Have you ever experienced the Call of the Void?
You are standing at the edge of a cliff, taking in a spectacular view. You look down. Damn, that is some distance. Whoo. And then for a split second, you wonder what would happen if you just took one step over the edge.
What the actual hell? Where did that thought even come from? You take a quick step back and are a little uncomfortable with where your brain went.
That is the Call of the Void. It is actually quite common. And, no, has nothing to do with actual suicidal ideation.
Also known as High Place Phenomenon. (HPP)
The call of the void is also known as high place phenomenon (HPP), since people often feel it when standing somewhere high up. You could also experience this type of impulse when doing other things that involve a high risk of danger.Healthline
- jerk the steering wheel and turn into oncoming traffic while driving
- jump into very deep water from a boat or bridge
- stand on train or subway tracks or jump in front of a train
- cut yourself when holding a knife or other sharp object
- put a metal object into an electrical outlet
- stick your hand into a fire or garbage disposal
So what causes it?
Well…. who actually even knows. Likely has something to do with how our brains are wired. Obviously. That seems a logical conclusion. Bit a glitch in the system as it were.
Theory 1- Survival
When you are in a potentially dangerous or threatening situation your brain freaks out and goes ‘DON’T’ or ‘BACK UP’ or ‘PANIC AT THE DISCO’ whatever the case may be.
And you instinctively do back up or stop suddenly. But mistake that sudden adjustment as a desire to have wanted to Do It for a second.
I don’t like this one. It doesn’t feel right to me. I have felt the Call of the Void in the mountains standing on a cliff… feeling that split-second weird feeling ‘wonder what it would be like to jump?’ and then backing up. Backing up After the thought. Not simultaneously. Not after. You think it, then back up. It is very strange indeed. Passing thought for sure. Strange. Intrusive almost. And contrary to what you were just feeling.
Theory 2- Anxiety Sensitivity
That’s where anxiety sensitivity may come in. The authors found that people with higher anxiety sensitivity, or fear of anxiety symptoms, are more likely to experience HPP. Anxiety sensitivity often involves things like believing a pounding heartbeat indicates a heart attack or that panic symptoms mean you may faint, or even die. Those with higher anxiety sensitivity, suggest the authors, may be more likely to interpret a signal they don’t understand as something dangerous.Healthline
This is more like a misinterpretation of a physical signal… and that may be more accurate. Like you are feeling your heart pounding from being that close to the edge and that high up. And maybe your body signals it as dangerous. This gives you anxiety. And you interpret this as a signal that you wanted to act on this sensation… a desire, rather than a sensation.
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The study referenced was small and limited so it is really hard to say.
It is one hell of a strange phenomenon for sure but does not indicate any mental illness. So whether it is from misinterpreted survival instincts or our sensitivity to anxiety sensations it is very strange indeed to experience. It definitely doesn’t mean we actually have the inclination to jump off a cliff.
It’s a mystery and that is why it fascinates me.
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