Tame Your Mood Newsletter
Feature Article: "The Culitvation of Awe--Pt. 1"
Depression Essays Book
Archive of Past Newsletters
Audio Recordings
About Marty


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Marty L. Cooper, MFT

(415) 937-1620


4831 Geary Blvd.

San Francisco, CA 94118





February 2017                Vol. 9, Issue 1  


I hope the start (ish) of the new year is going well for your all, and that you're finding, from whatever your perspective, a way to make peace and be engaged with the current upheavals and uncertainties.

In line with that, I'm publishing a short piece about awe, something that usually gets squished under fear, that would be useful for all of us to cultivate in these times. In March I'll send the second half, with some exercises in cultivating awe, and some more thoughts on the subject. (These were originally published in my essays book, but it seemed relevant to put out there again.)
Best wishes,
(P.S.  You can find many of my newsletters, and some articles not posted from Tame Your Mood, at the Psyched in SF site, found HERE.)  
"The Cultivation of Awe" (Pt. 1) 
(2 minute read)
I've gotten to thinking about the experience of awe, especially in how it figures into the project of dismantling depression and anxiety. So the question for this essay boils down to: how does awe affect mood?

Ok. If we start with a brief definition from Websters, we get:
"Awe: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime."

I like this
  definition   because it's pithy, as well as expressive of the "layers" of awe that make up this complex emotion.

Three layers of Awe

Dread: this is where the individual ego perceives its smallness in the face of both what is vast, as well as what is impersonal. The small, personal self looks at that which transcends and includes it with dread. It fears its own destruction by mistaking its larger self--that which is sacred or sublime--as something foreign. Imagine your liver chugging along, doing its liver thing, and then suddenly it becomes aware not just of the other organs around it, but of how they connect to it, and how it connects to them. "I'm not just me! When did I get plugged into all this?!" That is, dread.

But then there is the experience of veneration (and perhaps the definition above can be seen as laying out both layers and stages of response to the sacred). The vastness is felt as still separate, but as something that one can have a relationship with (that doesn't lead to one's destruction). Your connection is one of association; you participate in the vastness by bowing down.

Then there is wonder. Wonder does not have the element of fear that is in dread, and often woven into veneration. Here is amazement, and in this expression of awe, there is a forgetting of the small ego self. The participation is one of affinity; you see that you are like the vastness. The experience is openness without fear.

Awe and Mood

What, then, does awe have to offer people suffering anxiety and depression? In terms of just the management of these conditions, awe is not actually that important. But in my experience, to fundamentally transform anxiety and depression, awe is actually essential. Why?

If depression boils down to alienation--at the mental, emotional, physical, and neurological levels--then awe is its antithesis. Awe is the experience that depends on a recognition of something larger than oneself (re-cognition, a thought about); an emotional openness or resonance that has the three flavors (dread, veneration, wonder); a physical resonance with the vastness, whether echoing fear or joy; and the neurological resonance that actually allows the thoughts, emotions, and sensations to be felt.

It might be too much to say that depression and awe cannot go together; it seems more of a spectrum, where depression increases as awe decreases. I.e., depression holds more dread than wonder, as it is more intense, and awe holds more wonder as it is more intense.

So if there was a way to consciously cultivate awe, it would mean, in effect, consciously cultivating un-depression and un-anxiety. The more of the one, the less of the other. Try having the same door open and closed at the same time. It can't be done. And if it's more open, then it's less closed.
My Book is Available:

Anxiety and Depression:  42 Essays on Overcoming the Wild Moods

My book,

Anxiety and Depression:  42 Essays on Overcoming the Wild Moods (2011), is for sale as a paperback or Kindle.


It is a collection of short essays, focusing on the challenge of managing, and ultimately, uprooting depression and anxiety.  You can find a few sample articles here, and can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Archive of Past Newsletters
     All past issues of Tame Your Mood can be found here.
Audio Recordings
     Various audio recordings can be found here, including audio
     readings of past newsletters. 
About Marty

I am a San Francisco psychotherapist who helps individuals struggling with anxiety and depression to not only manage these  "wild  moods," but eventually learn how to overcome them.  I work comprehensively with mental, emotional, bodily, and spiritual dimensions of anxiety and depression, all of which are necessary to overcome the chronic quality of anxiety and depression.

If you are interested in exploring working together in psychotherapy, please contact me at:


(415) 937-1620,
Or email at: martycooper@mlcooper.com .