Does floating equal brainwashing?

Floating and brainwashing have some unusual historical connections.

Will floating open the door to brainwashing?

Seems like a crazy concept at first thought. Brainwashing conjures up all sorts of negative imagery. The concept of brainwashing is associated with spies, assassination plots and other sorts of intrigue you would find in a good political thriller. Is it that true to life?

Early uses of flotation tanks did include brainwashing experiments. Fears spread during the Korean War that North Korean and Soviet communist leaders engaged in brainwashing captured American soldiers to embrace communist propaganda. This sparked an interest in the U.S. Government finding ways to control a person’s brain to counteract such brainwashing attempts.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) first used isolation tanks forbrainwashing experiments in 1954. People participating in these experiments were submerged in sensory deprivation tanks for extended periods of time. The results were startling.

Participants reported experiencing everything from vivid hallucinations to blank periods where they were unable to form cognitive thoughts after less than two hours in the tank. Depriving them of senses for longer periods boosted their cravings for any form of sensory stimulation. These desires made them more willing to mold their behavior to get what they wanted.

NIMH researchers concluded a person who underwent extensive sensory deprivation could be influenced into making profound changes in their values and behavior. Essentially, an isolation tank could be used to strip a person of free will for a short time.

It sounds scary. The good news is that such forced changes were temporary. A person changed back to their normal personality and behavior once returning to their normal environment. This made the idea of using isolation tanks for long-term brainwashing impractical and the concept was abandoned.

There is nothing sinister about floating these days. Regular sessions in an isolation tank can be quite therapeutic. Floating can help people find solutions to many problems affecting their lives. It has been used by people who are looking for ways to treat anxiety, depression, stress and even curb addictions to drugs or alcohol.

Brainwashing isn’t an appropriate concept to associate with floating. Nothing about floating is predicated on a loss of free will. The brain can be changed through doing it, but the changes are through a conscious choice made by the floater.