Beside Oneself: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 24, 2023

"Beside oneself" is often used to describe strong emotional reactions, usually of shock, excitement, or distress. It means that someone is so overwhelmed with emotion that they almost feel outside of their usual self or sense of control. It can be found in various situations, from hearing surprising news to witnessing an unexpected event.

In short:

  • It describes intense emotional reactions, like shock or excitement.
  • It expresses that someone is extremely affected or moved by something.

What Does "Beside Oneself" Mean?

When someone says they are "beside oneself," they are expressing a heightened emotional state. They might be trying to convey that they're deeply shocked, very excited, or profoundly saddened. For instance, after hearing good news, a person might say, "I was beside myself with joy!" Or, in a more distressing situation, "I was beside myself with worry when you didn't come home on time.

Let's look into its main meanings and how it's used:

  • It communicates strong feelings and emotions.
  • You use this phrase when you're deeply affected by something, positively or negatively.
  • The phrase helps to express that an event or information has deeply impacted a person's emotions or state of mind.
  • It is commonly found in literature, but many people use it in everyday conversations.
  • Similar expressions include "overwhelmed," "deeply moved," and "stunned."

Where Does "Beside Oneself" Come From?

The origin of the phrase "beside oneself" traces back to ancient times. The concept is that strong emotions could cause a person's spirit or soul to stand outside their body. The word "beside" in this context means "outside of" or "separate from." So, being "beside oneself" paints a picture of someone's feelings being so strong that their spirit seems to stand outside of their body.

Historical Example

"For her part, she was almost beside herself with the horror of the thing. She felt as if she must cry out and run away from this silent, motionless figure that was not her mother."

- "The Railway Children" by E. Nesbit, 1906

10 Examples of "Beside Oneself" in Sentences

To help you understand when to use this phrase, here are some examples from various situations:

  • He was beside himself when he saw his partner jump ship and join the rival company.
  • After losing his wallet with all his IDs, he was beside himself with worry.
  • She was beside herself with excitement when her favorite band announced a surprise concert.
  • After seeing the surprise party his friends threw for him, he was beside himself with gratitude.
  • When the cat knocked over the vase, the owner was beside herself with anger.
  • When the devil incarnate showed up during our debate, I was truly beside myself with how well he presented the opposing viewpoint.
  • Watching her child perform on stage for the first time, she was beside herself with pride.
  • She had to make the call whether to stay beside herself with grief or move on with her life.
  • They got into a heated argument, and he was beside himself with anger. He regretted saying things he didn’t mean.
  • When he realized he had forgotten to save his work on the computer, he was beside himself with frustration.

Examples of "Beside Oneself" in Pop Culture

This phrase is sometimes used in movies, TV shows, and books to show strong emotional reactions.

Here are some instances:

  • In the book "Promotional Horror Media: Consent, Control, and Space," the author discusses the phrase "beside oneself" as typically indicating an extreme state of feeling, such as being excessively happy, troubled, or angry. This book explores the dynamics of horror media and its impact on audiences.
  • "Losers," a Netflix original series, includes an episode titled "Beside oneself." This series focuses on the stories of athletes who turned losses into life lessons, emphasizing the value of resilience and perseverance in sports and life.
  • Karolina Specht's animated film "Beside Oneself," showcased at the Anifilm International Competition, presents a visual exploration of emotional states. This short film uses animation to convey complex feelings and the concept of being emotionally overwhelmed.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Beside Oneself"

Here are some alternative phrases that share the same sentiment:

  • Really upset
  • So excited
  • Deeply moved
  • Completely shocked
  • Overwhelmed
  • Totally stunned
  • Very emotional
  • Extremely touched
  • Super surprised
  • Highly affected

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Beside Oneself":

  • What does "beside oneself" mean?

"Beside oneself" means to be very emotional or upset about something. It's a way of saying that someone is so emotional that they almost seem to be outside of themselves.

  • How can I use "beside oneself" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe someone who is extremely affected by an emotion. For instance: "She was beside herself with joy when she got the news." or "He was beside himself with worry when he couldn't find his dog."

  • Is "beside oneself" used in daily conversations?

Yes, it's a common phrase used in daily conversations, especially when describing strong emotions or reactions to events.

  • What kind of emotions can it describe?

"Beside oneself" can describe a wide range of strong emotions, from positive ones like joy and excitement to negative ones like anger, worry, or shock.

  • Is it an old or modern expression?

It's an older expression, but it's still widely understood and used today.

  • Can "beside oneself" be used in books or movies?

Yes, it's often used in literature, movies, and TV shows to depict characters in intense emotional states.

  • Is there a literal meaning to this phrase?

While the phrase suggests a person standing next to themselves, it's not meant to be taken literally. It's a figurative way of describing extreme emotions.

  • Is it a positive or negative phrase?

It's neutral. The emotion it describes can be positive, like joy, or negative, like worry. It depends on the context.

  • Can it describe mild feelings or only strong ones?

The phrase typically describes strong feelings or reactions. It's not commonly used for mild or subdued emotions.

  • Is the phrase used worldwide, or is it specific to certain cultures?

While "beside oneself" is widely understood in English-speaking countries, the exact phrase and its meaning might not be directly translatable or commonly used in all cultures.

Final Thoughts About "Beside Oneself"

The phrase "beside oneself" is a powerful way to describe strong emotions in various situations. Whether expressing happiness, sadness, or shock, it's a vivid way to convey feelings.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It's a phrase used to describe strong emotions or reactions.
  • "Beside oneself" can refer to both positive and negative feelings.
  • The expression has been around for a while but remains relevant in modern times.
  • It's a figurative phrase, not to be taken in a literal sense.

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