What is Happiness? (Part 5)

In my previous post I mentioned that the positive psychologist, Abraham Maslow, was very helpful in describing those that have reached his highest level of human motivation: self-actualization.  One attribute of this level of self-actualization that was mentioned was frequent peak experiences.

What are these peak experiences?  Again, we are fortunate that Maslow was kind enough to describe these unusual experiences that only a few fortunate individuals witness within themselves during their lives.  keep in mind that these peak experiences are not the same as flow – the concept described by the other positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Flow is best described as a lower level peak experience and the catalyst that encourages each of us to move forward in satisfying our lower needs of belongingness and self-esteem.  Peak experiences occur primarily to those that have reached Maslow’s final needs level of self-actualization (see previous post) and are self-contained.  So, according to Maslow, peak experiences are defined as:

The experience is seen as a whole, detached from usefulness and purpose. 

It is seen as if it were all there is in the universe.

Complete absorption or fascination such that experience is isolated from everything else around it.

Perception of the world as if it were independent of themselves and others.

A richness of perception.

Perceptions that are relatively ego transcending or egoless.

A moment that is self-validating carrying its own intrinsic value.  It is an end in and of itself.

A disorientation of time and space.

Experienced as only good and desirable, never experienced as evil or malevolent.

More absolute and less relative.

Wonder, awe, humility and reverence.

The resolution of many internal conflicts. 

Simultaneously selfish and unselfish.

Playfulness with others.

Loss of fear, anxiety, inhibition, and restraint.

Self-sufficiency.

More to come!

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