ASMR: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response
Updated: Apr 6
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial, with strong anecdotal evidence to support the phenomenon but little or no scientific explanation or verified data. (Wikipedia)
I thought I'd step down a somewhat different path of the unknown with this edition of The Booo! Blog. While not the usual ghosts, aliens, monsters and other assorted spookies that I usually deal in, ASMR is still considered an 'unknown', just not the type that will haunt, abduct or eat you. For that reason, we can hammer this slightly square peg into our round paranormal hole. Not a perfect fit, perhaps, but let's expand our minds a bit. So, slip on your headphones, sit back, relax and let the tingles take you away...
A 'Good' Migraine?
It's very possible that you've never heard of ASMR. In fact, your co-worker in the cubicle next to yours may be having intense, daily "braingasms", and you have not even noticed. Before you scream, "Eeeewww! That's disgusting!" in horror because you have occasionally borrowed his/her chair, know that it's become a quiet riot on websites such as YouTube over the past three or four years and, no, it's not what you think. The entire goal of the movement, and of the so-called "ASMRtists" who perform, is relaxation and/or sleep facilitation. Given our increasingly hectic and out-of-control world, it's really a no-brainer as to why it has caught on. Some ASMRtists have even reached star status within the ASMR community and with their fans.
So, in a word, what is ASMR? Tingles. You've probably experienced the phenomenon in fleeting, momentary blips throughout your life, but have been unable to pin it down, let alone assign it a name. ASMR is not a 'one size fits all' experience, as one person may respond to a particular stimuli, and another not at all. The best way to think of ASMR is as a migraine headache, which any sufferer can tell you are unbearably painful, often causing autonomic nervous system symptoms along with throbbing head pain. Yes, I realize that's a bizarre and unpleasant analogy but, in reality, it's actually a very accurate one. Instead of the pain associated with a 'bad' migraine, let's think of the opposite: a 'good' migraine. Instead of pain, a good migraine would cause a pleasurable sensation. Why is this an accurate analogy? Just as with most migraines headaches, ASMR, or good migraines, require a "trigger". And, just as with migraine headaches, these triggers, the stimuli that set off the headache, vary widely from person-to-person.
What Pulls Your Trigger?
The stimuli that sparks an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is only for you to determine, but there are some that seem to be common to many people, and they can encompass any of our five senses, either singularly or in combination. Most (but not all) require the person wishing to experience the sensation to be in a passive role. In other words, watching, hearing, feeling, tasting or smelling the stimuli. The following is hardly an exhaustive list, and ASMR triggers are not gender-specific. You may have a trigger or multiple triggers unique to you. Take a moment to think about it because, chances are, you already know what they are. Many can fall into multiple categories depending on whether a person assumes an active or passive role. Among the most common:
Visual: Hair cutting, hair brushing, gentle hand movement, application of hand lotions or gels, painting, page turning.
Auditory: Whispering, foreign accents, rain, tapping, rubbing, music, keyboard clicks, paper crinkling, mouth sounds.
Touch: Massage, application of nail polish, manicure, pedicure.
Taste: Personal and specific to you. It could be the taste of a food that transports you back in time.
Olfactory: Personal and specific to you. It could be a scent that transports you back in time.
John Waters: The Original ASMRtist
For our purposes, let's focus on visual and auditory ASMR triggers, as those are the two senses ASMRtists attempt to tingle and are, by far, the most common. And let's face it...attempting to touch Angelina Jolie's lips through a computer screen is pretty futile (but admit it...you've tried), as is tasting a double-fudge brownie or smelling freshly-baked bread. That's why director John Waters was way ahead of his time. Ever watch his old film, Polyester? If so, you've probably wondered why the numbers 1 through 10 randomly pop up on the screen. You see, Waters had this ASMR thing figured out decades ago. He called it "Odorama". When the film was released, everyone in the theater got a scratch card with the numbers 1 through 10 printed on it. When a number flashed on the screen, much like a lottery scratch ticket, the viewer was supposed to scratch and sniff that number to smell what was being depicted on the screen. Sometimes mild, sometimes really gross but, yeah, he knew about triggers way before most in the ASMR community were even born. Cool, eh?
A Happy Little Accident
Bob Ross. You may not recognize or remember the name, but you can't forget the stark image of a bushy-haired guy on your TV screen. Nothing but a black background and standing, artist's palette in hand, creating painting-after-painting of nature and landscapes. His instructional show was called The Joy of Painting, and ran in the United States on PBS stations from 1983 to 1994. He spent years relaxing and lulling millions to sleep, most never having the intention of ever picking up a paint brush. People would record his 30-minute program on their VCRs (Remember those big, ugly boxes sitting on top of your console TV that constantly flashed "12:00" in your face?) to watch before bed. His gentle brush strokes and soothing voice instructing viewers to apply feather-light pressure on the canvas, "Two hairs and some air" or appreciate their "Happy little accidents" while painting became his trademarks.
Bob Ross died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1995, but still lives on. Most episodes of The Joy of Painting can be found on YouTube and are still watched by millions, not necessarily for his painting skills, but for Mr. Ross' ASMR talent. And that remains, for many, his happiest little accident.
Enya's Got a Secret (And She May Not Even Know It)
Keep this on the down low, but Grammy Award-winning Irish singer/songwriter Enya stumbled onto the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response phenomenon years ago, and probably by accident. People tend to either love or be totally indifferent to her music, and the difference seems to be in whether she floats your ASMR boat or not. And she apparently floats a lot of boats, as she's sold millions of records worldwide, her voice and the ethereal acoustics of her recordings being a common trigger. While the same can be said of an individual's response to music in general, most people have a visceral and autonomous response to her music in particular. Not the 'I love that song and sing along' -type response, but an instant relaxation and calming effect. Does Enya know what makes the magic? I have no idea, but she records in her own custom-designed studio, and likely for a reason. Put on one of her CDs (not a crappy, compressed MP3 file), slip on a pair of headphones, and listen to the soaring acoustic signature of her recordings. And notice the dead silence. Nothing but her voice and whatever instruments she chooses to include. Each a sonic masterpiece, the listener is transported into her world and the real world ceases to exist, just like with the best ASMRtists. Of course, just as with any ASMR trigger, her thing may not be yours. If not, you will feel nary a tingle. That's a pity.
Let's Play Doctor
Role play is a technique many ASMRtists employ in an attempt to relax you into a semi-conscious state, and it can be very effective. There's no surprise here, as it is just what you think. What is a mystery, however, is how effective it can be.
For this technique, the ASMRtist becomes an actor, assuming the role of another person. This is particularly effective if the person the ASMRtist is portraying is someone who would normally take the active roll. For example, doctors, barbers, masseur/masseuse ...you get the idea. There are an astonishing number of soft-spoken doctor/patient ASMR videos, and they can be surprisingly effective. As with any talent, some ASMRtists seem to be more popular than others, which may be an indication of their skill set. On YouTube, a good (albeit not always accurate) indicator is the number of views an ASMRtist's videos receive. However, keep in mind the person may be very good at a common trigger, hence the largest number of views. You may find that a more obscure ASMRtist employing a more off-the-wall trigger works best for you, so give everyone a try.
Who Needs Drugs?
ASMR is a drug-free zone, but you will need a decent pair of headphones. Listening through speakers isn't nearly as effective and with some ASMR techniques, such as binaural recording, the effect and ASMRtist's intent is completely lost if not listening through headphones. The around-the-ear type (that cup your entire ear) are best for ASMR as they block out most of the distracting noise around you. Other than that, you're good to go; your express ticket to Xanax-free nirvana. My first stop would be YouTube, as that's where most ASMRtists post their work.
Back to binaural recording for a moment, as it is now a huge trend in ASMR videos and recording. While many ASMRtists are employing it, recording with special microphones to facilitate the effect, as a listener I have not found the effect necessary to illicit an ASMR response. However, as ASMR is so highly personal and specific to the individual, you may find just the opposite to be true. On YouTube, the ASMRtist will usually note if his/her video was recorded binaurally.
Superstars of ASMR
The following are a few YouTube ASMRtists from around the globe that I think are excellent. Of course, your mileage may vary as I've stated repeatedly: ASMR is a very personalized response. What works for one person may not work at all for another, so give everyone a shot. Many have PayPal or Patreon accounts if you would like to donate to keep them going. That information can be found on their pages. Enjoy!
ASMRtist: Tabuhan ASMR
This guy is amazing. Watching him is a master class in acting and facial expression, and many find his soft-spoken Turkish accent the magic key to stress relief. His personality jumps through the screen, and many of his videos are done with an off-beat sense of humor. He makes it look effortless, which is even more impressive when you know that he does not plan his videos, but makes them up as he goes along. While he hasn't been doing this for as long as some of the others, he's posted a huge collection of ASMR videos, and is definitely a talent to keep your eye on. Truly one of the best.
ASMRtist: GentleWhispering ASMR
Another incredible ASMRtist who has developed a massive following over the past few years. A native of Russia, but now living in the United States, she records ASMR videos in both the Russian and English languages. Her slight Russian accent when speaking English and magical hand movements will relax you in a nanosecond. Also the best fingernails in the business!
Here's one that has a huge following, but seems to have fallen off the planet, as he hasn't posted in quite some time. He did have many more ASMR videos posted on YouTube, but has apparently deleted some of them. Still, his videos work well, and still receive a ton of views. Update, September 18, 2015: After a long absence, a new video has been posted on Fred's YouTube channel, so he is apparently alive and well, and hasn't fallen off the planet after all.
Who Says I Don't Bring You Cool Stuff On My Blog and Website?
I'm often asked, "What's the difference between a paranormal investigator and a ghost hunter?". Well, with all my editions of The Booo! Blog, as well as with my connected website, you are seeing that difference firsthand. I do my best to supply solutions and answers to the weird and wonderful for the sole purpose of helping you, the reader, and I try to present it in a lighthearted-but-serious manner. Whenever possible, I will give you the 'how' and 'why', the theory behind what it is you are questioning. I tell it like it is, and I hope I've met your expectations. I'm sometimes introduced as a "ghost hunter" in media interviews and, for sure, ghosts and hauntings are certainly a huge part of what I do, but there's a helluva a lot more out there than just restless dead people.
Until next time, look to the skies, look under your bed, and always keep an eye out for what may be lurking in your closet...
Legal Disclaimer: All information, opinion and theories on this website and blog are published in good faith and for general information purposes only. I do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information on my website and blog is strictly at your own risk, and I will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with its use. All opinion and theories are strictly my own, and should not be construed as fact.