Happiness

Defining Awe

“Awe is the best drug in the world.” – Jason Silva

A dog looking with his mouth open, in awe

Curi-AWE-sity

Have you ever had a moment where you were speechless and struck by wonder and intrigue? Maybe this feeling occurred after witnessing something spectacular or after you did something that was a rare and outstanding feat. Or, perhaps you had this experience after hearing an idea or a solution to a problem that you had not previously considered. This feeling of shock, appreciation, and intrigue is that of awe. 

What is Awe?

You may have heard some people say that to understand what awe is, you have to experience it. Others will claim that when you are in awe, you will know it. People make these claims because the state of awe is somewhat abstract and can be hard to define exactly what it is. There are two forms that the word awe can be used; awe can be used as a noun or as a verb.

  1. Awe as a Noun
    1. Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, and/or fear
    2. This feeling is produced by that which is grand, sublime, or extremely powerful
    3. A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder
    4. An emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime
  2. Awe as a Verb
    1. To inspire with awe

Clearly, there are some common threads among these popular various definitions of the construct, awe. The feelings of awe are usually associated with a certain type of feeling (that is usually strong, first definition says “overwhelming”.) This feeling is most typically a feeling of respect or reverence. 

A woman peeking over a a fence in awe

Understanding These Definitions

The definitions of awe as stated above are multi-faceted. To better understand these definitions, we can begin by understanding fear. 

  • The fear noted, along with dread in the third definition, is a fear that is different than a fear that may be experienced when watching a horror movie
    • This fear is a healthy fear that is built in with respect, admiration, and appreciation
    • This feeling of fear is accompanied by a state of meekness and humility

Another aspect of awe, at least in the first and third definition provided, is from the source of where the awe was inspired from…

  • These definitions point to the emotion of awe coming from a source that is extremely powerful, sublime, sacred, or authoritative in nature
  • However, the second definition provided mentions nothing about the source of the feelings

To further understand the state of awe, it may be beneficial to provide some synonyms of the term.

Synonyms of Awe

When trying to grasp the concept and meaning of awe, it can be helpful to compare it to other familiar words, like some of the following…

  • Wonder
  • Admiration
  • Respect
  • Esteem
  • Wonderstruck
  • Awestruck
  • Amazed
  • Astonished
  • Reverential

Altogether, it can be gathered that being in a state of awe can be a powerful feeling. Words like admiration, wonderstruck, awestruck, and astonished are all terms that are packed with feeling and emotion. These synonyms give us a good look into what experiencing an awe-inspiring moment may be like. When might you feel in awe? That is where we turn to next.

When Might I be in Awe?

There are numerous experiences in our life in which we may be moved to be in a state of awe. While there are a vast number of experiences in which individuals may experience awe, and there are too many to list, a brief list of some more commonly experienced situations in which one may feel awe are listed below:

  • Giving Birth
    • There may be few other experiences in life that inspire as much as awe as bringing another life into the world
    • Parents looking at their newborn child are likely to experience awe when gazing at their precious little baby
New parents looking at their child in awe
  • Taking in Different Nature Scenes
    • Climbing a mountain and viewing the mountain ranges from the peak of the mountain can be extremely awe-inspiring
    • Similarly, going to the beach and taking in the beauty and extreme vastness of the ocean can bring a feeling of awe as well
  • Watching a Sunrise or Sunset
    • Although these are related to nature as well, they deserve their own category of awe-inspiring experiences
    • There is something about waking up early to watch the sun come up and start a new day that can bring a sense of awe into one’s being
    • Similarly, watching the sun set and the light be replaced by the darkness of night can be fill one with awe as well
    • This awe may come from the beauty of the sunrise and sunset itself, as with taking in different nature scenes, but also may come from the realization that one has survived through another day (as in the case with the sunset), or that one has made it to a new day (as with a sunrise).

How Do I Experience Awe?

By now, you may be thinking, “Wow, being in awe sounds great! I want to be in awe! How do I do it?” Here are several suggestions for living an awe-inspiring life: 

  • Seek out new experiences
  • Do more things that give you goosebumps
  • Treat every moment like a brand-new moment
  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Spend more time in nature
  • Have an open mind
A young boy looking in awe at fireflies caught

Experience More Awe

Being in a state of awe can be a powerful feeling that many people enjoy experiencing. Having this experience of awe can give us appreciation for our lives and our experiences on this planet. By being open to new experiences and approaching them with an open mind, we have an improved likelihood of experiencing moments of awe in our future. 

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