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Wellness > Mental Health

Famous People Love Darkness Retreats, But Why?

Dealing with difficult emotions and struggles is a challenge that everyone faces in their lives. Whether people resort to journaling or talking it out with friends, family, or therapists, the path to healing is a rocky one. However, some folks claim that “darkness retreats” have changed their lives for the better. But…what are darkness retreats? And are they really as amazing as people say? 

Well, Gen-Z social media star Quenlin Blackwell shared her experience with darkness retreats during the Dropouts Podcast, hosted by Zach Justice, Jared Bailey, and Tara Yummy. On the podcast, the crew generally invites other Gen-Z influencers like Jake Webber, Johnny Guilbert, and Tana Mongeau to join them in discussions regarding relationships and everything there is to life. 

While this wasn’t Blackwell’s first time on the podcast, she opened up about what darkness retreats are and how she felt during the experience. “They lock you in a completely dark room,” she said on the podcast. “I stayed there for three days. Met God, met the Devil, met all my fears, all my anxiety.” When asked why she chose to do such an extreme form of immersion, she replied, “To introspect.” 

If you’re wondering what’s all included within the room itself, the experience comes with a sink, a bathtub, a bed, a yoga mat, and a double-sided hole in the wall where the staff brings the guest food. While one would think a person could go crazy in an extreme situation like this one, there are guidelines participants must follow to ensure their own safety. 

Additionally, no one is locked in the room; guests have the freedom to walk out whenever they feel like it. The individual has the power to decide for themselves when they’re finished introspecting, and as they leave, they’ll walk away with greater self-knowledge that they wouldn’t have learned without this immersive escapade. 

In a separate video, Blackwell dives even deeper into the experience and explains all of her thoughts and insights that she contemplated while suspended within complete darkness. 

“I didn’t see myself from an outsider’s perspective. I just kind of lived within my heart, ‘cause I think I’m always viewing myself from how others will perceive me instead of viewing myself from a place of honesty,” she said. “And I could let myself grieve about some things that I haven’t felt comfortable with myself to grieve, and I finally found that place of comfort to do it.” 

This kind of intense, emotional reaction is a common one from a majority of people who have chosen to undergo this retreat. While people have shared how beautiful and eye-opening it was, mental health experts observe the repercussions of darkness retreats haven’t been thoroughly studied, and even Sky Cave Retreats’ founder Scott Berman said to USA Today that the experience is more challenging and emotionally taxing than what’s mentioned on social media. 

“Sometimes spiritual seekers come to the retreat with expectations of what it will do for them,” Burman said. “This is the opposite of what the retreat should be, which is to abandon expectations and experience who you are when separated from outside pressure and opinions.” 

Just like it sounds, darkness retreats are extreme yet highly rewarding, but of course, not everyone is suited for it. Kevin Chapman, a psychologist and director of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explained to USA Today in 2023 that people’s reactions to this experience will undoubtedly vary; it can be soothing for some and horrific for others who aren’t accustomed to sitting alone with their thoughts, insecurities, or anxieties. Of course, people who are claustrophobic will also have a difficult time staying in complete darkness for an extensive period of time. 

Of course, darkness retreats are well-known for their opportunity to provide deep insight about oneself, but if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, just make sure that it’s the right route for you. Anyone can achieve this kind of emotional enlightenment through other, less intense means, but if you’re the kind of person who’s motivated and embraces extreme change, then I say try it! Who am I to stop you?

Sofia is a third-year Writing & Literature major at UCSB. In her free time, she enjoys watching anime, playing video games, and drinking chai tea.