ASMR: The Powerful Practice That Helped Me Let People In

Relaxation

“For the person that needs to see this today: Your heart will heal, your tears will dry, your season will change. Rest tonight, knowing the storm will end.” ~Unknown

Like many people, I didn’t have the easiest time growing up. Between having a toxic family upbringing and being bullied, I learned to trust nobody and keep to myself. Being naturally bold and self-sufficient enabled me to move through the world independently, relying on as few people as possible. Living this way was the closest experience to safety I could reference.

Over the years, my lifestyle of hyper-independence increased, and I drifted further away from others. This coincided with a new career field I’d moved into that required much travel. As I threw myself into making money, I cut ties with many of the remaining relationships in my life, wanting to rid myself of anything that felt interdependent.

“I don’t need anybody now,” I justified to myself. “As long as I have money, I can buy support.”

This wasn’t a dig at the people in my life as much as it indicated a deep feeling of unease that had always followed me in relationships. Connection was challenging for me, and I hated being faced with my perceived failures.

As much as I wanted to disappear into the busyness of work, as time passed, I couldn’t escape how painful it was to be alone. I would often wake up in a new hotel room unsure of what city I was in, and feeling so lonely, I thought at times that I might literally die from the pain of it. The self-imposed isolation started to feel like a prison that I didn’t know how to break out of.

The more I tried to distract myself, the more suffocating the isolation became. It was as if the walls of the hotel rooms were closing in on me, mocking my attempts to fill the void. Each morning, I would force a smile onto my face, pretending to be content with my solitary existence. Still, inside, my soul ached for connection.

During this time, I desperately craved human touch. Sometimes, I felt as though my body was withering like a flower while sensing the absence of a loved one to cuddle with or hug. I wanted physical contact that felt gentle and nurturing. Touch that allowed me to feel a sense of home.

Yet, deep down, fear gnawed at me. Fear that if I allowed myself to let others in, to depend on them, I would be vulnerable to the same pain and rejection that had haunted me in the past. I had constructed a thick fortress around my heart to shield it from potential pain.

I wish I could say that one day I woke up and decided to make a change, but it took time. As the magnitude of my trauma started to come into focus, I developed a newfound appreciation for the parts of myself I had judged because of their unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Harsh criticism was replaced by tenderness and even admiration for all I’d been managing to hold up. For the fact that I had still managed to strive and dream and hope in the face of so much pain.

But it wasn’t until somatic practices were introduced into my life that I was able to heal some of the more profound wounding that had been following me around.

Somatic means “of the body” and is a growing area of study in the mental health and wellness space. Research studies reveal how trauma isn’t located strictly in the brain but is held in our nervous system and physiological responses.

For example, our body kicks into action when we encounter a stressful situation. Our psychology cannot tell the difference between physical or emotional pain, so its first instinct when encountering either is to move into a flight-or-fight stress response.

This shows up in the body as a spike in cortisol levels and blood rushing to our legs so that we can run faster. Our digestive system slows to conserve energy, and our breath becomes shallow. If the trauma isn’t properly processed, these physiological responses can stay “turned on,” so to speak, leaving us in a state of dysregulation.

As I explored somatic practice, I began to experience trauma leaving my body in visceral ways. Sometimes, my legs would shake, or my jaw would chatter uncontrollably. I began to take comfort in these releases, as my nervous system was always remarkably calmer at the end of one.

I was hooked and wanted to learn more. I started to read everything I could on trauma and somatic tools as a way to heal. One day, I stumbled across a practitioner who used autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) as a form of touch therapy.

I had only been familiar with ASMR as YouTube videos in which the creator would whisper into the camera while performing reiki or tapping on a microphone. I didn’t know that it could be performed one-on-one, in person.

I also didn’t know that ASMR can be deeply calming, relaxing, and healing, and that this could be the key to letting my guard down and letting people in.

When I arrived for my session, I entered a quiet room where my ASMR therapist greeted me. She explained what I should expect from our hour together, and after my questions were addressed, I settled face down on the massage bed. Ambient music drifted from a nearby speaker, and I was instructed to relax.

What happened over the next hour was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I drifted into one of the deepest relaxations of my life, where every sense was stimulated.

Various types of head massages and tools were used on my back to draw circles and shapes. There was a gentle tapping on my legs and a soft brush on my neck. There was also an instrument that sounded like rushing water played over top of me periodically. I felt myself sighing deeply repeatedly as decades of emotional tension released from my body.

By the end of the session, I was on cloud nine, and I slept like a baby that night. For the next week, I felt like I was inhabiting my body in an entirely new way. A light breeze brushing against my cheek would leave me speechless. The fabric of my cashmere sweater felt like a hug. It was as if all my senses were returning online after years of numbness.

I credit ASMR as a critical practice on my healing journey. In fact, I finally opened my own practice to help others. This tool is still widely misunderstood and underrepresented in therapy modalities, and the benefits need to be shared on a wider platform.

As I healed, I started to challenge my fear of intimacy and began taking small steps toward building meaningful relationships. I finally addressed the deep-rooted issues that had contributed to my aversion to connection. I gradually learned to let others into my heart.

It is said that we are not meant to navigate this world alone, and indeed, I have come to realize the truth in this sentiment. As my heart opened to the beauty of human connection, I discovered the transformative power of shared experiences and the profoundly positive impact others can have on our lives.

No longer bound by self-imposed isolation, I now embrace a life surrounded by a network of kindred spirits. I have learned that strength can be found not only in independence but also in the willingness to forge deep and meaningful connections. And through this journey, I have come to understand that true safety lies not in solitude but in the embrace of genuine human connection.

About Rebecca Benvie

ebecca Benvie is the founder of an ASMR wellness service called WhisperWave. Having worked one-on-one with hundreds of people in her private practice, she learned a lot about the nature of touch and who is not getting enough of it. Over and over again, she has seen clients with anxiety or mood disorders leave a session feeling reborn, all thanks to the power of gentle, focused touch. Her passion and mission is to educate others on the importance of physical contact. Visit her at www.whisperwavenyc.com.

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