What exactly is ASMR? We should probably start there, though that often proves the hardest thing to address. See, before the internet and the ensuing ability to collect amongst ourselves in warm, huddled circles, talking about the weird things that we like or that happen to us — we didn’t know ASMR was a thing. Only now, through our collective experience and back-and-forth about terminology have we settled upon a name, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. And what is that? Well, it’s essentially a tingling, buzzing, warm, relaxing sensation that runs through your brain and all over your body when triggered by a certain stimulus. For some people, it ends in sleep. For others, it results in a sort of meditative state, where your whole body is buzzing for a prolonged period of time, wave after wave of tingles coming over you. In short, we sometimes call them “orgasms for your brain.”
But they are not orgasms. In fact, to confuse ASMR with something even remotely sexual ruins the entire experience. If someone were to touch you, or say something sexual, or even make sexual implications during an ASMR session, it would jerk you out of your trance completely. Yet, as with most things on the internet, if left to his or her own devices — the uninitiated passerby would assume that ASMR was sexual. And why? Well, notably, the stimuli. To an onlooker, they probably look quite strange.
Most ASMR-ers vary in what triggers them the most, but generally speaking soft, somewhat repetitive, well-defined noises work best. Everything from whispering, to drawing on a piece of paper, to wrapping a present, to playing with jewelry, to eating a cookie, to Bob Ross is considered a normal trigger. You can find hundreds, thousands of videos under the ASMR tag which cater to every type and combination of sound and image that combine to make the perfect ASMR experience. Personally, one of my favorites is watching someone draw an intricate drawing, perhaps while they whisper about nonsense — but there are so many different kinds to try, it would be a shame not to explore them all.
But let’s be honest — it’s kind of weird. Most ASMR-ers are in the closet about this, because how in the world would you interject it into a conversation? And frankly, if someone were to find a bookmark folder of nothing but people wrapping presents and crinkling packages, you’d probably think they had the world’s strangest fetish, and that they got booked for indecent exposure at the post office some time in their life. It just seems odd. But the community has slowly been coming out amongst ourselves, sharing good videos and talking about the scientific explanation behind the phenomenon. We also discuss how we discovered our ASMR, and those often prove to be the most fascinating stories.
When I was a little girl, I remember always liking when a kid across from me in class would doodle on his paper. I would watch the pencil scratch back-and-forth across the page and fall into a trance so deep, I would often completely forget about what we were doing in class. I remember if the teacher would read a book softly to the class, every time she turned the corner of the page (with that sort of squeaky, glossy-page-against-fingers sound), I would again fall into an almost dream-like state. I thought, at the time, that there must be something wrong with me. I always felt so weird, and that if I told other kids, they would make fun of me. There was something comforting about finding out that for everyone else with ASMR, this was a pitch-perfect description of their childhood, and they experienced similar feelings of confusion and shame.
I often wonder how many people have ASMR, they just haven’t found the right trigger yet. It truly is an experience I wish everyone could have. Though it is not sexual, there is a similar amount of natural high involved, a feeling of being transported and taken under by your own brain power. At the end of a long, stressful day, to sit back and be almost immediately brought into a calm, buzzing, meditative state is something I am so grateful to have. The instant washing away of whatever concern or hang-up was plaguing you, and the simple, calming, reassuring warmth — it almost makes you feel like a child. There is something akin to being a very young child and having a parent rock you back and forth, “shh” in your ear, or rub your scalp. It is a feeling that small pleasures can be powerful, and that we don’t need much to make us happy. It’s joy in its most pure form, and I’m not embarrassed to say it happens to me.
Now, if you need me, I’ll be watching videos of people playing with grains of rice.