Royal Air Force pilots
Type of Spiritual Experience
Dr. Grassian was a Board Certified Psychiatrist who was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School for over twenty-five years
A description of the experience
One particular study, by Bennett, has described psychiatric disturbances among pilots of the British Royal Air Force who had been exposed in-flight to periods of restricted auditory and visual stimulation.
All of the groups he described became significantly anxious; many suffered full-blown panic attacks, and many experienced unusual sensations which they were very reluctant to describe.
The most severely disturbed groups refused to expose themselves further to the isolation conditions of these flights. At all levels of impairment, however, anxiety was common (both panic and free-floating anxiety). Pilots reported anxiety symptoms such as feeling “hot and tense and powerless” and “nervous and afraid.”
Feelings of derealization, feelings of detachment from reality, and perceptual distortions were described. Some of these perceptual distortions were dangerous—such as having the impression that the aircraft was turning when it was not—and resulted in serious errors in judgment like making the aircraft spiral dangerously downward after attempting to “correct” for what was incorrectly perceived as a turning aircraft.
Another study described strikingly similar symptoms among United States Navy pilots exposed to periods of in-flight isolation. Among pilots who flew alone at high altitude (meaning in a situation of monotonous visual and sensory stimulation) and flying with a minimum of pilot activity, over one third experienced frightening feelings of unreality and became severely anxious.
The source of the experienceOrdinary person
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
OverloadsFlying [small] airplanes
Loneliness and isolation
From Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement - Stuart GrassianQuoting from A.M. Hastin Bennett, Sensory Deprivation in Aviation, in SENSORY DEPRIVATION— HARVARD, supra note 47, at 161–73.