Stare Into The Abyss – Meaning, Origin and Usage

If someone tells you that you to "stare into the abyss," what do they mean? Are they worried about your well-being? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this proverb.


The proverb "stare into the abyss" is a shorter version of "stare into the abyss, and the abyss stares back at you." The abyss is a dark, bottomless space where your worst fears reside. By staring into the abyss, you are waiting for the darkest parts of you to consume your thoughts.

The philosopher Nietzsche first used the phrase to describe that man has a dark part, known as the shadow. Entertaining the thoughts from the shadow side of you can result in madness or self-harm. To stare into the abyss means that you are looking deep into the dark parts of your personality and mind.

Example Usage

"Stare into the abyss, and the abyss stares back at you. It's a reflection of your inner evil and the mask you hide from society."

"Stare at the abyss long enough, and it starts to stare back at you. You'll u7ncover all the deepest darkest fears you have, and some of them might disturb you."

"It's funny how we can ever think about the right things we need to do in our lives. However, if we stare into the abyss for long enough, it's easy to think of all the bad stuff we're doing in our lives."

"If you stare into the abyss, be careful when it starts staring back at you. You might not like what you see."

"If you stare into the abyss for long enough, you'll likely end up experiencing self-hatred and depression."


The origin of the phrase "stare into the abyss" comes from the pen of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the pioneers of psychology in the 1800s, and many clinical psychologists regard him as one of the top minds in the field.

"Beyond Good and Evil" was Nietzsche's crowning work, sending him to the superstardom level of early western philosophy. First published in 1886. The book features the phrase, "stare into the abyss."

Most people believe it is the shorter version of "stare into the abyss, and the abyss stares back at you," but that is not the case.

Phrases Similar to Stare into the Abyss

  • Look at the darkness within.
  • Feed the dark passenger.
  • Embrace the dark side.

Phrases Opposite to Stare into the Abyss

  • Always think on the bright side of life.
  • Don't worry, be happy.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Stare into the abyss.
  • Stare into the abyss, and it stares back at you.

Ways People May Say Stare into the Abyss Incorrectly

Some people may use the expression to refer to the action of staring into a physical abyss, crevasse, or deep hole. However, the meaning of the saying refers to the abyss that lies internally within our minds. The darkness in the expression doesn't refer to the dark appearance of the depth of the abyss. It refers to the depth of our dark side and our potential to embrace evil if we let it overcome us.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Stare into the Abyss

You can use the expression "stare into the abyss" when you're trying to describe the effect of understanding "the shadow" or the dark side of you that you hide from everyone else due to social pressures and expectations. The phrase is usually said when talking to other people about their behavior or others. The expression is a warning that letting your dark side control your thinking could lead to disastrous results.

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