Intrusive Thoughts : What The Imp Whispers


This article on intrusive thoughts stemmed from the works of this poet. Can you guess? Let me give you a hint.

Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’.

Smoke Intrusive Thoughts

A well known line which all of us associate with the famous Edgar Allen Poe. His works are, as I quote an acquaintance, ‘drunk poetry’; but even so, Poe’s literature leaves you deep in thought, hours later. One such work of his that I will be talking about today is the ‘Imp Of Perverse‘ which will leave us to the topic of : Intrusive Thoughts.

The ‘Imp of Perverse’ is Edgar Allen Poe‘s short story. It starts off as an essay eventually describing the character’s destructive tendencies. The narrator states that this imp is a spirit; one which tempts him to do stuff merely because he feels he should not.

The narrator explains in his essay at the start, that the imp of perverse is something compelling others to commit acts against their own self interest. In the story, our narrator murders a man, thus gaining his estate and living there. He knows he won’t get caught as long as he doesn’t confess, but later on, he questions that. He asks himself whether he is even capable of confessing. Slowly this though eats at him, till he eventually confesses and is sentenced to hanging.

However, the cause here is not guilt.

It is the imp(ulse).

The Imp Of Perverse And Intrusive Thoughts

Arthur Rackham Imp Of Perverse

Arthur Rackham‘s 1935 illustration.

In the story, Poe begins with the following theory :

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss—we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink away from the danger. Unaccountably we remain… it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height… for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it.

Source Of Excerpt

What he means, is that sometimes humans have the tendency to be self destructive. The imp here represents ourselves; our thoughts, whispering into our ear.

A Jump From The Imp Theory To Intrusive Thoughts

But yes, Poe’s ‘Imp’ theory turned out to be legit; that too way before psychologists actually decided to study this human aspect! So hats off to him. So various studies later, people decided to call these urges as ‘intrusive thoughts’. Surprisingly, having these thoughts actually helps to dispel them from your mind; on the contrary, trying to force them out will make them reappear again.

While such thoughts are pretty common among people, when they are associated with OCD ( Read more about OCD here ) depression or BDD, they become persistent and induce anxiety. One common example is that of new mothers who may have OCD. They often stated wondering about dropping their babies, or in general causing harm to the infants.

In a nutshell, such thoughts are usually inappropriate, mostly aggressive or sexual. However, they are pretty common among some people.

Anyways, this Imp theory piqued my interest, so I decided to ask a few of my friends a question :

Have you ever had the urge to do something horrible eg. something that could harm you or others, but never did it? And can you explain one such instance?


User 1

1. Hmm, the urge to choke someone, yes, otherwise no. When I see someone being really unfair to someone else, it makes my hands reach out. But I take a deep breath and let it go. However in my mind they get tortured o,o huhu

User 2

2. Ooh girl you don’t even know how many times I have had that urge. I don’t know why, it’s just the thrilling feeling that rushs through you. I’ll give you an example; so in Turkey, on a cruise, I was on the top deck of the ship looking down at the water. It was so mesmerizing and beautiful, it was just dragging me in! It’s like you shut everything around you and just be lost in your own thoughts.

Just staring at the water the waves and thinking how good it will feel falling into that deep water and falling in and in. I was like one step away from jumping off. Its happened to me alot when I’m somewhere where’s there’s the sea and you’re just taken in.

And then there’s the other times like you mentioned; having to crossing the road and you have this urge for a split second to just to push someone or walk right in front. Or I wonder how it would be like to jump off an aeroplane?

User 3

3. Oh yes plenty, I sometimes question why I’m not in a mental hospital. I have never wanted to do those things, but I have had those thoughts cross my mind. Such as jumping on the train track. Though one particular instance that comes to mind would be the time when I was sitting in class and this sudden urge came to me where I wanted to throw a pen at my friend at the back of the class. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

User 4

4. When I was younger, whenever my siblings annoyed me, I used to just have the urge of bashing their head repeatedly on the wall. But yes I’ve always held back, since I didn’t wanna go jail or be labelled as a murderer, of course. 😂 Most I’ve ever done was throw things at them, hehe.

User 5

5. I have indeed considered doing something as horrible as ending a life, such as in a surge of anger or annoyance. One of the instances is being annoyed when I have done something wrong, such as a bad answer in a test, but the teacher did not give me a second chance to fix it because “time ran out, and it was daily schoolwork”. It may have not been much, but when you spend hours doing something you dislike, feel is completely unnecessary, useless and even a complete waste of time, you get angry.

Simply put, I just wanted to throw her off a cliff full of scorpions and poisonous snakes, just because she didn’t give a chance to fix said test. It is petty and immature, but aren’t all humans such petty and emotionally unstable creatures? We don’t even treat our own planet with the care it deserves. Will human nature change? No. It will never change. But we can try to suppress it.

So, as we near the end of this article, I’d like to ask you;

Have ever experienced intrusive thoughts? Of what kind?

What is your view about it? ( Like User 5 stated above )

I hope you enjoyed this article!

Special credits to the lovely users who took time to answer.


Article Name
Intrusive Thoughts : What The Imp Whispers
Often you wonder what would happen if you jumped off a cliff, stabbed someone, got ran over by a car. Are these normal? Yes, they are intrusive thoughts.
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"With dark raven paper and twinkling white ink, I wrote my heart in the night's sky."

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