Question of the day.

What are your thoughts on ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response)? Have you heard of it/tried/experienced it?

My answer:

For those who don’t know at all what it is, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a sort of tingly sensation you may feel, I believe especially on your upper body, when your brain is stimulated with sounds that trigger this response. It’s probably most known because of the popularity of YouTube videos with common ASMR trigger sounds, which help some people relax or fall asleep or just make them feel better, because this sensation is perceived as pleasant.

I think this is an interesting topic in itself, totally regardless of what I think of ASMR or whether it works for me. So interesting, in fact, that I already once wrote one HUGE blog post full of digressions on my old, Polish blog, all about ASMR – minus the multiple and long-winded digressions. – I actually just read that post, because my old Polish blog is still floating and drifting somewhere in the internet world all alone,even though I’m not doing anything with it anymore and am not going to. At the time when I decided I wanted to focus on my English blog and no longer wanted to continue the old one and felt the need to step away from the blind community, I decided to leave it be and not delete it because I thought I produced some quite interesting posts over the course of… I don’t know how long I was writing there, half a year I guess, so not long at all. And now, freshly after reading that post, I have to say that, despite I approached it with a lot of trepidation and despite (or maybe in part thanks to) all the digressions, I still find it a fun, enjoyable and thought-sparkling read. So I guess it was a good post, if I could read it without cringing after what feels like such a long time.

Anyway, I mentioned that old post because what made me write about ASMR there in the first place was that one of my UK penfriends at the time wrote me that I should check it out if I haven’t already, and she thought that this would be definitely something for me, because it’s a weird brain thing, plus I’m blind, and blind people, according to her, have “heightened sensory perception” so I’ll surely have ASMR. Later on she also said that she could picture me having a podcast or something like this and doing this myself. Which, in a way, isn’t a bad idea, and I liked the creativity of it, but I feel like something like this has to be high quality to work at all, in any way, for anyone who takes their brain seriously, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the technical abilities for that, and talking isn’t really my thing. Still, on that other blog, I decided to write about ASMR as it being a potentially interesting field to work in.

I didn’t, however, write there in detail of what I think about the whole thing overall, so I’ll do it here.

I’m not sure what I think of the phenomenon itself, like, whether it exists or not, I’ve read that there’s been some scientific research on it but I don’t really know how much or how good, but there seems to be a lot of contradictions about it, or so it feels for me. Like, there’s this whole ASMR genre of YouTube videos which you have certainly heard of if you’ve heard of ASMR as a phenomenon. Considering that ASMR is rare as it’s said, why are these videos so popular? On the other hand there is frisson so perhaps ASMR is just a form of frisson? Or a tactile synaesthesia, but simply one that manifests in a different way than it otherwise does? Other than that, what’s the whole thing with meridians? I find their existence questionable in the first place, and what’s their role in ASMR, I just don’t understand and find it rather odd.

As for my own ASMR experience, my first time trying it was after that penfriend of mine mentioned it to me, and for quite some time I couldn’t quite figure out what’s the deal with those videos, why are all those people whispering, talking to themselves as if they were having a dialogue etc.? Until I started reading about it. It did sound like something I could strongly relate to indeed, but only in theory. In practice, common triggers hardly affect me. In fact, it made me discover that I may have some misophonia (which many people seem to think is like the opposite of ASMR) because I totally don’t understand how listening to a binaural, close-up recording of someone eating could give anyone any pleasant sensations! Aaaaaaarghhhhhh! I’ll never get it! I don’t have problems hearing people eat in real life, not usually, but binaurally it’s a bit of a different kettle of fish. But mostly, common triggers just don’t affect me. I don’t get the hype of whispering. Why is it even so necessary?

Later, I learned that everyone has their own triggers, and not everything will work for everyone, which makes sense because obviously our brains are different. Still, I have never managed to find a YouTube video that would give me proper tingles, the sort of tingles like I’m used to with stuff like intense frisson or braingasms that I can get with some sounds or words. I did occasionally get some small tingles for a moment, but, like I said, not what I’m used to. I know that my triggers are quite specific, but I thought that perhaps if there are more people with something similar, there would be some more overlap between my triggers and theirs and I could find more everyday sounds that would work for me too. Then again, if that was the case, I’d probably have discovered them a lot earlier on than that. Things that make me tingle, aside from music which is typical with frisson, are some fabulous-sounding words in my favourite languages, especially when I just learn a new word and feel how beautiful it is and then maybe a few more times when I hear it again, also people talking in my favourite languages, especially with an accent that turns my brain on particularly, or even just if I haven’t heard the language for a long time anyone will make me tingle I believe. My faza people make me tingle big time, and cat purr when I hear it from a very close distance like when I lean my head on Misha a little bit. The fun thing is that I often get tingles before falling asleep or waking up and am still a bit between the worlds. In such a state, even just a bit of one of my languages will do.

I don’t know if this is ASMR or if not what else it could be. I have auditory-tactile and lexical-tactile synaesthesia, and I know that some people (if not most people) with tactile synaesthesias experience such paresthesias and other such sensations. What I mean by auditory/lexical-tactile synaesthesia is something more concrete, because when I hear a sound or a word I can feel it as an object, or at least some more or less clear shape or texture, usually of something that actually exists. Also tingles come and go as they want, while my synaesthesias are relatively unchangeable, my associations may fade a bit over time but it has to be a really long time when somehow my perception of a sound or word or the thing I associate it with has changed. Also my tingles are not on-demand, I cannot will myself into that, ever. Meanwhile I can always clearly feel my synaesthetic associations whenever I think of a sound/word or hear it.

That makes me think, that, for me, the tingles thing is largely psychological rather than sensory. Just to be clear, I’m not making an assumption that ASMR is psychological rather than sensory, or any assumption at all, for that matter, because I don’t know. I’m talking about myself here. All the stuff that makes me tingle tends to be something I have a strong emotional connection to, and, after all, when I get this fab feeling, it’s always the emotional sensations that are key for me, not the tingles, goosebumps or whatever else there might be. This is only an addition enhancing the experience. I don’t know if it’s the same for ASMR people.

That all being said, I sometimes listen to a few ASMR YouTubers and podcasters whose content I like and come back to, when I’m in the mood for it (Sophie Michelle ASMR is my newest discovery). Not because of any sensory sensations, but simply because I like listening to cool sounding sounds even if they don’t have any spectacular fireworks effect on my nervous system. When it’s high quality ASMR that you can instantly hear and feel that someone put an effort into – not just some kid with painfully distorted audio whispering about everything and nothing, smacking, blowing and spitting into their poor, poor mic – it can be real fun, and a form of art, actually. I do find a lot of pleasure in a lot of daily life sounds. And I totally see how it can be relaxing or soothing for people, with or without tingles, or maybe even sleepifying.

What do you think? 🙂