Visualize yourself jumping under the metro or pushing a stranger onto the rails, imagining yourself throwing your baby on the ground or screaming in the meeting room… These frightening projections, which pass through everyone, come together under the terms of “impulse phobia”. But where do they come from? Do they lead to acting out? How to wash your mind of these invasive images? Elements of answers with the psychologist Antoine Spath.
The most “known” phobia of impulse is that which is expressed during the postpartum period: a mother, exhausted, imagines herself harming her infant. But these images, which are born like mental films, are not the prerogative of motherhood. We have all experienced impulse phobia, at least once in our life: when we imagine ourselves crushing our leader’s head, screaming in the street or even killing a third party, it is indeed a phobia. impulse. But why do we speak of an impulse phobia? According to psychologist Antoine Spath *, the term phobia describes a double fear: the fear of one’s own thoughts and the fear of taking action, or of transforming the mental image into reality. As for the term impulse, it comes from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) : “We are talking about obsessive-compulsive disorders since impulse phobias can become recurrent and lead to a real struggle with oneself. The subject does everything to defend himself from these outbursts of thought and remains on his guard ”, specifies the psychologist.
We are all prone to impulse phobias
“Impulse phobias concern everyone, reassures Antoine Spath. We have all looked at the sex of a child, for example, finding it strange, attractive, funny, in the same way that we have been crossed by pedophile, murderous, violent scenes, in which we are actors. But usually these thoughts are fleeting. They flow in the midst of thousands of thoughts every day. ” We could even cite the impulse phobia of the hairdresser who, one day, imagines himself sticking the scissors in the cheek of his client. It’s normal “.
Where the phobia of impulse causes concern is when it repeats itself. At that point, the awkward, disturbing thought does not run away. Thus, people who are frequently subjected to impulse phobias develop a dangerous view of themselves, lose confidence in their own thoughts and believe they have a “serious problem”. This fear of oneself does indeed arise from the content of thoughts which are “horrible” and therefore unbearable to accept.
What triggers impulse phobia
“Depression, which is likened to a loss of vital energy, can trigger overwhelming impulse phobias. It is for this very reason that the phobias of impulse can express themselves in post-partum depression ”, immediately frames the shrink. Anxiety and stress are also factors in impulse phobia.
But beyond a depressive or anxious state, we can question our “consistency”: “Sensitive people, whose moral rigor is very strong, are more likely to suffer from repetitive impulse phobias”, explains Antoine Spath. Understand: when our interior judge is severe, very straddling the notions of good and evil (we do not insult our neighbor and we respect our neighbor), a foreign force pushes us to mental transgression. It is therefore in images that this transgression takes shape. We feel a desire to reveal ourselves, to come out of our shell, to escape our shackles. Finally, the phobia of impulse reflects a “desire to live” and a need to assert oneself. “It’s a way of brutally letting go of everything that is repressed,” explains Antoine Spath. The individual can no longer contain his anger, his frustration, his oppression, and he imagines himself committing the worst and disapproving the laws. Also, if the moral framework has been established by the parents, it is likely that the subject who imagines himself harming a stranger will shift his desire: he wants to settle his account to his parent and transfer the object. of his anger on a person he sees in the street.
This is why, if we are all subjected to phobias of impulse, some people have more difficulty moving away from them. In a subject with a “flexible interior judge”, the phobia of impulse is temporary. He may be fed up with being the nice little soldier in his company, so much so that he imagines himself hurting his boss. However, he will quickly move on. In the extremely rigorous subject, the interior film comes up against its moral values. Since it’s unpleasant, its values are reinforced (what you imagine is wrong!) And the film becomes all the more unbearable. The vicious circle is set in motion, in the same way that the more the individual repeats “I mustn’t think about it”, the more he thinks about it. If you are told, right now, not to think of a polar bear, what do you think of? The answer is simple: to a polar bear. This is how impulse phobias can turn into obsession and generate anxiety.
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In the phobia of impulse, we never act
The most frightening thing about impulse phobia is taking action. This is also why thoughts become intrusive: the fear of being “able” to jump under the subway or throw your baby paralyzes. But as the shrink explains, “we never take action.” Precisely because moral rigor is present. It feeds the phobia of impulse on one side, but protects us on the other. And no matter the “size” of this rigor: when the phobia of impulse bothers us, it is proof that we respect those around us, that we are aware of the other and that we are not two. fingers of becoming a serial killer.
Conversely, as Antoine Spath specifies, always with the aim of reassuring, “The perverts enjoy these thoughts”. They love these tragic images. As for psychotics, it is still different: if there are terrible acts, it is because a small voice encourages them and gives them the order to commit the irreparable. It is therefore no longer a phobia of impulse, since in a phobia of impulse, we do not receive an order and… we therefore do not take action.
Leave your phobias of impulse to no longer let yourself be invaded
How do you stop impulse phobia and leave these disturbing thoughts on your doorstep? We can start by questioning this matter of moral rigor, especially if we feel trapped, in fact, of a need to keep control and never to transgress: “The idea is to relax your moral values and to feel comfortable with thoughts that are certainly transgressive, but which are part of the order of things. When you go to see a horror film, you are not necessarily a serial killer ”, emphasizes Antoine Spath. In short, it is a matter of no longer imagining that we are doing “wrong” when we are doing nothing (we just go to the cinema).
Another tip, which may seem easy to say, but which bears fruit: “When thought arises and the phobia of impulse that goes with it, we don’t stop thinking. We mobilize another thought, which can be more pleasant ”, recommend the shrink. So let’s create an antidote thought. We can, also, create a “behavioral antidote”: by moving concretely to something else, by going to cut three vegetables or to run a race, our thoughts take again the course of their life.
Finally, if our impulse phobias continue to hold us hostage and turn into obsessions, it is best to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. A therapy will be saving and will allow to understand the origin of the phobia of impulse which remains one of the manifestations of the anxiety or the depression, but does not represent any real danger. Antidepressant treatment may, if necessary, be considered.
Antoine Spath is the author of “Outsmart the traps of manipulators and narcissistic perverts “ and “No longer let yourself be manipulated“, Editions Leduc.s
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