Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unusual Urges

About a week ago I was driving over the George Washington Bridge. Traffic slowed for a few seconds and I was able to look at the steel girders, beams, rivets, and thick wires that held the bridge together. My eyes followed the construction upwards and my mind put me somewhere out there about 100 feet up over the Hudson.

I could see the sparkling water below me and a seagull passed close to my right ear, and I could feel the grip of my left flip-flopped foot loose its traction--I could feel myself start to fall.

Just like in my dreams of falling, I jerked myself back to reality before I hit the chilly water, cursed aloud in the car and again wondered why my brain insists on playing these messed up games with me.

These odd moments do not happen infrequently.
When I was in Washington, D.C. I was strolling next to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool. I did not want to get wet, my balance is very good, yet as I walked hand in hand with my then boyfriend I was pretty sure if I stepped up onto the edge I would have a hard time keeping myself from jumping right in. Of course I would not drown there and most likely not even get hurt, but again--strange urge!

I have never wanted to kill or injure myself, and I do not fancy myself much of a physical daredevil with urges to climb slippery mountains or jump out of planes.

Then why, oh why do I have these odd urges and thoughts at such inopportune times?

Seems there is some real science behind this urge. A team in Florida State's psychology department gave this freaky feeling the name "high-place phenomenon." Over 400 people in the study were asked if they ever felt the urge to suddenly jump from a high place, and although people who had considered suicide in the past answered positively more often, over 50% of non-suicidal participants said they had experienced the phenomenon also.  (Complete article from NBC News here: http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/13/10657767-that-weird-urge-to-jump-off-a-bridge-explained?lite )

Imagine you have just ascended the 217 steps to reach the top of the Barnegat Light House in Long Beach Island, NJ. You step onto the completely enclosed catwalk that encircles the top-most portion of the structure and you look down and panic. Even though it would be impossible to squeeze through the iron bars you find yourself stepping away from the edge, or even retreating to the perceived safety of the inner light room.
You look back outside and realize you would be 100% safe walking around out there and enjoying the view--so why did you run in? Possibly because we had some type of urge to jump?

We test ourselves in many ways. Some climb Everest, or base jump, or search for paranormal activity with EVP equipment and infrared cameras, some use Xbox for vicarious wars and battles. We want to feel brave and get a thrill, and we all do it differently.

When I was younger I used to go to graveyards at night with my camera and some friends to try and capture something otherworldly on film. We did see some other darkly dressed characters that we called grave robbers, and we were chased away by the police, but the only thing we managed to get on film was each other.

So my personal "thrill" is discovering and exploring the dark and scary. I do NOT like heights, yet I'm sure I will find myself once again daydreaming about being far to high above my comfort zone of sea level.

I would love to know if you have ever experienced the high place phenomenon, or anything like it.

I also like to stir the pot in conversations a bit--but I think that is something different... :)


  1. Like you, I've never had the urge to kill myself, never thinking suicide was the answer. I've never really had the falling dreams, nor have I pictured myself (daydreaming) some place high up, looking down, and then falling...

    However, subconsciously, when I'm playing golf...and there's water around, my ball lands in the water every time. Even if I know I can make it over the water, it won't. It's like my mind tells the ball telepathically that no matter how hard or correctly I hit the ball...do not, under any circumstances, make it over the water. So, it doesn't. LOL

    I would like to jump out of a plane one day, but only while tethered to a professional...of course, he should be HOT and strong...I mean, if I'm going to die, I'd like it to be with someone handsome. Maybe he'd even cushion my fall...LOL

  2. OMG Beth!! HAHA~~!! You psychically derail your own golf game!
    And you are WAY braver than I am!! Jumping out of a plane is NOT on my bucket list--I am terrified of heights--and not too fond of flying either.
    But the tethered to a handsome man part...hmmm... that does not sound so bad now and then...

  3. Not a high-jump urge, but an, "I'm waiting to cross the street and boy there's so much traffic, and what if I just stepped out into it?" urge. Pretty feckin' weird, and not something I'd intentionally do, sober or otherwise. Bizarre.

    Penelope, what if it's the Devil, whispering in our ears, planting the urge to see if it'll take root?????
    Some Dark Romantic

    1. ME TOO!!
      Oh the #$%ing devil--seriously--it crossed my mind as I wrote this.

  4. I've never had the urge to kill myself, I like me...other people, sometimes, not so much.
    But that's a different urge.

    I am terrified of heights and would never,willingly, jump from any. Nope, no bungee jumping, zip lining, parachuting for me. And I have never visualized myself doing so. Scares me just thinking about it. If I go out on a ledge, so to speak, and run back in, it isn't because I had the urge to jump, it's because I was afraid I'd fall!

    Dark and scary, now, as an adult, I'm all about that. Things that go bump in the night, love it. Would I go into one of those creepy, vacated, asylums that are supposed to be haunted? You bet, that is how I would test my personal limits. Could I stay in there all night? I'd sure try. Who's with me?

    As always, interesting Pen.


    1. Yep--my kind of limit pushing too.
      Although I would not discount a few other things--but that is for a different blog...
      Overnight in an asylum...maybe---with a few others...maybe..

  5. Very interesting. No, I don't think I've ever experienced anything like this. However, I wonder if there are other "beyond normal" things that I have daydreamed about. I'll have to day dream a bit and get back to you on that.
    I hope the week has been treating you well.


    1. Week is good so far--hope yours is too.
      Never had an urge to shoplift, or smack someone, or lick the icing off the birthday cake??
      Is it only ME!!??

  6. Yes! It's nice to know I have lots of company. :)

    1. Oh finally Laura!!
      Although lately my biggest "urge" is just to smack somebody...
      ..not you...

  7. I have no fear of heights and I cannot recall the urge to leap from a dangerous ledge or anything of that nature, but I do find myself having a battle with dark, unwanted thoughts, which are along the same line as what you speak of above. Actually, a close friend and I experience similar horrific visions and it is always about our pets. It's uncomfortable to even speak of, but at random times, while our dogs (or in my case, squirrels) are playing, we will suddenly envision a worst case scenario that rattles us to the core. My squirrel will be perched atop a door (I always secure open doors with a stopper, to be sure they can never slam shut with the wind and close on his tiny fingers) yet, without warning, I will get a sudden vision of exactly that, or some other unthinkable accident. It is so awful, it compels me to rush over to him and call him down from his perch immediately.
    For my friend, similarly, her dog will be playing in an absolutely safe environment, yet she will experience sudden intrusive thoughts playing out some horrific, unspeakable scene.

    After years of experiencing these dreadful day-mares, we have come to the assumption that it is merely our deep love for these creatures creating these visions and scenarios...our subconscious being proactive in keeping our babies safe...warning us of dangers and allowing us to accident proof their worlds.

    Regardless...they're horrific!

    Great blog, Penelope. You always get me thinking.

  8. Hoooollly @#$ I know EXACTLY what you mean!
    You have to close your eyes, shake your head, and speak out loud to snap yourself out of it...
    I swear that is a PTSD thing.
    And they come so full force!
    ACK. Hate them.
    And I do think you are right--almost like a close-call without it really happening.
    We are keeping the babies safe.


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