The Power of AWE
“Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things,” says Nobel Prize winning psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner.
Awe might feel like a sudden sensation of the extraordinary when you gaze upon a newborn baby, look at the stars on a clear night, or the view from a mountain top. Another day awe might be the cuteness of a new puppy, a wonderful painting, or the smell of a fragrant rose. Prayer and meditation may create for you a feeling of unity and an awe experience.
A few weeks ago, Donna was suddenly awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of the night. When she opened her eyes, she felt a bright light radiating across her face. Tilting her head toward the window she realized that the light of the full moon was selectively shining on her face while the rest of the bedroom was pitch black. Wide awake, she went to the front porch and stood in the awe-inspiring moon shadow that danced with her every move.
Awe is a unique emotional sensation—a spine-tingling feeling that connects you to something bigger than yourself. But the transformative power of awe is blocked if you are trapped in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT), focusing on “me” rather than the “we” experience.
When locked in the DDT, it is common to think there is something wrong with you, treating yourself as a self-improvement project. That approach usually suppresses your reactive habits, eventually making them stronger.
Instead, look for everyday moments of awe. These extraordinary moments will gently pull you from the DDT toward a heart-centered experience that will help you escape the grip of the Drama Triangle with more ease.
There are at least four important benefits of awe:
- Awe promotes curiosity. When faced with something awe-inspiring, you want to find out more information. You begin to wonder about things you don’t fully understand. When you are curious your interest in listening and developing caring relationships will increase.
- Awe transforms negative emotions. Unlike the drama emotions of fear, pride, or anxiety, which trigger your “fight-or-flight” response, awe interrupts those emotions and encourages you to reflect upon the unity experience you are having.
- Awe increases feelings of generosity and empathy for others. It is not possible to be stingy and generous—or self-centered and empathic—at the same time.
- Awe alters your neurological and hormonal response, promoting positive health indicators. Research shows awe plays a role in health and healing, lowering blood pressure, and building a stronger immune system. Creating awe moments in nature has been successfully used to treat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
If your attention goes mainly to your many devices, you may have fewer chances to find such transformative, awe-filled moments.
When was the last time you had an awe-inspiring moment?
We encourage you to create an intentional “awe-moment” each day. To do this, reflect upon what creates awe for you. It may be listening to a beautiful symphony, your favorite rock band, or the feeling of falling in love for the first time. Maybe your awe moment is in nature. It doesn’t have to be a grand forest. Simply looking at the veins in a leaf can connect you to the extraordinary. For David, it can be as simple as watching the birds feeding in one of his six feeders.
If you look, there are boundless opportunities to experience the awe-some mystery and power in the moment. Awe can truly transform your drama into wonder in an instant. That is the power of AWE.