The other day I was in the shower shaving my legs when some suds began to trickle down into my eye. Without thinking, I reached up, razor still in hand, and brushed them away. Nothing happened, but I spent the rest of the day picturing what it would feel like if I had accidentally shaved my eye.
I imagine it wouldn’t have felt too good.
Whenever I have these freak show visions (and sadly, I have them often), I’m scared to tell anyone about them because I feel that will be the final nail in the “is she quirky or just straight crazy—oh yeah, she’s totally nuts” coffin. Fortunately, it turns out I am very much not alone in the morbid fantasies club.
Can’t shake the feeling you are going to fall into the subway tracks? Imagine your car driving off the overpass? Engage in a debate about whether you’d rather burn alive or drown—and then be unable to scrub the vivid details of your final moments in either of those scenarios? Guess what? You’re twisted, just like me!
But before we have ourselves committed, I thought I would consult with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Google, on what these morbid fantasies may actually represent. Are they a not-so-thinly-veiled death wish, Freud? Or are they simply the product of an overactive imagination? Let’s delve into this a little deeper.
In this article for Psychology Today, author Eric G. Wilson says we can’t help but be drawn to the morbid. He states, “We are enamored of our own ruin.” Wilson cites famed psychologist Carl Jung’s assertion that our mental health depends on our shadow—that part of our psyche that harbors our darkest thoughts. The more we repress the morbid, the more it feeds the crazy. To achieve wholeness, we must acknowledge our most demonic inclinations.
In plain speak, Jung and Wilson are saying that craning your neck to get a better view of that car crash, while seemingly vile, is actually helping to foster feelings of empathy and counteracting any evil tendencies lurking within.
But what about that fearful projection of your own injury or death? Jung’s explanation only covers things like obsessively watching 9/11 or tsunami footage over and over (guilty). What about clenching your ass cheeks every time you drive under a bridge, or worse, over one?
In an article for xoJane about the urge to jump from high places, writer Helena Johnson says that people with “high anxiety sensitivity” are more affected by the slightest threat, and therefore their bodies go into flight mode at the slimmest chance of danger. I like to think this theory extends beyond the threat of high places to the threat of razors, fire, falling down, ice, water, and pretty much anything anywhere in life that could ever seriously injure or kill you.
In fact, Johnson was referring to a study conducted in 2012 with the rad title An Urge to Jump Affirms the Urge to Live. The study concludes that the impulse to drive off an overpass or throw yourself off a building is not a Freudian death wish, but rather a simple miscommunication.
Your brain is all: Whoah, it’s really high up here. You need to be careful and step the frick back, girl. Like seriously, get as far away from this high place as possible.
And then your brain goes: Well wait a minute, there’s really no danger here. This is just a step stool in your kitchen; the same step stool you climb on daily to reach your happy pills in the medicine cabinet.
Your overactive brain then decides to chime in a third time and conclude: Dude, you must have wanted to JUMP and THAT’S why it was dangerous! Good thing I saved you.
So basically yeah, those of us with morbid fantasies and urges to throw ourselves off high places aren’t so much crazy as highly sensitive and empathetic. Also our brains could use a little crash course in “no touching hot or sharp things” and “no throwing yourselves off high rises.” I’ve been working on it with my 3-year-old. Turns out I could use a little brushing up myself.