I had that urge again this morning. No, you absolute filthbag, pick your mind up out of the gutter, not that urge. No, you know the one. It's inexplicable and only happens sometimes but you definitely know it.
I was walking along over Waterloo Bridge (not an uncommon experience as it's on my route into work and I go to work quite a bit - well, they do pay me, after all) and I looked across, out over the river. And suddenly that little voice was there, whispering away at the back of my mind. "Go on, jump in. You could just climb up and jump. Low railing, nice splashy water below. Jump."
I didn't jump obviously. The fall would probably have killed me and, if it didn't the lovely murky brown waters of the Thames would probably have finished me off. Plus who wants to turn up to the office soaking wet and stinking of the Thames? Yes, that's right, mental people who no longer enjoy regular employment and monthly payments of monies.
Why do we get these strange urges to do something potentially fatal? Gorgeous Girlfriend was telling me the other day that she gets the urge to jump from heights even though she's terrified of them. So why do we get these mad little impulses?
I decided to turn to my old friend Mr Google (I prefer to keep our relationship on formal terms) and see what I could find. A brief bit of searching turned up the fact that there is a name for this particular feeling and a rather splendid name it is, too, deriving from an Edgar Allen Poe story. It is referred to as the Imp Of The Perverse and, according to that Wiki-type place, it's "a metaphor for the common tendency, particularly among children and miscreants, to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation. The concept is that the misbehavior is due to an imp (a small demon) leading an otherwise decent person into mischief." I'm not sure whether I fall into the child or miscreant category - probably both.
So there you have it. Whenever you get that little urge to do something you really shouldn't (jump into traffic, tear off all your clothes in that important meeting, throw hot tea into the face of your colleague), well, it's not really you, it's just the imp of the perverse. (Caution: this may not stand up in court as a legal defence.)