Saturday, December 29, 2018

Varieties of Self-Transcendent Experience

In my local humanist group we recently discussed how we atheists and agnostics can bond in community. We explored what bonds people strongly, like in religious communities, that seems lacking in atheist gatherings. I suggested that part of what bonds people is shared experiences, typically of the self-transcendent variety where we experience something larger that ourselves. That doesn't have to be God; it can be secular experience that is also described as self-transcendent.

In that light I offer this paper by psychologists and medical scientists on the topic. If you're not already a member of Research Gate it might ask you to join but it's free and easy. The abstract:

"Various forms of self-loss have been described as aspects of mental illness (e.g., depersonalization disorder), but might self-loss also be related to mental health? In this integrative review and proposed organizational framework, we focus on self-transcendent experiences (STEs)—transient mental states marked by decreased self-salience and increased feelings of connectedness. We first identify common psychological constructs that contain a self-transcendent aspect, including mindfulness, flow, peak experiences, mystical-type experiences, and certain positive emotions (e.g., love, awe). We then propose psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that may mediate the effects of STEs based on a review of the extant literature from social psychology, clinical psychology, and affective neuroscience. We conclude with future directions for further empirical research on these experiences."

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