The French call it ‘L’appel du vide.’ It’s that moment when you lean over a stair rail, a bridge, or out a high window and think how easy it would be to jump. Or to push someone else. The phrase ‘The Call of the Void’ most often refers to the previously mentioned flavor of intrusive thoughts, but can also refer to the urge to jump or push someone else in front of cars. Recently, it seems like the phrase has come into use when referring to any scenario where the sudden urge to harm yourself or others appears.
An intrusive thought is an involuntary thought, idea, etc that is upsetting to the person having it. Many people have them from time to time, so they aren’t a rare occurrence. Although, some people do become distressed by these thoughts, and reoccurring ones can cause anxiety. Some people even begin to think badly of themselves for having these thoughts, wondering if they are bad people or if something is wrong with them. (Of course the answer is ‘no,’ no one is bad for having intrusive thoughts, and many people experience them.)
So, what can be done about them? Or, rather, what can be done to minimize the distress from The Call of the Void or other intrusive thoughts? In my experience, just knowing their name and that other people had them was helpful. But, I thought of the way I deal with them now after watching Mad Max: Fury Road, of all things. Right now, I call it ‘scapegoating’ the thoughts, but if you have a better name for it, please let me know!
All I do is assign the intrusive thoughts I get to their own persona in my mind. Then, I acknowledge the thought, and dismiss it as though mentally speaking to that persona. If I named it ‘Larry,’ like one of the tumors on the character Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, the internal dialogue might go like this.
Larry: You should jump in front of that car.
Me: Thank you for your input, Larry. But, you don’t really have good ideas.
Larry: You should drive away right now and never look back.
Me: Please put your hand down, Larry. Thanks for your participation, but you don’t really look out for my best interests.
A little silly? Maybe. But it certainly has taken my anxiety levels down. If you have intrusive thoughts, or the Call of the Void is particularly strong one day, give this method a try and let me know how it worked out for you in the comments below.