Ever stood on a high roof, a ledge, a tall cliff, or a balcony, and then you thought, "What if I jumped?" You didn't intend to do it, which is why you didn't give in to the feeling.
This feeling comes out of nowhere. After all, you only realized that you even had two contradicting thoughts (jumping and backing off) after the moment passes. Everything happened so fast.
Apparently, that is a common emotion, and there is a name for it: "the call of the void."
Many people would be ashamed to admit that they have ever had this feeling, especially since it would imply they were struggling with suicidal thoughts.
The phenomenon can be so powerful that it terrifies you. The French also have a name for it: l'appel due vide.
Call Of The Void Can Take Other Forms
This scary feeling does not just relate to jumping off high places. It can also come in other ways. For instance, while driving, you might wonder what it was like to jerk the steering wheel into oncoming traffic or ram your car into the vehicle ahead of you.
You might also feel like jumping off a bridge or a boat into the water. Some people might feel the urge to stand in front of a train or cut themselves when they are holding something sharp.
The list goes on and on.
The only thing these feelings have in common is that they never materialize and that your mind quickly counters them.
Not Even Scientists Can Really Explain Call of the void
If you can relate to the call of the void experience, then you are not alone. If anything, it is common enough that scientists have been trying to learn more about it.
One of the most notable studies about it was in 2012 by the Department of Psychology at Florida State University. It was investigated under the name "the high place phenomenon," or HPP in short. Their conclusion of this study was intriguing. As it turns out, the call of the void is the mind's messed-up way of making you appreciate life.
The study involved over 400 subjects, who were also assessed for mood behavior problems such as anxiety and depression.
Over 30% of the students admitted to having experienced the phenomenon, and people dealing with anxiety were more likely to have it. By comparison, only about 1 in 7 people (14%) have thought of committing suicide at some point in their lives. Largely, most of the people experiencing this phenomenon had never had suicidal thoughts.
Some people believe that anxiety might have something with experiencing the call of the void. Anxiety can make things seem real even though they are not. For instance, anxiety can make you feel like you are falling when you are just experiencing little vertigo, which would startle you into backing off quickly.
It Might Be A Battle Of Two Minds
The study also found out that the peculiar phenomenon might have something to do with the struggle between the conscious and the subconscious mind.
For instance, you might be walking close to the edge of a roof when you suddenly back off the edge, even though you had no reason to think you were about to fall. In fact, there might even be a railing to prevent such accidents.
According to this study, you would not have backed away if you had not thought of jumping. You backed off because you don't actually want to jump, although that thought crossed your mind.
So, if you did not want to jump and weren't suicidal, why did you back away?
It's simple: you have the will to live, and it's so strong that even the imagination that you could jump was enough to startle you into being more cautious. Obviously, this study might not be perfect, and there are other schools of thought on it.
Is It A Battle Between Fear Of Death Versus Fear Of Heights?
Another theory is that call of the void results from a combination between fear of heights and fear of death. This theory was put forth by Adam Anderson, a cognitive neuroscientist at Cornell University.
According to this theory, those who experience this feeling have a fear of heights.
Apparently, we try to overcome bad situations by taking a risk against them. Consequently, someone who wants to overcome a fear of heights would be tempted to gamble against it by jumping.
The problem, however, is that the jump could result in death.
Consequently, the temptation to overcome the fear of heights by jumping is immediately overcome by the fear of death, which is why someone would back off immediately after entertaining the thought of jumping.
There Are Many Other Theories On Call Of The Void
Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher, said this feeling is a perfect representation of the human freedom to choose life or death.
Of course, humans are also perfectly capable of self-sabotage, and that would explain why the mind might contemplate jumping from dangerously great heights.
It is also worth considering that you might feel like jumping and immediately get scared of the thought simply because it is an intrusive thought. After all, countless thoughts can go through a person's mind, both bad and good.
What Is The Lesson Here?
In conclusion, there is no definite explanation on why we experience the call of the void. We can only say for certain that this feeling is real, and many people have it.
We can also say for certain that the feeling shows that those who experience the call of the void experience two contradicting thoughts, with the self-preservation instinct winning every time.
Still, if you have this feeling all the time, your anxiety might be getting a little out of control. Too much anxiety is often accompanied by symptoms like feelings of doom, hopelessness, frequent worries, concentration problems, and rapid mood changes.
Otherwise, you have no reason to stress too much about this feeling. It happens even to perfectly normal people. In fact, those who have ever had suicidal thoughts are more likely to have it.
Think of the call of the void as a sign that, deep down, you want to keep on living. But if it bothers you too much, you can talk to a therapist about it and find out if you are dealing with a serious psychological problem such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Otherwise, as weird as it sounds, it's perfectly normal to feel like you want to jump off buildings as long as you don't actually intend to.