Breaking into Biofeedback

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Connie was a colleague at hospital who became a dear friend and mentor of mine. In fact, if I had a list of women who have had a profound impact on my life, her name would definitely appear somewhere in the Top Five. She had a way of opening my eyes to new concepts and in an indirect way she was directly responsible for my discovering ASMR. (In fact, if you look closely, I dedicated my portion of the ASMR book to Connie!)

One spring, I contracted an irritating cold that hung on longer than necessary and as a result turned my days and nights around. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I were still on night shift, but I was working in the mornings and was dragging throughout the day only to find myself wide awake at night. Frustrated, I said to Connie, “How am I ever going to get my body’s schedule straight?” She thought for a moment and then said, “Have you ever heard of biofeedback?” I shook my head.

She went onto explain that that after injuring her back, she too had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. In order to help her out, her doctor made her a tape of biofeedback suggestions to help her relax. She promised to bring me a copy of the tape the next day in hopes that it might help.

From the way she described it, it sounded a lot like the guided visualizations my professor had used on my self-hypnosis class and at that point I was willing to try anything so I agreed. The following day, she brought me the tape and made me promise not to listen to it while driving. “I’m serious,” she cautioned. “You could wind up in an accident.”

I thought she was being a little overly cautious, but agreed to wait to listen to it until I was at home. That night, after getting the kids to sleep, I lay down, slid the cassette into my Walkman and put the headphones over my ears. There was that hum of white noise that occurs when someone records himself outside of a professional studio and then I heard the doctor’s voice, which caused my brain exploded in those familiar tingles I hadn’t felt in quite a while.

“Is it possible for you to become a little more relaxed?” He asked.

There was nothing special about his tone. It was just…calm and over the next 10-15 minutes, he led me through a variety of deep relaxation exercises as well as some guided imagery to help ease my mind and urge me into a peaceful slumber. Some of the suggestions were obvious such as imagining a babbling brook or picturing the branches of a tree spreading out above me, but others were a little…well, weird and caused me to throw all of my energy into places I’d never put it before.

“Can you feel the corners of your mouth touching?” He intoned. “Can you imagine the space between your eyes?”

Although I knew it wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people, I was hooked. When I built up a resistance to the doctor’s voice, I sought out guided meditation tapes at the local library hoping to find that perfect blend of vocal timbre and suggestion. It wasn’t always easy. I didn’t care for a lot of the background music included in some of the tapes and sometimes it all seemed a little “rehearsed.” The thing that seemed to set apart that original tape was the fact that I could actually hear how amateurish it was. I could hear the doctor readjust himself in his seat or change the microphone from one hand to the other and oddly enough…it added to the experience.

It felt amazing to know that the funny feeling in my head was some kind of biofeedback response and that a doctor had “discovered” a way to tap into it. Little did I know that I had inadvertently hit the top of a very big iceberg, one that when I looked below the surface would change my life forever.

Until next time, tingle on!


Julie Young
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