Tingles, or how I found out that ASMR is real

This week a podcast changed my life again!*

For me, the above video is extremely soothing and induces a feeling which, thanks to an episode of This American Life, I now know the name of.

In a feature called “A Tribe Called Rest” in episode 491 of TAL, “Tribes”, Andrea Seigel tells the story of how she came to join the “tribe” of ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Seigel says that when a childhood friend would observe and meticulously describe small objects to her, such as shells, she would experience a pleasant “tingling” in her skull: “It was like starbursts in my head.” Listening to the school librarian and watching instructional videos about painting would create the same tingles and starbursts. Eventually the adult Seigel was watching hours of similar videos on YouTube and then stumbled upon the term “ASMR“. As it turns out, she was one of many many people who experienced this feeling.

As I listened to this podcast at home in the daytime, my heart started beating quickly. I was amazed – other people felt this tingling as well? I remember vividly sitting cross-legged at primary school during “show and tell”, and feeling soft tingles in the back of my head, spreading down my shoulders. It was like lying on warm sand and feeling the cool ocean coming up under your head, but even better than that. I had never thought that other people would have experienced anything similar, so I was happy to keep it to myself. Teachers tapping their fingernails on hardcover books produced the same results, as did visiting the eye doctor when I was a small child and being told to read out the faraway letters. As an adult, I have often felt relaxing tingles at the beauty salon or lecture theatre. It turns out that I have ASMR, and these situations are common triggers for others like me.

It’s exciting! I am part of the tribe too! And best of all, there are tens of hundreds of videos online that were made just for people like me. This past week I have been falling asleep to role-playing or demonstrative videos like the one above, and it has been blissful. Nobody I have spoken to shares my excitement or my tingles, but it has opened a discussion about other totally legit but hard-to-describe experiences, such as that feeling that you are falling off a ledge just before you fall asleep that jerks you awake. I’m also wondering if there is a word for a tingling in the jaw that happens when a person eats something super super sweet, like pineapple. I need to keep listening to podcasts.


*A different episode of This American Life about “The Psychopath Test“, when combined with knowledge of the personality of one of my ex-boyfriends, was eye-opening indeed!


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