Me, my­self and I

Iso­la­tion ther­apy of­fers an introspective es­cape

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Yang Lan

Get­ting some time to your­self can be tough in a 24/7 town like Shang­hai. How­ever, a new ser­vice is of­fer­ing its cus­tomers the ul­ti­mate in es­capism – although rather than send­ing them out of the city, it takes them deep within them­selves.

Floatessence (96 Ronghua Road East, 52921009) houses a num­ber of iso­la­tion tanks (one of which is pic­tured right) that, as their name sug­gests, are de­signed to com­pletely iso­late peo­ple from the out­side world for a pe­riod of time. They are filled with warm wa­ter con­tain­ing Ep­som salts in which the user floats, fully im­mersed apart from their face.

The tanks are light­proof, and users wear earplugs to block out sounds.

The ex­pe­ri­ence, which is also known as re­stricted en­vi­ron­men­tal stim­u­la­tion ther­apy, was cre­ated by Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­trist John C. Lilly in the 1950s to ex­plore the ef­fects of sen­sory de­pri­va­tion.

While the ex­pe­ri­ence is meant to be ther­a­peu­tic, dif­fer­ent peo­ple re­act in dif­fer­ent ways. For some, it is a bliss­ful, al­most tran­scen­dent ex­pe­ri­ence. For oth­ers, the to­tal lack of ex­ter­nal stim­uli can be dis­ori­en­tat­ing, un­com­fort­able or even scary.

The tanks have in­ter­nal light­ing and sound sys­tems that can be set to grad­u­ally ease their in­hab­i­tants into to­tal dark­ness and si­lence, and even come equipped with panic but­tons should the ex­pe­ri­ence be­come too much.

The ser­vice has proved hugely popular in Shang­hai, with a two-month wait­ing list.

Shang­hai-based psy­chol­o­gist Dr Cao Xuemin has vis­ited Floatessence sev­eral times. She has ex­per­i­mented with sleep­ing and prac­tic­ing yoga in the tanks.

“The tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity, light and mu­sic en­cour­ages the in­di­vid­ual to re­lax and calm down,” Cao told the Global Times. “Peo­ple have a lot of pres­sure be­cause they have a lot of so­cial roles: friends, lovers, and em­ploy­ees. Sen­sory de­pri­va­tion can help one re­turn to their orig­i­nal self.”

She added that the “womb-like ex­pe­ri­ence” can help treat in­som­nia and anx­i­ety. She said she en­cour­ages peo­ple who feel like they have no time to them­selves to give the process a try.

Zhao Zhi, an Amer­i­can-born Chi­nese who works in Shang­hai, has tried us­ing iso­la­tion tanks two times. “My first ex­pe­ri­ence was quite warm and com­fort­able. It felt like ther­apy,” he said. “My body was ex­tremely re­laxed, but my brain was wide-awake.”

Zhao said he had also tried other meth­ods of re­lax­ation such as yoga and med­i­ta­tion, but felt that sen­sory de­pri­va­tion went deeper.

While some ex­pe­ri­enced users have vi­sions when in the tank, this is un­likely for first timers. Many re­port feel­ing dizzy, while oth­ers can not fully re­lax.

Pho­tos: Cour­tesy of 8778. cn

Iso­la­tion tanks of­fer peo­ple the ul­ti­mate in es­capism.

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