Oh that the gods, the gift would give us, to see ourselves, as others see us. Robert Burns, Scottish poet
I enjoy select Latin and Greek words and phrases because they say a lot in few syllables. They’re even more condensed and succinct than poetry. Here’s a term I recently learned that’s provided food for thought: ekstasis.
From the Ancient Greek, έκ-στασις (ex-stasis), it means to be or stand outside (from ex-: out, and stasis: stand). In philosophy it means being outside of oneself—to see oneself from the outside. To be self-aware.
Self-awareness is an indispensable skill for developing emotional and social intelligence. Without it we are unaware of how our lives affect other people.
One way to see ourselves as others see us is to have trusted friends who will honestly and candidly tell us what they observe about our behavior in social settings.
But we should also develop the skill of self-observation. Let’s learn how to have an out-of-body experience in which we’re observing ourselves in particular situations with the same objectivity that an uninvolved bystander would have. We then “hear” what and how we’re speaking. We “see” ourselves in the context of time and space, observing ourselves from a factual, nonemotional perspective. When we get “outside of ourselves” we’re able to see ourselves more clearly.
- Recently, I was unkind to a Firestone service advisor because I thought he was being unreasonable. Later that day, I mentally went “ekstasis” and tried to visualize what that scene must have looked like to others who were present. I was embarrassed at what I “saw.”
- Recently, I took the time to visit with a member of our custodial staff at the church. We had a good conversation in the hallway. I later heard that those few minutes meant a lot to him. I had been unaware of how my words encouraged him so much. Later, a moment of ekstasis helped me understand the positive impact of spending a few minutes with someone who is outside my normal sphere.