Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Do Highly Sensitive Persons Experience More Nonordinary States of Consciousness during Sensory Isolation?

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Do Highly Sensitive Persons Experience More Nonordinary States of Consciousness during Sensory Isolation?

Article excerpt

In a previous study it was found that highly sensitive individuals considered relaxation in a flotation tank as being more important and beneficial than did those with lower sensitivity (Kjellgren, Lindahl, & Norlander, 2009). The highly sensitive persons also experienced more nonordinary (or altered) states of consciousness than did those with lower sensitivity when in a state of relaxation in in the flotation tank. In the present study we aimed to further explore these observations.

Flotation tank therapy, or flotation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique), is a method used to induce deep relaxation through minimization of sensory input. During flotation-REST a person lies in a supine position inside a quiet and dark tank filled with water saturated with salt (magnesium sulfate) and maintained at outer skin temperature (35-36°C). Buoyancy is high, which makes it possible to float comfortably on one's back inside the tank. Earplugs are used to further reduce audio input, and the duration of the session is generally 45 minutes.

In a meta-analysis van Dierendonck and Te Nijenhuis (2005) showed that flotation-REST effectively induced stress reduction, as well as increasing well-being and enhanced performance in sports and the military, for example, archery and flight performance of pilots. The method has also been used successfully as a treatment for chronic pain conditions (e.g., Bood, 2007) and burnout syndrome (e.g., Bood, Kjellgren, & Norlander, 2009). The most common effects of this treatment are stress reduction, alleviation of depression and anxiety, and increases in optimism and sleep quality (e.g., Bood, Sundequist, Kjellgren, Nordstrom, & Norlander, 2005). Several other effects have also been noted in research on flotation-REST, such as mild euphoria (Schulz & Kaspar, 1994), increased creativity (e.g., Forgays & Forgays, 1992), lower blood pressure (e.g., Turner, Fine, Ewy, Sershon, & Freundlich, 1989), and altered states of consciousness (Kjellgren, 2003).

Altered states of consciousness are usually referred to as transient changes in conscious experience, subjective to each individual's normal waking state (Farthing, 1992; Tart, 2000). ASC can be voluntarily induced by various techniques, such as meditation, hypnosis, physical exercise, and psychoactive drugs, but also occur naturally every day through dreaming and daydreaming. The altered states that occur during flotation-REST are usually mild and consist of experiences of weightlessness, altered perception of time, mental imagery, changes in body perception, and emotional expression (Kjellgren, 2003). During relaxation in a flotation tank attention and thoughts are also more directed towards mindfulness or the intuitively and visually "here-and-now" state. The type and degree of the ASC can vary greatly between individuals and treatment sessions. Our experience is that the degree of ASC seems to affect how beneficial the treatment is for the participants. A few people experience stronger ASC, such as complex inner scenery, experiences of hearing music, out-of-body experiences, and so forth. Individuals who do experience these strong ASC often have increased benefits from the treatment in terms of alleviation of depression, anxiety, and stress. For a more detailed discussion of the ASC concept and its limitations see Dietrich (2007).

Background variables, such as age, gender, stress levels, depression, anxiety, and optimism do not explain why some people experience ASC to a greater extent than others do during flotation-REST (Kjellgren et al., 2009), nor do prior experiences of ASC or expectations of ASC during flotation-REST (Norlander, Kjellgren, & Archer, 2001). An interesting avenue to explain this phenomenon is differences in personality traits, as demonstrated in a pilot study at Karlstad University, in which highly sensitive individuals were shown to experience significantly more deviations from normal state during flotation-REST (Kjellgren et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.