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On the Nature of the Shudder

→ by Danieru
I remember many years ago someone telling me that there was a recognised term for the kind of involuntary shudder that commonly affects people at rest. You know the kind that spontaneously rocks you, just for a moment, like you are shaking off the ghoulies, like the cliche says 'someone was walking on your grave'?

So I set out to search for the term, not realising the web of shudder-related interest I was about to uncover...

"We shake and quake and quiver and tremble and flutter and shudder with anger, with fright, with disgust, with horror, with sexual arousal, in religious ecstasy, in conditions of illness and debility, and then just from old age (all age being old age). Shaking sometimes erupts into highly visible forms: into sneezes, orgasms, fits, rages and religious convulsions. If we think of shaking as involuntary action, it can nevertheless take channeled forms, as in tics and twitches and other compulsive but spasmodic syntaxes of the body, which signify, not so much a body out of control, as a body submitted to a different, sometimes higher principles of control.... a fragile, discontinuous chain - a chain held together by its breaks - runs through all these shifting instances and contexts, forming a miniature, parasitic life, the life of a sensation." - link
This is not to mention the sexual literature you come across if you search for involuntary shiver or spasm of the body in Google. It is through searches like these that the true hidden gems of the internet are uncovered, thus:

"A small zip of excitement ripped through her as she stepped into the glassed-in shower cubicle and adjusted the thermostat with a practiced twist to the sleek, faux gold handles....

As it turned out, not only she was an alien Princess from Mars, she was a Princess in sexual heat. Horny as a she-cat and mad as hell about the situation." -
So I failed to find the term I was originally looking for, however interesting these consolations were. I have also posted the question to Ask Metafilter in the hope that somone there can help.

Does anyone have any idea what it can be?

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Blogger Jennyology said...

I used to get those a lot when I was younger... I've heard a little of this and that about theories associated with those lil shivers, but personally they're usually associated with my conscious mind conflicting with my subconscious.

For example, this often happens when I'm about to fall asleep and then I have some really practical thought or worry that "jolts" me back into the waking world... but maybe that's just me. If it is kinda along those lines though, it'd be neat to figure out why (at least for me) those two functions of my mind/body are so incompatible.

November 16, 2005 2:28 PM    

Blogger Anton said...

Is this on the right track? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnic_jerk ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myoclonus

November 18, 2005 4:26 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

i had some great input on this at ask metafilter. Your suggestions came up there too, but I felt they didn't quite get to the juxt of the experience. Thus:

"The myoclonic twitches or jerks are usually caused by sudden muscle contractions; they also can result from brief lapses of contraction. Contractions are called positive myoclonus; relaxations are called negative myoclonus. The most common time for people to encounter them is while falling asleep ("sleep starts") but myoclonic jerks are also a symptom of a number of neurological disorders. Hiccups are also a kind of myoclonic jerk specifically affecting the diaphragm."

Is too definitive. I know the jolt you get when you half fall asleep, and my full body shivers are not like that. Here's what I said on Metafilter:

"Sleep has nothing to do with it, its kind of just a moment out of time when your body convulses in an almost fear-like representation of something you didn't experience, somthing that bypassed your consciousness and went straight into your nervous system."

The best answer I got still doesn't knock the nail quite on the head, but the word is cool...

NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. fris┬Ěsons (-sz, -s)
A moment of intense excitement; a shudder: The story's ending arouses a frisson of terror.
ETYMOLOGY: French, from Old French fricons, pl. of fricon, a trembling, from Vulgar Latin *frcti, *frctin-, from Latin frgre, to be cold.

I really reckon there is a better word than this, anyone else got any ideas?

November 18, 2005 6:12 AM    

Anonymous kezerd said...

i've often heard people refer to a sudden whole-body shiver/shudder as a 'collywobble'. don't know if the spelling is right or even close, but it sounds like that.
i seem to remember a definition of collywobble as 'intestinal pain'.

November 20, 2005 4:50 AM    

Anonymous Samyra said...

I'm trying to find out myself. My mom wants me to go to a neurologist to have it checked out. She sometimes has a jerk right before she goes to sleep. I have them all day periodically and never before I go to sleep.

December 11, 2005 5:07 AM    

Blogger el said...

i get the same thing! or at least it sounds like it. especially if i am tired or stressed. i am a med student and all my med friends reckon i am having a simple partial seizure. i dunno though. it feels like a shiver, and i kind of get a tingling almost building up sensation sometimes before i have one, but usually they just happen. and i feel like i can kind of bring one on by thinking about the sensation. and yeah like i said before i get them heaps if i am tired

April 21, 2006 12:55 PM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get the "shivers" constantly throughout the day. I've always jokingly said, "It's a ghost walking through me." But I wonder how far from the truth that is...

November 16, 2006 1:44 AM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious about this as well, I will often have the sensation of "falling" as I am falling asleep and my body suddenly shudders or spasms and I try to "catch" the fall. Mine are very small shudders though. My boyfriend's entire body spasms almost every single time he falls asleep and it makes me wonder if it is neurological in nature. I am a nursing student but have never come across a definitive answer because everyone's experience of this sensation is different.

February 12, 2010 4:40 AM    

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