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? πŸ™‚

(Syn)Aesthete, or a brief explanation of some top secrets of my freaky brain.

While I’m blind, so visual value of things around me isn’t always of great importance to me, I still consider myself an aesthete.

A language aesthete. It particularly applies to my mother language, but also in all the other languages I know it is important to me to write and speak possibly aesthetically – which doesn’t always mean very seriously, politely or flamboyantly, but above all just so that it is nice to read or listen and doesn’t make other innocent individuals cringe too much. I also like when other people speak or write aesthetically, and when someone messes up with spelling a lot or uses words like they don’t know what they mean, it often drives me crazy, or close to it.

I am a total language geek and besides being an aesthete as long as I can remember, I am also a synaesthete.

Since my very early childhood, I’ve had some weird connections in my brain between sounds/words and touch, or taste, or something else sometimes. For many years I was convinced that this is just how our brains work, not just my own quirk, and that everyone perceives things the same way as me. That led to many weird, and often funny nowadays, misunderstandings, for example when I tried to describe things to people.

It was not until I was like 6 that I started to see others don’t necessarily think in shapes, textures and tastes and other things like this.

Many years after I got to this conclusion I realised it has to be some form of synaesthesia, although as far as I know this form isn’t very common, that your brain transfers sound stimuli into touch related associations. I know only one person who has it similar to me in some way, and he is also blind, so I guess it has to do with my blindness, and maybe also a little that I still am somewhere on the autism spectrum apparently.

If you don’t know or don’t understand how synaesthesia works, it’s like there is a correlation between two (or more) of your senses. Most people of those who have synaesthesia seem to have auditory-visual corelations, for example they hear a sound, and see it in colour, or see numbers in colours, or even people may have their own colours apparently, or words, or colours may have particular textures/temperatures for them, etc. etc.

For me it is so that if I hear or think about a word, at the same time I sort of feel what I associate with this word. It’s not like a delusion, I know I don’t feel it, I’d rather say it’s like when you hear a song in your head. You know it isn’t playing, but you still hear it in your head.

For me it’s not only words that I associate with shapes/objects/textures/tastes, but also many separate sounds, like sounds of particular instruments, people’s voices etc. And these aren’t always sound to touch or sound to taste associations. Sometimes it’s much more complex and not always on just sensual level. Sometimes, hearing a particular word or phrase makes me feel in a very particular way, or I may even sometimes associate words or phrases with whole scenes or lots of different, unrelated things, etc. Some words I associate with objects that I can’t recall ever seeing, so I guess they have to be made up by my brain or something. I associate many words with edible things, which is quite fun, or with things that have to do with nature. I often can associate many words that aren’t objectively similar to each other with the same thing.

it’s very complicated.

I think it’s also synaesthesia that helps me understand the colours in some way, anyway I don’t know what else it could be. I am blind since birth so have no practical idea about colours, but I’ve always had some imaginary idea about colours, and even many distinct shades. It’s often very hard for me to describe them, it’s hard to put it into adequate words, but when I was in integration school years ago, I learned that my understanding of colours isn’t that far from how they really are as I could think. My classmates were doing something with one of Picasso’s paintings during art class, and since I of course wasn’t able to do the same, the teacher asked me questions about all the colours, just out of curiosity, like very speciffic questions about colours – whether they’re calm or vivid, dark or bright, warm or cold, etc. And both her and me were incredibly surprised when I said all of them right. πŸ˜€ Of course I’d already got some basic understanding of colours, like that the sun is yellow or the sky is blue, but no one had taught me about how to actually define colours nor described them for me since it’s rather impossible.

I don’t know any other person who would be congenitally blind and have it like that, people usually don’t care about colours, or have to learn about them from others, like have to memorise what colours fit together when they choose their clothes, but I am lucky and I just somehow get it, despite that I see literally nothing (and no, it isn’t black! It’s just nothing). It’s just so so weird, but I like it. It often helps me with writing for example short stories, and describing people, one of my blind friends told me that “Wow! you write as if you were sighted!” hahaha whatever that means, I guess it was just it, that I can create people and nature that looks naturally and is colourful, some blind people tend to understandably forget about visual details or sometimes make them feel not matched or not very precise.

And yet another thing that my synaesthesia helps me with are languages. So many language learning experts and teachers say it’s good if you associate every word you learn with something. I don’t have to think about the associations. They just come to me on their own. That makes things easier to remember, I guess. And more fun, and interesting. And if you have it like this it’s just normal and obvious that you’re fascinated with words. Some of my associations may be scary or something, but most of them are very positive, creative and quirky. If I’m learning a language that is a bit out there for me (like Welsh was for quite a while, despite my love for it), forming associations may take some time, you need to listen to the language a lot and immerse in it, familiarise your brain with it, and then it comes naturally. Though there still are words – even in Polish – that I don’t have clear associations with, sometimes the shapes I see in relation to them are sort of blurred, or hard to describe, or like a few unrelated things strangely and not very harmoniously stucked together. It is not a perfect strategy for learning a language, because as I said there are many words that I associate with the same things, and I may confuse them. Normal people may confuse words that are similar in sound or meaning or something and it happens to me too, but usually I confuse words because I associate them with the same/similar things and then my statements can seem a bit enigmatic for an uninitiatedΒ  person, if the words aren’t objectively too similar. πŸ˜€ I’ve had lots of awkward situations in Swedish like that, and my poor teacher couldn’t figure out what I am talking about sometimes. πŸ˜€

 

I’m thinking about what example to give you to show you how my synaesthesia works. OK< let it be my Mum.

My Mum’s voice sounds like a piano to me. She has a rather dark voice, and when she speaks quieter/lower it reminds me of black, melted chocolate, the shade of her voice then is just similar, it just feels similar to black chocolate and I guess it is my dominant association with her as a whole. Also when I hear my Mum’s voice I feel as if I was touching the black keys of a piano. The word Mum – in all the languages I know so far, makes me think about a little plastic hat that my favourite and oly doll that I ever played with – named Eliza – had when I was a kid. πŸ˜€ That’s very weird. The word Mum as it is written in English, I associate with a little baby sleeping soundly with a dummy, and this characteristic smell of a sleeping baby. The same smell always surrounds Misha when he sleeps or is freshly awake. My Mum’s name is Anna, and the name Anna I associate with a horse – its hair, the sound of a horse galloping, the smell of horses, etc. As I mentioned in a few of my previous posts I also have other types of special associations with names, and looking this way Anna is a pure essence of femininity to me, but I won’t go into details about how I imagine a typical ANna – her appearance, personality etc. that would be way too long, I might write name characteristics some time in the future on my blog maybe. Other things I associate with my Mum are the colour black and the sound of the French language, but these aren’t only about synaesthesia, because my Mum loves black, and was learning French at school, though she doesn’t speak it now.

any other synaesthetes of any kind out there? How does your synaesthesia manifest? πŸ™‚

Or maybe anyone would like to know what things I associate with something? Some people seem to find it quite entertaining for some reason. πŸ˜€ Feel free to ask if you’re curious about anything, be it any word/sound or any questions you have as for this thing in general, I know it’s pretty rare and I realise how weird it is, so I’m open to your questions if you have any. πŸ˜€