The things you say
April 30, 2007 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Out of curiosity: sometimes when I hear people talk, I get a strange feeling in the back of my head.

It feels good and almost as if something is being secreted. the feeling is localized around the area where the skull meets the spine, or around the brain stem-ish area. I have never been able to figure out what specifically it is about some people's voices that make me feel this sensation or notice any other patterns. I don't have much else to go on. I'm wondering if anyone else experiences it or perhaps knows what it is?
posted by god particle to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Does it happen if you are listening to a recorded voice? Does it happen whenever someone is speaking, or only if they are saying something of importance?

I have a feeling a bit like that when I have a deep and interesting conversation.
posted by tomble at 5:20 PM on April 30, 2007

Is there anything distinct about the person or the way they speak that gives you this feeling? Because when I hear someone with a certain type of gentle, sincere soft-spokenness about them I sometimes get a similar feeling, but it's usually in my chest a little, too.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:21 PM on April 30, 2007

Response by poster: It happens with both recorded voices and when I'm talking to someone in person. I don't think it's anything distinct about the person, but I am fairly certain that it has to do with the way they speak. I've never been able to pinpoint what it is exactly about someone's voice or way of speaking that causes it.
posted by god particle at 5:31 PM on April 30, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, and what they're saying doesn't have to be of any importance. Also, it only happens when the person is a stranger. I have never gotten this feeling talking to anyone I have known for some time. The effect seems to wear off after I've heard that person speak a lot (as in for more than a day).
posted by god particle at 5:33 PM on April 30, 2007

Me too. Over time I've come to associate it with someone who's talking about something they love and are sincere about it. It's happened with people as diverse as a french speaker talking about calligraphy and a cab driver talking about home.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:33 PM on April 30, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify, this is a different feeling than the one I get when I witness something awe inspiring or really emotionally moving, which is more of a full-body rush.
posted by god particle at 5:42 PM on April 30, 2007

I have experienced this before or something very similar. I've also tried explaining it to other people without much success. For me, it was almost always strangers talking and while I was doing something menial. It happened most frequently when I was younger working at a grocery store. I'd be stocking or straightening shelves, my mind elsewhere, and someone walking down the aisle talking would trigger it. It's the most wonderful tingling buzz sensation in the world. I'd try and keep it for as long as possible but it'd often end just as abrubtly as it started. Sometimes other noises like a coffee grinder grinding would also trigger it. Unfortunately, it has dissipated with age. I rarely experience it now and it is usually just a pale imitation of what it used to be like. I have no idea what it is/was but I'm happy someone else knows what I'm talking about.
posted by snez at 6:22 PM on April 30, 2007

I've had a similar reaction to voices since I was a kid. It's just like you described - a warm feeling where the brain meets the spine. Then sometimes the feeling continues, sort of like when someone rubs your head or strokes your hair. With me it's not about what's being said, it's the voice itself. It doesn't have to be a soft voice; just some voices hit that "something" that sets off my warm fuzzy. This will sound totally goofy, but I've sat through some really boring things on TV just because someone had "the voice."
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:41 PM on April 30, 2007

I was just wondering if this happened to other people the other day while listening to NPR. The woman was talking about some book she had written - she had an accent of some kind. I find it is almost always recorded or through speaker of some kind. Accents cause it more often for me. I always feel like there is some 'meatiness' to their voice - a wetter sound. Its awesome - I could listen to it for as long as the sensation lasted. Makes me want to close my eyes.

How odd.
posted by jopreacher at 6:44 PM on April 30, 2007

Response by poster: snez, oriole adams, and jopreacher, what you're describing sounds exactly like it. now that you mention it, I do think it happens more often if people have an accent, even just a very subtle one, and also when I'm doing something menial and unengaging.
posted by god particle at 7:05 PM on April 30, 2007

Wow, interesting discussion; trying to put into words something for which there are no words.

I have a similar feeling at times, but mine is more focused in my hands. It happens when I am involved in somewhat deep conversation. My hands feel "big" somehow. If I am on the phone, the phone seems to take on gigantic proportions. I have had this since I was a kid, and it's so strange. The only thing I have ever heard that seemed to describe it is a line from Comfortably Numb: When I was a child I had a fever / My hands felt just like two balloons / Now I've got that feeling once again...

OK people. Look. We know what we mean, but this could be embarrassing. Can we agree that what we say in this thread, stays in this thread? Good. Thanks.
posted by The Deej at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2007

I hereby dub this phenomenon:

vocal charisma
posted by megatherium at 7:24 PM on April 30, 2007

I get a very similar feeling, but it's always in response to watching someone else wrap presents (very bizarre, I know). I have no idea why it happens only in that specific situation. Watching people do other menial tasks doesn't usually trigger it. I kind of daze out a bit, totally relax, and feel kind of sleepy.
posted by pitseleh at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2007

Anybody want to provide a recording of a voice that evokes this feeling?
posted by theiconoclast31 at 7:51 PM on April 30, 2007

I get the big-hands thing, most often when lying in bed on my back with my hands at my side or on my stomach, or else at the computer with one hand on my mouse and one on the keyboard, but both out of my field of vision. I totally think of balloons.
When I read Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat story about proprioception and the patient who couldn't control her hands if she wasn't looking at them, I wondered if it's possible to have a very mild case of whatever she had.
posted by librarina at 8:51 PM on April 30, 2007

Theiconoclast, Cynthia Kereluk's voice does it for me, don't know if she will have that effect on anyone else. This is the only recording I could find; please try to look past the fact that some fetishist posted the most crotch-intensive video he could find, and just listen to the voice.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:21 PM on April 30, 2007

I get this feeling when I am being examined or measured in some way -- e.g., at a physical, or a shoe store. I also get it from watching someone else in the same situation. (I even got the feeling when reading about Harry being measured for his wand in the first Harry Potter book.)
posted by danb at 9:48 PM on April 30, 2007

@Oriole Adams: Thanks for posting the video! But I don't feel it, maybe someone else will have better luck. :(
posted by theiconoclast31 at 11:27 PM on April 30, 2007

Aren't you just describing the hairs on the back of your neck standing up? They don't literally stand up, of course, but it's in the same area you describe (for me, at least). This doesn't have to happen only when you're scared, or wary. It can happen when you're delighted, or receive a revelation, or just when you're suddenly really happy.

Stanislavski discussed emotional memory, when certain circumstances or objects can bring memories flooding back. Is it possible the voice (or subject the voice is talking about) causes this to happen in you?
posted by humblepigeon at 4:23 AM on May 1, 2007

Response by poster: I know it isn't the hairs on the back of my neck, since I have felt that before and recognize that feeling. Also, I guess this feeling is located more above the neck than where the neck hairs are. I don't think this has ever happened when I'm scared, but I'm fairly certain it happens regardless of my current emotional state.

Also, that video doesn't do it for me, but the last voice I experienced it with had a Canadian accent.
posted by god particle at 11:51 AM on May 1, 2007

I know exactly the sensation you're talking about and I always wondered if it happened to other people, too. I seem to remember it happening a lot more when I was a kid, especially when certain people read stories aloud. Now it's less frequent, but certain NPR voices will still trigger it sometimes - maybe because I'm usually doing something menial while I listen to radio shows, as mentioned above.
posted by emmastory at 6:41 AM on May 6, 2007

So, let's add another verse...

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look, but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it it now
The child is grown, the dream is gone
And I have become
Comfortably numb

posted by The Deej at 7:27 AM on May 6, 2007

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