My experience with the phenomenon that is ASMR

ASMR, a total enigma. No-one can explain it. Why certain things trigger it and what it even is. I’ve experienced it all my life. Situations which trigger it for me are: someone talking to me and English isn’t their first language, the sound of pages turning, the sound of someone organising a desk or packing a bag (I’m aware of how absolutely ridiculous this sounds!!) I never knew what it was and I never met anyone else who knew what I was talking about when I explained it to them. Most people would just look at me like I was insane. When I am triggered I feel completely relaxed and as if I have transcended.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response Syndrome. A tingling sensation in the head, almost trance like. If you have experienced it, you’ll immediately know what I’m referring to. I’m not talking a potential ‘oh yeah I think I’ve had that’…. You will know. It’s such a mesmerising state to be in, one of deep relaxation - this isn’t something that would pass you by if you had experienced it. There is little to no information on why some people experience it and others don’t. Since the collective of people talking about it now is only coming to light, there has also been little or no research done on it. I think that’s because since the bittersweet invention of the internet, communication has exploded and people know more about one another than ever before. This has birthed a whole online community of people who experience ASMR through what must come across to everyone else as bloody bizarre videos of people whispering on youtube. Since this happened, the sensation has been given a name and people are coming together to talk about their personal take on ASMR. Before this, I imagine most people thought this was just something they experienced, instead of what appears to be a pretty huge phenomenon!

One day, about 4 years ago, I was listening to This American Life, while cooking. In the episode, a girl started telling a story. In it she described pretty much verbatim what I have outlined above. She then referred to it as ASMR, an acronym I had never heard of before. I literally stopped what I was doing and looked at the speaker where the sound of this girl’s story was emanating from. I was in complete shock. This fuzzy warm sensation I had taken solace in all my life (while thinking at the same time I was a complete and utter loner for having done so) was now being explained to me. By a complete stranger in the States through a speaker - that not only is it a thing, but it has its own acronym for God’s sake. Someone, somewhere, thought it to be so profound as to have named it and given its own acronym. I was literally speechless in that moment and the funny thing about something like that is, you can’t even call anyone to tell them how excited you are that after all these years - it’s not just me! This is a thing.

Me being me, I delved into it. I scoured every corner of the internet for anything to do with it. The youtube ASMR sensations began exploding, but I wanted some answers. What is it and why does it happen? Why is it triggered by such specific instances?? For me, the autonomy of it means that I can’t decide when it comes on. So I can’t sit in front of Youtube and know I’ll be triggered. It’s not something you can decide. Also, I found the Youtube videos a bit contrived. The whole beauty of ASMR is that it just comes on magically while you’re in a state of complete presence. I used to get it as a little girl watching my mum get ready to go out. Or in more recent years, it could just randomly come on when having a conversation with someone who has a soothing voice. There is something extremely meditative about it. It’s the most conscious state of relaxation I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t find much on research at the time. I still can’t find anything too tangible. It also bothers me that institutions such as the Smithsonian are referring to it as an ‘internet sensation’. I was trying to figure out what this was long before Google or Youtube even existed, as a child in the mid-nineties, convinced this was a power I had to learn how to utilise.

There is a possibility that people who experience ASMR have different wiring in their brains to the rest of the population. However, from what I can gather, there’s no real concrete evidence pointing to anything just yet. The only thing I can ascertain for sure, is that I’m not the only one who thought I was alone in this sensation. The internet over, echoes of thousands of other voices, from every corner of the world expressing their genuine disbelief that they are not. Speculation continues. Is it genetic? Is it a higher consciousness? Is it aliens???? Who knows.

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  • This is exactly how I have experienced ASMR and feel about it too!! I’m having a similar reaction to you watching the American Life video now hah! :P <3

    • Chelcie Harman