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"L'appel du vide" moments

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The French saying "L'appel du vide" or in the literal English translation "The Call of the Void" presents the inexplicable desire to kill yourself or to think of killing someone at a particular moment.

"It is however, a feeling common enough that studies have been dedicated it" - Kara Goldfarb, assuming that almost every person has felt these thoughts at least once in their life, and they last very briefly, only a few seconds. Once the thought passes, the man becomes aware of and expels himself from danger. However, the "call of the void"  should differ from suicidal tendencies and aspirations because they do not have emotional stress, but come spontaneously and are caused by our subconscious mind. Moreover, people do not listen to these thoughts because they are aware that they would never want to do such a thing in reality. 

In order to make my self clear as to which situations  "the call of the void" are precisely manifested, they are usually those moments where, for instance, we find ourselves on a very high place and we suddenly think about jumping, or when we are driving a car and we think how easy would it be for us to crash with the other cars in traffic, or when we are giving someone a bath ans we think of drowning him, or when we are holding a knife or hammer in our hands and we think how easy it would be to stab and kill someone near us. 

In other words, for a moment, we think about how easy would it be or how little would it take for us to end our own life, or someone else's life.

  • Have you ever experienced "L'appel du vide" moments?
  • What do you think these moments mean from a psychological point of view and why do they occur at all?

 

Edited by Space Babe

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5 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

Almost every person has felt these thoughts at least once in their life

Citation needed.

I have never heard of this before. Is it really "almost every person"? I find that hard to believe.

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21 minutes ago, Strange said:

Citation needed.

I have never heard of this before. Is it really "almost every person"? I find that hard to believe.

This is also known as the "High place phenomenon", given the name by Jennifer Hames. She led a study at the department of Psychology at Florida State. The study samples a survey of 431 undergrad students, asking them if they've experienced this phenomenon. A third of the study's participants reported that they experienced this phenomenon. A little over 50% of the subjects who said they felt the call of the void never had suicidal tendencies

Since the study was performed only on undergrad students, Hames wrote an article, as I recall, where she gives an explanation about this phenomenon that applies to all humans in general, indicating that it is very common.

Anyway, this is my first time starting a new topic on this forum, since I am a new member, and I am very sorry if I made any mistakes, errors or created a confusion. I tried to edit the topic above to be more precise. Again, I apologize... 

 

 

Edited by Space Babe

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1 minute ago, Space Babe said:

Since the study was performed only on undergrad students, Hames wrote an article, as a recall, where she gives an explanation about this phenomenon that applies to all humans in general, indicating that it is very common.

I would be interested to know how she got from 1/3rd to "all humans". 

I have stood on the top of tall buildings and cliffs and the idea of jumping has never occurred to me. It just seems bizarre.

2 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

Anyway, I am very sorry if I made any mistakes, errors or created a confusion. This is my first time starting a new topic on this forum, since I am a new member...

No, don't worry. You haven't done anything wrong. I am just sceptical!

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3 minutes ago, Strange said:

I have stood on the top of tall buildings and cliffs and the idea of jumping has never occurred to me. It just seems bizarre.

According to Jennifer's study, people with higher anxiety were more likely to have the urge, but also, people with higher anxiety were more likely to have higher ideation. So people with higher ideation were more likely to report the phenomenon.

She explains that it could be explained by a strange mix between the conscious and unconscious mind. However, I have another assumption regarding the name "Call of the void" and is related to the psychological aspect of the non-belief in the afterlife.

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The thought has occurred to me. ""I could just jump!" But it is no different to me than any other thoughts. "Maybe I'll win the lottery!" or "I could go to Ireland for holiday this year."

In your first post you refer to it as a "thought" someone might have. I have had the thought.

In a later post though you refer to it as an "urge", which I've never had. 

I'd be surprised if most people have had the "urge" to kill someone.

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31 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

According to Jennifer's study, people with higher anxiety were more likely to have the urge, but also, people with higher anxiety were more likely to have higher ideation. So people with higher ideation were more likely to report the phenomenon.

I don't know what "higher ideation" means. I tried looking the word up, but it didn't really help! Does it mean "more imagination" or something else? (If it did mean that, it might explain why I have never thought such a thing - probably also the reason I don't have a fear of heights.)

 

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1 hour ago, Space Babe said:

 

  • Have you ever experienced "L'appel du vide" moments?

 

Yes.

While I can believe it’s fairly common, suggesting that it’s nearly universal is a stretch.

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20 hours ago, Strange said:

I don't know what "higher ideation" means. I tried looking the word up, but it didn't really help! Does it mean "more imagination" or something else? (If it did mean that, it might explain why I have never thought such a thing - probably also the reason I don't have a fear of heights.)

"Higher ideation" means the formation of ideas and concepts, but that are more advanced than average. I hope this explanation helps...

Of course, please feel free to share your explanation.

 

Anyway, I consider these moments to be a misunderstanding between the conscious and unconscious aspect of our minds, proving that the brain occasionally makes a "check-up" on our will to see whether we want to live or not, that is, if we have suicidal tendencies.

However, I have another assumption regarding the name "Call of the void" and it is related to the non-belief in the afterlife;

I think that even the name itself "Call of the void", shows that deep in the subconscious, people do not entirely believe in the afterlife, such as the concepts of heaven or hell. This applies to all people, whether they are atheists or religious believers.

I would say that these moments are like calls of death, and the very word "void" initiates the fact that after death there is nothing and nothing is happening, that is, in which people, especially religious believers, believed their whole life. Its similar as to someone describes most of the universe - complete emptiness in which nothing happens.

I can describe this as a thin interaction between the reality that appears in our subconscious, and the illusion that is present in our consciousness.

No matter how many people believe in what they want to be true and in which they actually find consolation (in this particular case, that is life after death that symbolizes the impossible tendencies of the human race to achieve immortality), still deep in their subconscious they know that they are not 100% sure about that assumption in which they believed their whole life. In other words, they realize that it might just be a psychological method invented by people to escape the painful reality of final death. That is, from an unconscious point they realize that after death there is nothing left for them, and that it really is the end of their limited time on this planet.

However, this is just my opinion and, of course, I have no intention to offend or mock anyone who thinks and believes different than me.

Edited by Space Babe

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On 1/13/2019 at 9:02 PM, zapatos said:

The thought has occurred to me. ""I could just jump!" But it is no different to me than any other thoughts. "Maybe I'll win the lottery!" or "I could go to Ireland for holiday this year."

In your first post you refer to it as a "thought" someone might have. I have had the thought.

In a later post though you refer to it as an "urge", which I've never had. 

I'd be surprised if most people have had the "urge" to kill someone.

First of all, I would like to thank you for commenting on the thread and sharing your opinion :)

Maybe I did not express myself in the best possible way. When I wrote about thoughts, it actually applied to intrusive thoughts, since the idea of committing suicide or murdering other people is indeed disturbing and/or distressing.

Your examples are thoughts that pass through our mind daily, and more importantly, they appear in our consciousness, not our subconsciousness.

Intrusive thoughts can also be urges, which can definitely make us think of things we don't want to do, coming from the subconscious aspect of our mind. And from this aspect, intrusive thoughts/urges can almost be defined as the same thing, or in other words, they have the same concept - an intrusive thought can suddenly become an intrusive urge. 

About your last opinion, I think I wrote a longer explanation about the "urges" of people wanting to kill other people in the thread Murder. If you are interested, you can read it...

Edited by Space Babe

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On 1/14/2019 at 5:58 PM, Space Babe said:

"Higher ideation" means the formation of ideas and concepts, but that are more advanced than average. I hope this explanation helps...

Of course, please feel free to share your explanation.

So it sounds like higher ideation is roughly equivalent to [good] imagination. 

I wonder if the existence of this appel du vide explains why some people have a fear of heights: because they think "I could just jump" they are afraid to be there in case they do? (And I am not afraid of heights because I have no imagination!)

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1 hour ago, Strange said:

I wonder if the existence of this appel du vide explains why some people have a fear of heights: because they think "I could just jump" they are afraid to be there in case they do? (And I am not afraid of heights because I have no imagination!)

Acrophobia, or the term for fear of heights, has a very close connection with these moments, that is, only in the example I pointed out where the man is standing on a very high place (like the edge of a cliff) and suddenly the desire to jump appears. 

However, I don't believe that a person that suffers from acrophobia would likely get even close to the edge of a high place, nor even think about jumping.

Besides, I think that in your example, the idea of jumping that appears in the mind of the person, is manifested by the conscious aspect, not the subconscious aspect. That is the main difference between ordinary thoughts that we experience daily, and l'appel du vide moments;

According to me, I think that the so-called "call of the void" has a stronger connection with the fact that we are aware of our own mortality, that is, we think about how easy it is for us to cause death, either our own or someone else's.

Still, no matter how aware is the person about his own mortality as an inevitable event, he has an even stronger will to live as long as possible and the brain, during these situations, is trying to perform a sort of a "check up" on us to make sure just how willing is the person to stay and be alive, in general. This explains why the person immediately withdraws after the l'appel du vide moment is over.

Because, during the l'appel du vide moment (which is manifested by the subconscious aspect of the human brain) the person thinks in a way that he normally would not think at all, and when he retreats, the first questions that comes to his mind is why did he even retreat, or took a step back.

The person asks himself why did he suddenly took a step back because now, thinking with the conscious and rational aspect of his brain, he perceives and observes the environment in which he has found himself, he notices that he is not in danger (because he previously took a step back) and only then he comes to the realization that the only reason why he withdrew is because he certainly wanted to jump in his subconscious mind.

And with the fact that he wanted to jump, but retreated, clearly points to the fact that the person has a will to live.

I would say that the mind wants to play tricks with our subconscious and the thin line that divides us  from our end of our existence on this planet. 

Namely, as our mind has both conscious and subconscious aspects that are manifested at different times and in different situations, there is a kind of a misunderstanding and  this misunderstanding between the conscious and unconscious aspect of our minds proves that the brain occasionally checks up on us and our existential will  to see whether we want to live or not, that is, if we have suicidal tendencies.

Because of this, I feel that it is also important for me to point out that these moments also appear in people who do not want to commit suicide because their goal is quite the opposite.

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I think the high place phenomenon is a manifestation of obsessive thought disorder. The stakes are very high as if you fall you could die. This aggravates the symptoms of those with anxiety problems which temporarily and partially leads to obsessive thinking. I think full-blown obsessive thought disorder is caused by infinite regress. It's impossible to actively ignore anything. The mind is not a computer. If you try to ignore something your subconscious will keep checking to see if your ignoring it. In doing so it inadvertently reminds you of the thought. This is what leads to infinite regress and a downward spiral of autocatalytic anxiety. I don't think there's a simple solution. One has to try to instinctively, unintentionally and passively forget it. The difficulty is the lack of control over our subconscious mind.

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On 1/22/2019 at 1:46 AM, Michael McMahon said:

I think the high place phenomenon is a manifestation of obsessive thought disorder. The stakes are very high as if you fall you could die. This aggravates the symptoms of those with anxiety problems which temporarily and partially leads to obsessive thinking. I think full-blown obsessive thought disorder is caused by infinite regress. It's impossible to actively ignore anything. The mind is not a computer. If you try to ignore something your subconscious will keep checking to see if your ignoring it. In doing so it inadvertently reminds you of the thought. This is what leads to infinite regress and a downward spiral of autocatalytic anxiety. I don't think there's a simple solution. One has to try to instinctively, unintentionally and passively forget it. The difficulty is the lack of control over our subconscious mind.

I apologize for replying a bit late, but firstly, I want to thank you for sharing your opinion on the thread :)

Generally, I agree with your statement, as people with higher anxiety were more likely to have the urge of the high place phenomenon, according to Jennifer's study. However, l'appel du vide moments can also be experienced by people who don't have obsessive thought disorder;

Your presumption is indeed correct and accurate. It is a known fact that people lack control over the subconscious mind (and the high place phenomenon takes place in the subconscious mind). Only a tiny fraction of our thinking is part of the conscious mind, which we can control, but the rest of our thoughts (which we can't control) is part of the subconscious mind. Interesting enough, some of these subconscious thoughts can "cross over" into our conscious part of the mind, and it results with us being able to see what is going on in our subconscious.  

And more importantly, that is exactly what happens with the l'appel du vide moments -a misunderstanding between the conscious and unconscious aspect of our minds, proving that the brain occasionally makes a "check-up" on our will to see whether we want to live or not, that is, if we have suicidal tendencies.

As you can see, this complies with your presumption that if we try to ignore something, our subconscious mind will keep checking up to see if we are ignoring it. In the case of the high place phenomenon, the fact that we are ignoring is our own mortality and how easy it actually is for us to die or to cause someone else's death.

But thoughts that are manifested through the high place phenomenon are not like the other random thoughts in our subconscious. As I have previously mentioned, they fall under the category of intrusive thoughts, since the idea of committing suicide or murdering other people is disturbing and/or distressing.

And intrusive thoughts only manifest the fact that, although our mind as a whole, controls many functions, still the conscious aspect of it does not possess control do not include intrusive thoughts, that is, they are outside of conscious control. 

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An old thread but...

Never heard of this term before, and I have these thoughts a lot, nice to put a name to it. Its nothing suicidal or anything, just the same as when people slow down for a car crash, curiosity. I read a lot of crime as well, especially Mexico where the violence has been taken to the extreme, and I'm often wondering how people can do things like that, especially to children.

Without wanting to cause alarm to anyone, I think about what it would be like to jump of cliffs and buildings all the time, or the best one, falling into a black hole>:D 

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