Written by Rachael Cheeseman
We all have little odd impulses and behaviours, and some of us do things that seem downright weird and maybe even a little crazy. Have you ever had the strange feeling when your walking on a cliff or high bridge that if you get too close to edge you might just jump off? You don't want to, but part of you is paranoid that you might do it anyway? Well, it's totally normal. Freud observed this side of human nature and wrote extensively on the topic. There's lots of peculiar things we do that we assume are abnormal or unique to us. Chances are, most people do exactly the same thing. Sorry, but you may not be a one of a kind, precious snowflake after all.
1. Having Imaginary Arguments
Someone has done something to annoy you. Fred at the office used your milk again, even though it was clearly labeled and you know he must have seen it, but Fred's a cheapskate and refuses to buy his own milk. You desperately want to have it out with him. This office needs a hero and, damnit, you're not going to let this tyranny go on unchallenged! You're shaking with righteous anger, but before you confront the fiend, you take a moment to imagine how it might go.
You'd storm up to his office with a gallon of milk and dump the whole thing all over his damn desk. "There! Now you have all the milk, Fred!" But then what if he has a good comeback? What if he brings up that time you accidentally threw out his lunch because you thought it was old food? Trust Fred to bring that up. That was totally different. How dare he? Then he might make a comment about how you got your promotion. Sleazebag Fred is exactly the sort to imply you're sleeping your way to top. Oh my god, I can't believe he would say that! What the hell, Fred? Nobody even likes you, you dairy delinquent!
Before you know it an hour has passed, you've not actually said a word to Fred but you're beyond furious with him and you will hold the things Imaginary Fred has said against Real Life Fred forever.
This phenomena is not unusual. To survive as social creatures we have to develop a knack for second guessing other people’s intentions and reactions. Otherwise we'd all go around saying whatever popped into our heads, consequences be dammed, and the world would descend into total chaos. So, we need to anticipate how people might respond to a confrontation and if our imagined outcome is unfavourable, we'll probably decide to keep our anger to ourselves. More anxious people tend to imagine the worst possible outcomes, making them decidedly less likely to seek out confrontations.
2. Interrupt Conversations because Someone Said Something that Reminded you of a Song
This is one I'm guilty of. You'll be having a perfectly nice and normal conversation with someone. Maybe they're even trying to tell you something important. They might tell you their world is falling down and you are listening, really you are! But...remember that song from Labyrinth about the world falling down? That was a good song. It would be totally inappropriate to bring that up right now. You won't do it. You won't do it. You won't... you did it. You sang those lyrics right into their startled face with your best David Bowie impression. Oops. Maybe you'll stop at just a couple of lines... or just the chorus. By the time you're finished there's air guitar and power hands and you've all but forgotten the person you were talking to.
This happens because the neural pathway that leads to the memory of this song has been used so often that it requires little to no effort on your brain's part to zip on down to long-term storage and retrieve it for you. It's practically an instinct, like remembering your address, the information is just there. And once that song's at the forefront of your mind, resisting the urge to let it come bursting out can be extremely difficult. In fact the more you resist the harder it will seem.
3. Lying about Things that Literally Don't Matter in the Slightest
‘Have you ever been to Oxford?’ Someone might ask. You haven't. You know whether you've been or not is irrelevant, they're going to tell you what happened when they went there regardless of your past travels. There's no judgment on you, they won't belittle you for being uncultured if you tell them you've never been. So why, when you open your mouth, do you find yourself saying ‘of course I've been to Oxford. Who hasn't?’
Why? Why would you do this to yourself? Now they're going to ask you what you did, what sites you saw and you'll just have to keep lying. Either just making up stuff you did and winging it, or saying something like ‘oh, it was so long ago I barely remember it.’ In which case you might as well have told the truth in the first place.
You might be pleased to know that this compulsive need to have other people think you're just as smart, cultured, well read etc. as they are is quite normal. You might be less pleased to hear that tends to arise from having something of an inferiority complex.
4. Complimenting People when you Feel Awkward
This happens most when there's a lull in conversation and things have been silent a beat too long. Most people are intensely uncomfortable with silence when they're in a group setting. In fact, on average, one of the group will crack and blurt something out after only 4 seconds of silence. Sometimes you get lucky and wind up saying something interesting enough to spark up the conversation again (phew, crisis averted). I personally have a terrible habit of pointing out how awkward things feel because I'm a social pariah with all the people skills of a houseplant. But some of you do something so much worse. You're so desperate to end the silence; the 4-second mark has come and gone and the situation is too tense. You're going to crack, there's nothing you can do to stop the words coming out of your mouth. ‘I really like your moustache!’ The poorly thought out compliment. This kills a conversation faster than cat videos kill your work productivity. Do you know why? Because the only thing that makes people feel more awkward than long silences, is being complimented. What's more is most people will respond to a compliment with a self-deprecating comment (awkward) or by paying you a compliment in return (even more awkward). Before you know it you're trapped in an infinite loop of clumsy compliments until one of you literally dies of embarrassment.
5. Groping Around for the Light Switch Rather than Step into a Dark Room
Who here believes in monsters? No one? That's what I thought. So why do we find it so hard to walk into a dark room and flip on the light? Why instead do we keep our bodies firmly planted in the hallway, reach our arm into the room and feel blindly around for the light switch? The same reason we won't let our feet stick out the bottom of the quilt. Because, even though we know it's ridiculous a small part of us thinks a monster might just reach out and grab us. But why do we think this? Have we watched too many horror movies? Well that probably is part of it. I know I didn't shower for a good long while after watching Stephen King's IT for the first time. But the main culprit behind this behaviour is actually a hang up from our Cave Man days. When humans were still busy running around in fur bikinis and rocking that wild back hair, we were far from being the top of the food chain. Everything wanted to gobble us up like the nummy treats we are. Predators were everywhere and many of them were nocturnal. Of course, we developed a healthy level of fear for the dark. Heightened anxiety levels make you more receptive to the stimulus around you. If you're scared to walk into a dark cave, you'll be more alert to things like the sound of a predator moving around in their. It's a basic survival skill that has managed to stick with us for a very long time.
Next time you rehearse conversations you might have with someone, or apologise to an inanimate object you bump into, or say wed-nes-day in your head to help you spell Wednesday (even though you know 100% how to spell it without doing this). Next time you do any of those weird little quirky things you do, just remember you're not alone. Chances are there are millions of other freaks out there all doing exactly the same thing.