Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Peak experiences and emotion
What is the role of emotion in peak experiences?
Overview[edit | edit source]
This chapter focuses on the role of emotions during peak experiences, delves into the theories underlying peak experience and emotion and examines case studies that support this topic.
Definitions[edit | edit source]
What are emotions and peak experiences?[edit | edit source]
Emotion involves cognition and action that is motivated and regulated by feelings, neural circuits and response systems (Izard, 2010). Emotions assist in expanding an individual's self-range of perception and response (Philippe, Vallerand, Houlfort, Lavigne, & Donahue, 2010). In particular, positive emotions, such as "awe, compassion, gratitude, empathy and love" have been associated with playing a role in peak experiences (Hoffman, Tran, Compton, & Sasaki, 2016, p. 40).
"Peak experiences are surprising, insightful and life-validating instances, which involves a new and expansive knowledge of self and/or the world" (Naor & Mayseless, 2017, p. 3). Specifically, peak experience occurs within seconds and minutes, and is identified by realisation, clear vision and positive emotions, such as joy (Naor & Mayseless, 2017). For example, childbirth or profound moments in interpersonal relationships are peak-arising situations that an individual may encounter (Hoffman, Relwani-Garg, Kaneshiro, & Kapur, 2012).
Emotion plays a role in peak experiences, such that emotions evoke positive feelings during moments of peak experience. For instance, Maslow (as cited in Woodward et al., 2009, p. 430) stated that peak experience consisted of an instance of self-actualisation, in which the individual was exposed to positive feelings, such as wonder and awe. This positive psychological awakening provided strength to the individual, leading them to self-fulfilment (Woodward et al., 2009).
Test your knowledge[edit | edit source]
Theories underlying self-actualisation[edit | edit source]
Research findings on emotion and peak experience have affirmed that individuals experience a sense of self-actualisation in peak-arising situations (Hoffman, Relwani-Garg, et al., 2012). Specifically, Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's flow state are the two main theories associated with peak experience and self-actualisation (Reid, 2011).
Abraham Maslow: Hierarchy of needs[edit | edit source]
Self-actualisation is a motivational growth process in which an individual begins to realise their true potential (D'souza & Gurin, 2016). Maslow defined self-actualisation, as "the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming" (as cited in Krems, Kenrick, & Neel, 2017, p. 1338). In particular, Maslow placed self-actualisation as the highest level in the hierarchy of needs, describing it as the most enriched optimal functioning an individual can achieve (as cited in Ivtzan, Chan, Gardner, & Prashar, 2013, p. 919). In relation to the origin of self-actualisation, Maslow sequentially categorised five basic needs an individual experiences during their life time (Lester, 2013). As each basic need is fulfilled, the individual achieves greater psychological well-being (Lester, 2013).
Maslow (as cited in Thielke et al., 2012) identified hierarchy of needs into five basic categories:
- Physiological - the lowest level of need that depends on acquiring physical needs, such as food water and shelter
- Safety - wanting protection from physical and emotional harm
- Belonging - the need to feel accepted and loved by others, as well as seeking meaningful connections with others, such as family
- Esteem - focuses on finding confidence and respect, in which individual accomplishes actions that are of value to them
- Self-actualisation - the highest level of need, involves attaining unique self and self-fulfillment; this level can only be achieved once all levels below are satisfied. (p. 475-480).
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi: Flow state[edit | edit source]
Flow is the psychological state, coined by Csíkszentmihályi, in which individuals are extremely focused in an activity, making it impossible for any distractions to occur (Heo, Lee, McCormick, & Pedersen, 2010; Reid, 2011). According to Csikszentmihalyi, an individual may experience flow in circumstances, in which concentration can be openly capable in accomplishing goals (as cited in Reid, 2011, p. 52). To be specific, these focused individuals encounter an optimal experience, in which they recognise an equilibrium between their personal abilities & the challenging situation (Heo et al., 2010).
Flow can be successfully accomplished if the individual perceives the demanding task and their abilities as high (Reid, 2011). However, if one's personal skills are much higher than the task at hand, they will experience boredom (Reid, 2011). Furthermore, Reid (2011) implied that if the challenge is stronger than one's personal attributes, the individual may be faced with anxiety. Alternatively, Reid (2011) indicated that if both challenge and personal skills were low, the individual experiences apathy.
Maslow's theory of self-actualisation, which delved into intrinsic motives, contributed to the underlying theory of flow (Silverman, Baker, & MacDonald, 2016). In particular, Maslow strongly considered that an individual reached their self-actualised self when their personal skills are fulfilled (Silverman et al., 2016). Thus, this moment of self-fulfilment was greatly tied with uncovering the concept of flow within a psychological perspective (Silverman et al., 2016).
Test your knowledge[edit | edit source]
Role of emotion in peak experiences[edit | edit source]
Emotion plays a huge role role in peak experience, allowing an individual to freely experience intense positive emotions, such as joy and wonder, during a peak-arising moment (Hoffman, Kaneshiro, & Compton, 2012). This section will examine the main research findings in relations to peak experience and emotion.
Joy[edit | edit source]
Joy is a positive emotion, in which an individual experiences happiness, commonly expressed as a smile (Mortillaro & Dukes, 2018). Many researchers have linked feelings of joy during peak experiences. For example, Maslow identified tears of joy during a peak-experienced moment as a positive indicator that the individual has expressed feelings of gratefulness (as cited in Hoffman et al., 2016, p. 40). Furthermore, other research findings have consistently associated tears of joy with physical relief and self-fulfilment, positive attributes that have been linked with peak experience (Hoffman et al., 2016). It is evident that joy, expressed by smiling or crying, plays a role in how an individual physically perceives peak experience, as it allows one to experience positive emotions and feel satisfied in the moment.
Previous studies confirmed that interpersonal joy was the main emotion that individuals expressed during peak experience (Hoffman et al., 2012). The expression of joy was mainly associated with peak-arising moments, such as child birth and spending time with family (Hoffman et al., 2012). From these findings, it is apparent that positive emotions play a role in how an individual experiences peak-arising moments throughout their lifetime.
Edward is a soon to be father. During the months leading up to the due date, Edward felt excited and happy about the upcoming arrival of his child. One day, his wife Andrea is rushed to hospital to give birth to their child. Many hours later, after intensely anticipating his newborn child, Edward finally meets his son. Edward experiences intense feelings of joy, in which tears begin to form.
Did Edward experience a peak-arising moment? Was his tears due to happiness and relief?
Love and belonging[edit | edit source]
Love[edit | edit source]
Love is mainly identified as a positive emotion, such as happiness and satisfaction (Lamy, 2016). In particular, romantic love consists of wanting to be with someone and the commitment to do so (Lamy, 2016). The main findings on love and peak experiences have been associated with intrinsic motives, enjoyment and positive psychological well-being (Mouton & Montijo, 2017). In relation to love and peak experience, research suggested that psychological complexity, also known as flow, played a role in influencing an individual to reach self-actualisation and life satisfaction (Mouton & Montijo, 2017). This lead up to optimal well-being was produced from the peak-arising moments that may occur within interpersonal relationships (Mouton & Montijo, 2017).
A study on romantic relationships and peak experience found that individuals reported that they perceived life experiences in a positively transformative view (Mouton & Montijo, 2017). From one perspective, they explained that there were times where life could be difficult, conflicting and harsh (Mouton & Montijo, 2017). Yet, these individuals realised that everyone, even good people, have been exposed to unfortunate events, and that despite these bad times, individuals may achieve personal growth and fulfilment from self-actualisation and awareness (Mouton & Montijo, 2017). Thus, it is possible that positive emotions involved with love and peak experience can assist individuals in being resilient and content during tough times.
Belonging[edit | edit source]
Belonging is the need to feel accepted and loved, as well as seeking meaningful connections with others (Thielke et al., 2012). Likwise, research havelinked positive emotions and belonging in couples with moments of peak experience. For instance, Woodward et al. (2009) described that physical intimacy elicited psychological expansion, unity and wonder among couples. Additionally, Woodward et al. (2009) suggested that peak experience and sense of belonging in couples provided insight into how commitment individuals were in their relationship. From these findings, it was clear that positive emotions induced by satisfying the need to belong played a role in how couples experienced peak-arising moments.
Previous research on belonging and peak experience proposed that couples thatshared significant milestones in their relationships strengthened their bond of belonging together (Woodward et al., 2009). Specifically, couples that positively perceived these memorable peak experiences together personally valued these moments, thus increasing their relationship's resilience (Woodward et al., 2009). Researchers suggested that this increase in resilience within relationships provided life fulfilment among couples (Woodward et al., 2009). Consequently, belonging in couples, even loved ones, elicits positive emotions that play a role in one's experience of peak-arising instances.
Elaine and Jarrod have been involved in a long distance relationship for over a year. For the past six months they have not physically seen each other due to work and living in different states. Their way of communication is through social media and video calls. Elaine and Jarrod have missed each other very much, and at times felt lonely. However, one day, the couple planned to meet up midway and organised a weekend get away to catch up and spend time with each other. Leading up to the weekend, both Jarrod and Elaine were very excited to see each other again. When they finally met up, the couple experienced positive feelings of happiness and physical relief, realising that at that moment they were grateful they were in each other's company again.
Have you ever experienced strong feelings of relief and excitement when meeting a loved one after a long period of time, be it family or a significant other? Did you realise that in that moment you were grateful to see them again?
Test your knowledge[edit | edit source]
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
Emotion plays a role in peak experiences, such that emotions evoke positive feelings during moments of peak experience. Theorists state that peak experience consists of an instance of self-actualisation, in which the individual is exposed to positive feelings, such as wonder and awe, thus, providing strength to lead the individual to self-fulfilment. Other theorists indicate an individual may experience flow in circumstances, in which concentration can be openly possible in accomplishing goals by recognising equilibrium between their personal abilities and the challenging situation.
Many researchers link feelings of joy with peak experiences. For instance, research findings associate tears of joy with physical relief and self-fulfilment. It is evident that joy, expressed by smiling or crying, plays a role in how an individual physically perceives peak experience, as it allows one to experience positive emotions and feel satisfied in the moment.
Findings on love and peak experiences associate with intrinsic motives, enjoyment and positive psychological well-being. Research suggests that psychological complexity, also known as flow, plays a role in influencing an individual to reach self-actualisation and life satisfaction. Individuals’ optimal well-being is produced from the peak-arising moments that occur within interpersonal relationships.
Consistently, research associatepositive emotions and belonging in couples with moments of peak experience. In particular, researchers suggest that peak experience and sense of belonging in couples provide insight into how commitment individuals are in their relationship. Evidently, it is clear that positive emotions induce satisfaction from the need to belong, and play a role in how couples experience peak-arising moments.
Consequently, emotion plays a role in peak experience, such that it allows individuals to freely express their emotions during the moment, helping them positively reach an instance of self-actualisation.
To reflect on this chapter, the next time you experience a peak arising moment, be it successfully accomplishing a rewarding challenge or sharing memorable moments with loved ones, observe your emotions, how you feel, and what it means to you. Experiencing and being aware of such profound emotions can bring personal light on how the role of emotion plays during peak experience.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Awe and Well-being (Book chapter, 2017)
- Emotion (Wikipedia)
- Maslow's hierarchy of needs (Book chapter, 2011)
- Mystical experiences and emotion (Book chapter, 2018)
- Peak experience (Wikipedia)
- Self-actualisation theory (Wikipedia)
References[edit | edit source]
Heo, J., Lee, Y., McCormick, B. P., & Pedersen, P. M. (2010). Daily experience of serious leisure, flow and subjective well‐being of older adults. Leisure Studies, 29(2), 207-225. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614360903434092
Hoffman, E., Kaneshiro, S., & Compton, W. C. (2012). Peak-experiences among Americans in midlife. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 52(4), 479-503. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022167811433851?journalCode=jhpa
Hoffman, E., Relwani-Garg, N., Kaneshiro, S., & Kapur, S. (2012). Peak-experiences among Indians in midlife. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(3), 217-223. https://ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/docview/1614046971?accountid=28889
Hoffman, E., Tran, A., Compton, W. C., & Sasaki, H. (2016). Tears of joy among Japanese young adults: Implications for counselling. Asia Pacific Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 7(1-2), 39-49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21507686.2016.1214157
Ivtzan, I., Chan, C. P., Gardner, H. E., & Prashar, K. (2013). Linking religion and spirituality with psychological well-being: Examining self-actualisation, meaning in life, and personal growth initiative. Journal of religion and health, 52(3), 915-929. Doi: 10.1007/s10943-011-9540-2
Izard, C. E. (2010). The many meanings/aspects of emotion: Definitions, functions, activation, and regulation. Emotion Review, 2(4), 363–370. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073910374661
Krems, J., Kenrick, D., & Neel, R. (2017). Individual perceptions of self-actualization: What functional motives are linked to fulfilling one’s full potential? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(9), 1337–1352. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217713191
Lester, D. (2013). Measuring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Psychological Reports, 113(1), 15–17. https://doi.org/10.2466/02.20.PR0.113x16z1
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Mortillaro, M., & Dukes, D. (2018). Jumping for joy: the importance of the body and of dynamics in the expression and recognition of positive emotions. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00763
Mouton, A. R., & Montijo, M. N. (2017). Love, passion, and peak experience: A qualitative study on six continents. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(3), 263-280. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1225117
Naor, L., & Mayseless, O. (June, 2017). How personal transformation occurs following a single peak experience in nature: A phenomenological account. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 1-24. https://doi-org.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/10.1177/0022167817714692
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Silverman, M. J., Baker, F. A., & MacDonald, R. A. (2016). Flow and meaningfulness as predictors of therapeutic outcome within songwriting interventions. Psychology of Music, 44(6), 1331-1345. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305735615627505
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