Claustrophobia is the extreme or irrational fear of confined spaces. The most common aversion we hear - the number one reason people are resistant to floating is because “I’m claustrophobic I could never get in there”. So let's get crawl into it shall we?
I'm sure everyone has claustrophobia to some extent. No one wants to be trapped in the DeathStar garbage compactor while the walls are closing in. I used to think I was claustrophobic, but looking back I don't know why I thought that, or how it got into my brain.
From what I've read only 3-5% of the population truly suffers from the phobia - which is conveniently almost the same number of people that are afraid of wide open spaces. Proof that you truly can't please everyone.
So why is it that so many people’s initial reaction is that of fear? Sometimes claustrophobia is brought on by a traumatic experience, but often it’s because we're biologically built to avoid danger, and confined spaces have the potential for danger. Same as when you see a snake you recoil, even though the snake may only be on your television. We are programmed to react, but once our body and mind surmise that there is no actual danger our stress responders relax and our heart rate regulates.
If you are nervous about trying float therapy because it's an enclosed space let's consider the following:
How do you feel when you sit in a vehicle?
How do you feel when you sit in a vehicle in the dark?
How do you feel in an elevator?
How do you feel in a glass shower?
I acknowledge those 3-5% would struggle in these situations but that doesn't mean you need to avoid floating. I would recommend those people seek out an open float room (Float Space in Kelowna has a beautiful open room). For the rest, all the people that declare they're claustrophobic, I'm not buying it anymore! We both know that it's a distraction from something else, and your mind is focusing on this phobia to avoid what really scares you. Facing your fears is where you will find real personal growth. I urge you to have a real conversation with yourself and discover what's really bothering you - and hey, I know just the place where you can think this through - a float tank of course!
For most people getting into a vehicle, even at night is no problem. So if you're able to be in a vehicle, I can almost guarantee you will have no problem with a float tank. I assure you there is way more room to stretch out in the float tank than there is in the Float-Fiat! No vehicle could ever compare with the space, comfort, and relaxation offered by a float tank.
There is nothing scary about a float tank. You are entirely in control of your experience at all times. Get in or out at your leisure, leave the door open, leave the lights on or off as you please. The door is on a simple hinge with absolutely no way to accidentally lock you in.
It’s bigger on the inside!
Physically, it truly does feel larger when you experience it from the inside, but floating also promotes mind exploration and on a metaphysical level the tank is unbelievably expansive. For many, the weightless environment can bring about imagery of floating through space and/or a very expanding feeling.
There are a variety of styles of float vessels out there, but all of them have the same goal - eliminating sensory input. The traditional style tank is at least 7 feet long, almost 4 feet wide, and 3 and a half feet tall.
Float cabins are generally larger, and have a height of 7 feet, so you can stand up. They are essentially a large bathtub with walls around it.
Float pod’s resemble a large clam shell and are generally a bit wider than a traditional tank, but not as long, and comparable in height. Open float rooms are really neat and provide the greatest accessibility for those with mobility issues.
The goal of a float tank is to eliminate all sensory input; sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. As you can imagine this gets harder to accomplish the more open the tank. Float tanks, cabins and pods have walls making it easier to control the variables. Open float rooms are fantastic, but require tremendous attention to detail to eliminate light, sound, and maintain a steady temperature.
I once spoke to a lady who was absolutely terrified of water after a traumatizing childhood experience. She was intrigued with floating, but needed some help getting over her fears. When she emerged, she was in tears; she had overcome her phobia and said the experience had changed her life forever. I’ve heard other reports of people going into a float studio and just sitting beside the tank, sometimes taking 3 tries before they could muster enough courage to get in, but once they did, and in time, they were absolved of the paralyzing fear.
When people are given the right information, and allowed to take things at their own pace, floating can provide an environment to overcome fears, especially the fear of water and confined spaces.
Just like everything else in life floating is not for everybody, but the tank holds so much potential that I think everyone should at least consider it. The only way to know if floating is right for you is to try it! And maybe not just once, but at least 3 times. Claustrophobic or not, it takes time to get comfortable in this completely new environment, and to truly relax comfort is a must. Take whatever steps you need to RELAX HARDER!!