Feelings of awe

Feelings of awe

Awe is the emotion we experience in the presence of something great or vast, and rich in information. When we experience awe, we're stunned by something and feel captivated by it. It is typically a positive experience.

Research shows that experiences of awe in nature can raise our feeling of connectedness to others. It can also give us a sense of spiritual fulfilment.

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Some psychologists and philosophers suggest that studying the roles of awe and the small self can help us better understand spirituality. Psychologist William James suggests that we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and, in that union, find our greatest peace.

The suggestion is that those who are good at spirituality will be good at having experiences of awe, which will help them become better people.

  • Absorption. People who become more absorbed in their experiences are more likely to experience awe.
  • Following a set of instructions to focus one's attention on the details of a natural environment can promote absorption.
  • Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your attention on your current experience while resisting distractions.
  • Actively using imagination helps with absorption. Those high in absorption are more prone to use mental imagery.

People who tend to experience awe are rated as more humble by their friends, display more generous behaviour, and are more supportive toward others.

Awe leads people to present a more balanced account of their own strengths and weaknesses. When we experience awe, we view ourselves as smaller and the world as larger. The self and its concerns are less prominent, and the world beyond more significant. We also see our smaller self as connected to the larger world.

When someone is asked to think or write about a spiritual experience, this act leads them to experience awe. Similarly, when experiences of awe are induced, people report more belief in the supernatural.

People who are more spiritually inclined tend to experience more awe and other self-transcendent emotions - accounting for why spirituality boosts wellbeing.

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The Psychology Of Awe And Wonder

For centuries, religious scholars and philosophers have tried to find out the meaning of ‘awe’. It is generally defined as a feeling of being aware and present in something that is mystical and vast, and which we don’t fully understand.

Usually, something vast and dramatic can provoke this feeling of awe, making us go wow with the unusual experience. But apart from the size, this feeling involves an attraction, something that makes us want to accommodate or keep the experience with us, due to our changed understanding of the world.

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Spirituality Is A State Of Mind
  • A spiritual experience, according to the father of Western psychology, William James, is a state of higher consciousness.
  • Spirituality, in essence, is connectedness, the antithesis of the values of society like capitalism and laws of the land.
  • A spiritual state can be achieved by contemplative and ritualistic practices like prayer and meditation.
  • Many spiritual traditions like Buddhism report a higher state of consciousness and connection.
  • These states of mind need not be rare experiences of a chosen few, but can be reached in daily life by anyone.

Each of us is the protagonist of our own life. Our goals feel like the most important thing in our world.

But every now and then, a moment of awe challenges our understanding of the world. We feel insignificant yet connected to the whole world, which helps us to step back and gain a better perspective.

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