Many people experience inexplicable, anxiety causing urges or thoughts of doing destructive things that would cause harm to themselves or others.
These urges are considered normal in people who don’t experience suicidal thoughts or other extreme mental distress.
These bizarre urges are called the “Call of the Void” and can be related to crashing a car, jumping from a high place or other high risk behaviors.
Call of the Void comes from the French name; “l’appel du vide” and although there is not a tonne of research on the topic, there has been scientific study conducted on this phenomena.
Dr. Jennifer Hames led a landmark 2012 study on “The Call of the Void”, which focused on High Place Phenomenon (HPP) – the inexplicable urge to jump from a high place.
During the study, 431 undergraduate students at Florida State were polled about their experience with HPP. One-third reported that
they had experienced the “call of the void” and that over 50% of them have never experienced suicidal tendencies.
These findings are echoed in our recent survey of Reddit members discussing whether or not they have ever experienced the Call of the Void.
A large percentage, 69%, said they have experienced these urges while 31% said they have not.
What Are Some Examples of Call of the Void?
According to members of Reddit, common urges can look like; dropping off the roof of a building, driving off the edge of a bridge, taking a sip of bleach while cleaning, dropping a precious object into water, touching the spinning blade of a saw or even spitting into the hair of someone sitting in front of you.
While fishing, it had crossed my mind to jump off the bridge. Zero reason for it. Same while driving, the thought crosses my mind to speed into another car or off road. They are very brief, but they happen.Reddit Member
Have had the impulse on occasion but fortunately passes as quick as it appears. Comes across more as a “what if” than any real strong urge. I shudder and move on, forgetting about it as quickly as any dream.Reddit Member
It happens near busy roads and in the subway station. It’s crazy how we have things that are so heavy and so fast that would end you in seconds. But it’s not really a desire to jump under a truck or the subway, it’s more of a “Woah I could do that. Interesting.Reddit Member
Why Do We Feel the Call of the Void?
Hames observed that anxiety and sensitivity in individuals are linked to the experience of these urges but don’t necessarily cause them.
Instead it’s the individual’s acute awareness of threat and their will to preserve their life that causes this phenomena.
Laura Cooper in her article, The Call of the Void, does a good job of explaining the role of anxiety when it comes to these strange urges.
“In a sense, the more people are aware of their personal safety, the more anxiety they experience about potential threats to it. In the case of HPP, though, the anxiety related to the perceived threat is often interpreted as a desire to enact the threat, rather than a confirmation of the desire to live.”
So if you are otherwise a happy, healthy person, don’t panic when you tighten your grip on the steering wheel as you drive past that huge tree on your way to work.
See your urge as proof of your awareness and appreciation for life – a warning, not a prompt.
Thus, individuals who report experiencing the phenomenon are not necessarily suicidal; rather, the experience of high place phenomenon may reflect their sensitivity to internal cues and actually affirm their will to live.Dr. Jennifer Hames