached through meditation or drugs. ...read more.


Focused on the 'deep relaxation' effect that can evoke, IT today is a very useful tool in a wide range of therapies and programs ranging from performance enhancement and pain management to therapies of people with chronic depression and other psychiatric disorders. Summing up, firstly we gave the historical framework in which the IT was created and we defined what the IT is. Secondly we discussed the findings of the early studies on the IT and the first impressions for its bizarre effects on human subjects. Furthermore, we saw how the faulty results these early experiments, together with anecdotal material and the role of the popular media were the active ingredients that formed the myth of the IT as a mystical device. Also we discussed how recent better-designed studies proved false the early impressions about the IT and generate a numerous new applications of the IT especially in psychophysiology and health psychology. In overall it become obvious that although our first impressions of the effects of the IT were just a myth, the story of the IT hasn't completed yet. At this moment, all around the world numerous researchers use the IT as a tool in their explorations inside the human brain extracting knowledge with unpredictable applications for our lives in the future. ...read more.

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