Observations placeholder

Sensory deprivation as a means of identifying buried psychological trauma

Identifier

011886

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

Dr Jack Vernon undertook a series of controlled experiments in a specially made ‘dark room’.  A large soft king sized bed was provided to minimise the sensation of touch.  Clearly this was one sense not eliminated, but as this sensation did not change throughout the experiment as most subjects tended to lie fairly still, there was in a sense no stimulus, as generally our nerves measure change of stimulus, rather than the continual monitoring of a uniform stimulus. 

The dark room was completely sound proofed and completely dark, however, the research subjects knew that there was a toilet they could go to in the room.  Taste sensation was not eliminated as the subjects were provided with a cold box with food [mostly sandwiches and soup].  There was also a ‘panic button’ provided, so that if they felt they could endure no more they could ask to be removed, although the door was not locked and in fact they could walk out at any time.  The research subjects were nearly all male and post graduate students at the university [Princeton].
 “Our subjects were volunteers who could leave the chamber at will.  They underwent no physical hardships, the period of confinement was short and the experience not fear arousing

In effect, the experiments measured benign partial sensory deprivation. 

The followong shows what a useful means this might be to obtain buried and forgotten childhood traumas, as a means of healing those traumas.

A description of the experience

Inside the Black Room – Dr Jack Vernon

Soon after entering the confinement cell most subjects went to sleep and slept almost uninterruptedly for ten to twenty-four hours. These are gross estimates, for there was nothing by which the subjects could determine elapsed time, and if anything they probably underestimated sleeping time.  We know for certain that one subject slept for nineteen hours but insisted that he had had a nap of less than one hour. According to the monitoring microphone, which was capable of picking up the deep breathing of sleep, it seems more likely that most subjects slept almost all of the first twenty-four hours.

We felt that so much sleeping in the first day wasted the effects of confinement, so we started placing subjects in S.D. early in morning.  We reasoned that after a night's sleep our confined subject would be unable to dissipate the effects of S.D. by sleeping.  Such was not the case. As far as we could determine they went to sleep just as quickly and slept just as long as the previous subjects. We then started entering the subjects at midmorning, midday, and mid-afternoon. As it turned out, it made no difference when during the day and, presumably, during the night we started the confinement; the initial sleep period was always about the same……………

One subject reflected a childhood experience by dreaming of animals. AII of his dreams had jungle themes, and he was constantly falling into lions' dens, snake pits, tiger traps, and the like. He did not find the dreams particularly frightening, but he was unable to "shake them off." Finally these dreams brought back with vivid clarity a childhood experience. He remembered that as a very young boy he had been prevented from getting out of bed by a nurse who told him that there was a tiger beneath his bed. She told him that as long as he was in bed he was safe, but should he swing his legs over the edge of the bed to the floor the tiger would bite them.

Apparently that had proved very effective, and he said that even since he had become an adult the memory had an element of fear for him.

After he had remembered the experience with the nurse and while he was still in S.D., he had the persistent thought "Maybe there is a tiger in here with me." He knew that the idea was ridiculous, but he could not dismiss it.

The source of the experience

Scientist other

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References