A strategy against the call of the void.

I wrote before about The call of the void.  That uncomfortable feeling where a voice in your head seems to ask you:

What would happen if I jumped off the balcony here…

Previously I quoted the one paper that exists on the topic:

…we propose that at its core, the experience of the high place phenomenon stems from the misinterpretation of a safety or survival signal. (e.g., “back up, you might fall”)

Now I wonder; if that were the case, which is to say that the hypothesis were true; how could we go about using this knowledge to relieve the feeling.  I came across an idea that I have tried out the few times that I have been struck with a call since writing about it above.  My idea is this:

Focus wholly and completely and loudly on the concept.  Let it take your full attention and acknowledge that yes; this is in fact a present danger.  Of course don’t jump, or do anything drastic, just acknowledge the feeling, boldly, sharply, ugly.  Then return as you were to the other tasks at hand.

I have tried this, and it seems to work, almost like clockwork the feeling of The Call drifts away.  Any intrusion is no longer intrusive.

I once heard the story of Dr. Morton Doran who is a surgeon but also has tourette syndrome.  How might that be possible?  Tourette syndrome is known for it’s involuntary tics:

A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups. Tics can be invisible to the observer, such as abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Common motor and phonic tics are, respectively, eye blinking and throat clearing.

Well the interesting thing about Tourette syndrome is that it comes with a feeling of an involuntary urge or need to release the tics, which can be supressed from time to time, but a release is needed.  So all he has to do is go into another room, release the tics and return to concentrating on the surgery at hand.

This solution feels like the same solution; there is some kind of build up of urge in the brain; that warns you to DO THIS and to relieve it you need to give it a certain amount of focus.  This gives that part of the brain that is urging you to DO a feeling of acknowledgement that yes; it’s definitely been acknowledged.  It’s certainly really a ledge to jump off.

If you recognise it; this strategy might look familiar because it overlaps with Acceptance Commitment therapy (ACT).  A process of accepting thoughts, being mindful of the present, observing yourself and moving forward towards your values.

Act seems powerful overall, and is worth looking into to add to your toolbox of ideas.

Meta: this took an hour to write.  It’s been a while but I hope to write more over the coming weeks.

Late edit: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia January 8, 2015 episode about intrusive thoughts.

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