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.
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... :)