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Enhancing Awe, Wonder and Empowerment in Counseling
#empowerment #strengthsbased #spirituality #pastoral counseling

• Explore how awe and wonder can enhance feelings of empowerment and reduce distress

• When people feel distress they often feel disempowered, hopeless
• Distress triggers the amygdala and the HPA-Axis (fight or flee) and propels people in to “Default Mode” responding
• Mindfulness (sometimes spurred by awe and wonder) downregulates the DMN and activates the Executive Control Network which allows people to become aware of possibilities and options

Awe, Wonder and Curiosity
• Awe experiences can be characterized “perceived vastness/profoundness/greatness” and a “need for accommodation” or an adjustment of our understanding of the world (learning)
• People switch from “Default Mode” to “Executive Control”
• When people feel awe, their attention becomes focused on something extraordinary
• Awe can be thought of as a temporary form of mindfulness
• When you feel awe and wonder you often want to continue to experience it, to see it again and maybe (but not always) to understand it
• Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, has shown that awe leads to greater humility, curiosity, innovation, happiness, and a desire to contribute to the world.
• In two studies, a typical awe experience was associated not only with awe, but with compassion, gratitude, love, and optimism, along with connectedness and self-relevant thoughts
• Awe is a complex emotional construct characterized by a mix of positive (contentment, happiness), and negative affective components (fear and a sense of being smaller, humbler or insignificant)
• Humility is
• A foundational virtue that counters selfish inclinations such as entitlement and arrogance.
• The realization that there is more beyond the self and one’s impact on the world and the world’s impact on them
• How can humility be helpful in treatment?
• Is it possible to foster empowerment and humility at the same time?
• When individuals encounter something that is vast and challenges their worldview, they may feel awe, which leads to self-diminishment and subsequently humility.
• Awe-prone individuals were rated as more humble by friends
• Inducing awe led participants to present a more balanced view of their strengths and weaknesses to others and acknowledge the contribution of outside forces in their own personal accomplishments
• How could you do this in session?
• One study found that inspiring awe made subjects more skeptical of weak or vague arguments, seeking a clearer understanding of what they are actually experiencing.
• Experiencing awe can dampen the body’s stress response and can change how people process information
• Big things may not seem as big anymore and little things we take for granted may seem more important
• Awe encourages you to gather information about what is actually there in the moment (mindfulness)
• Awe can be a catalyst for advancement

Why Not Awe?
• Too busy
• Not enough endorphins & dopamine
• Too threatening to recognize something bigger than me or other’s successes
• What else keeps people from being able to notice or appreciate awesomeness?
• Note: People on the spectrum CAN feel awe and wonder as well as a host of other feelings. They may have difficulty identifying the feelings or manifest them differently.
• Many feelings – such as fear, anger and joy – seem to be experienced more intensely by those with Asperger profiles than by average people.

Triggering Awe and Wonder
• What is awe inspiring?
• Inspiring Awe in Children

Triggering Awe and Wonder
• Try to see the world through a child’s eyes (planetarium, museum, nature walk)
• Seek it out in person, media or VR.
• Journal about it: 10 minutes of awe during the day and 10 minutes of positive focus (not Toxic Positivity) at night.
• Tell someone about how they made a big impact on you. (Triggers awe in them) and reflect on how that experience impacts you.

• Too often we are in our default mode (mindlessness) and miss opportunities to notice awe-inspiring experiences.
• Awe experiences can mean noticing something larger than you as well as noticing how little things that we often overlook often add up and impact us (butterfly effect)
• Awe experiences can help us recognize progress, see possibilities and connect in unique ways