stendhal-syndromeHave you heard of Stendhal Syndrome?

Stendhal Syndrome is a “psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction…when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.” (wikipedia)

Flashback. I had a creative writing class in college and we had to write poems in different formats. I was not into poetry, but I was into getting good grades so I worked hard on the assignments.

To this day, I still remember that one poem I wrote was called “To the Cathedral Builders”. It was about how upon seeing something like a beautiful old cathedral, it bothers me that I can’t take it all in because the beauty is overwhelming. No matter how long I stay and stare at a beautiful building, I can never appreciate it as much as it deserves to be appreciated.

Now, I wasn’t experiencing “dizziness, fainting, or hallucinations”, so it wasn’t Stendhal Syndrome, but I did feel intensely bothered by it.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and grumpy when nothing is wrong? You aren’t alone.

I have experienced this feeling a lot. When there is a moment I know I am seeing something special, something I traveled very far to see, something someone worked very hard to build, or a stunning natural wonder, I want to sit there and stare at it and ponder it for a long time. I feel like this scenery/structure deserves my respect. And I am so overwhelmed by its beauty that I want to take it all in, to remember what I’m seeing, and to preserve that feeling I’m experiencing at that moment forever, because that is the right thing to do.

But I can’t.

No matter how long I stare, I can never save that exact feeling to recall it again in the future. I can take photos and tell myself how important that moment is, but it is still a moment, and soon it’s gone. (Does this remind anyone of the Unbearable Lightness of Being? That book blew me away.)

Anyway. In these situations, you have to let go of the guilt and pressure you are imposing on yourself. Remind yourself to simply enjoy the moment, and realize that you can’t completely absorb every single detail of the wonders you see. Appreciate it for what it is, and let it go.

It’s odd to me that I still remember the title of that poem. I completed dozens and dozens of assignments during my school years, but I remember that so clearly. I think it was because I tapped into something quite personal when I wrote it, and I was not used to examining myself on that level. Look at me, all poem-y and creative writer-y.

Have you ever experienced anything like Stendhal Syndrome? Does beauty overwhelm you? Leave a comment below!