Stare Into The Abyss – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Stare into the abyss’ and wondered what exactly it means? If so, you’ll be glad you’re here, because I’m going to explain everything. These existential quotes are not immediately discernible after all.

I’ve got all the info, not just the meaning, but lots of detail on how the phrase first came about, examples of different ways to use the phrase, and some alternatives you can use instead as well.

Allow me to reveal all…

What is the Meaning of the phrase ‘Stare Into The Abyss’?

‘Stare into the abyss’ means ‘Let your mind drift to dark thoughts and places.’

It generally refers to thinking about things that are uncomfortable or difficult to consider.

What is the Origin of the phrase ‘Stare Into The Abyss’?

The phrase originates from 1886 in a book by the renowned German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, titled Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.

‘Stare into the abyss’ is actually a shorter version of a longer statement, which is:

‘He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’

What Nietzsche is trying to say is that when you begin to mentally engage in distressing matters, also known as ‘the abyss’, then the abyss acts as a mirror, and reflects your dark side to yourself.

Here, Nietzsche is using the word ‘abyss’, to mean a deep void, black hole or chasm. He uses this metaphor to personify the depth of our psychological complexity, and how it shows us the deepest and darkest parts of ourselves and how we see things.

Some people maintain that Nietzsche says this as a word of caution, since this may lead to madness, self-harm, or even suicide.

However, others argue that it’s meant to encourage self reflection into your shadow side, or darker aspects of your character, in line with seeing yourself as a whole for personal growth and transformation.

Some speculate that it may mean that if you lean into your pain, you become more of your own vulnerability. Others say that it may mean that evil can corrupt you.

How do you use the phrase ‘Stare Into The Abyss’?

Here follows some examples of the phrase in use:

‘Stare into the abyss long enough, and your fears will only grow in magnitude.’

‘Stare into the abyss anymore, and you’ll end up on meds.’

‘I wouldn’t stare into the abyss too long if I were you – you may not like what you see.’

‘Be careful not to stare into the abyss longer than you have too, it’s too easy to lose hope.’

‘You’ve got to quit staring into the abyss. You’ve got a life to live and people who care about you.’

‘You need to peel yourself away from the abyss. Your life’s not over yet. Grief will ruin you if you let it.’

‘It’s depression. She’ll just sit for hours staring into the abyss, not caring if someone comes along and tries to save her.’

‘I’ve just been staring into the abyss since he’s been gone.’

What are some Alternative Ways of using the Phrase ‘Stare Into The Abyss’?

There are several versions of the phrase that mean pretty much the same thing. These are as follows:

  • ‘Stare at the abyss’
  • ‘Stare in the abyss’
  • ‘Stare into an abyss’
  • ‘Stare into a big black hole of nothingness’
  • ‘Stare into the big unknown’

Alternatively, you may find other, similar phrases more appropriate, such as:

  • ‘Embrace your shadow side’,
  • ‘Confront the dragon within’
  • ‘Anyone who despises himself will still esteem the despiser’.
  • ‘Embrace the dark side’
  • ‘Overcome by darkness’
  • ‘See only darkness’
  • Get sucked into the big darkness’
  • ‘Let my/your/his/her/their bad twin take over’
  • ‘Sucked into a black hole of dark thoughts’
  • ‘In a dark place’
  • ‘See into hell’

If you want to use a phrase to represent thinking about dying, you could use:

  • ‘Looked upon death’,
  • ‘Look death in the face’
  • ‘Faced death’ or
  • ‘Meet with the grim reaper’
  • ‘Meet my/your/his/her/their ultimate fate’
  • ‘Greet death with open arms’
  • ‘Stare death in the face’
  • ‘Confront mortality’
  • ‘Face death head on’
  • ‘Confront the great unknown’
  • ‘Address the inevitable’
  • ‘Obsessing about death’

Final Thoughts

So, to reiterate, the phrase ‘Stare into the abyss’ simply means ‘Let your mind drift to dark thoughts and places.’ It originated from the pen of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in 1886, in his book titled Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.

Sometimes people use the phrase to talk about thinking about their inevitable death, or to describe being fearful about the end of their existence, or giving in to other dark fears.