“Look up at the sky. There is a light, a beauty up there, that no shadow can touch.” – J.R.R. Tolkein
The James Webb Space Telescope released its first set of images earlier this month, revealing glittering star births, galaxies and cosmic cliffs previously invisible to us. If seeing these images elicited awe and wonder, or a sense of connection to the universe, you were experiencing self-transcendence.
Recent research in the Journal of Personality defines self-transcendence as “the experience of feeling connected to something greater than oneself.” Psychologists and philosophers, such as Abraham Maslow and Victor Frankl, made significant contributions to the theory of self-transcendence in the 1970s. It is the first widely accepted personality trait of a spiritual nature. When we experience self-transcendence, we are in touch with meaning and purpose in our lives.
Self-transcendence is associated with positive mental health outcomes, including increased well-being and positive emotions, optimism, improved self-esteem and greater self-integration. It is also associated with lower depression and neuroticism.
There is a recipe for developing self-transcendence. It includes six key ingredients, each of which are helpful in their own right. Combine the following and stir carefully.
Every version of self-transcendence is both unique and universal. For some, it will look like building a family; for others, building a community. For those at NASA and their collaborators around the world, it looks like building an infrared space observatory.
When our mission is clear, we are better together. Don’t forget to enjoy the stars.
PhD, Clinical Psychology
Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, writes that as we consider life’s mysteries, meaning is what we pursue — not positive emotions. He notes that we don’t search for meaning for our own sakes, i.e. to feel happy or calm, or to maintain our own equilibrium. Rather, we search for meaning for its own sake. This week, your practice is to spend 11 minutes exploring his philosophy.
What are we reading? Glad you asked! This week’s MO recommendation is: Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl
Newsletter photo courtesy of NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute
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