Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Self-Transcendence as a Measurable Transpersonal Construct

Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Self-Transcendence as a Measurable Transpersonal Construct

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The term self-transcendence has been used to refer both to a process of movement beyond one's immediate self-boundaries, and to a quality which emerges as a result of this process, culminating in a broadened worldview. Self-transcendence has appeared as a key theme in several disciplines including transpersonal psychology, personality theory, and nursing theory. The scarcity of widely accepted methods of quantifying this construct with valid, reliable measures has caused some difficulty in the research arena. Scientific literature to date is presented here surrounding selftranscendence as quantified by the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). The author's purpose is to expound a coherent account of TCI self-transcendence research, and to establish selftranscendence as a measurable transpersonal construct with observable features and correlates. Data regarding molecular and quantitative genetics, neuroanatomy, aging, spirituality, religion, culture, and psychopathology are discussed. In light of this evidence, self-transcendence is presented as a complex but quantifiable construct of the utmost relevance to psychology.

INTRODUCTION

The term self-transcendence has been widely used to refer both to a process of expansion, or movement beyond one's immediate self-boundaries (Levenson, Jennings, Aldwin, & Shiraishi, 2005; Reed, 1991b), and to a quality which emerges as a result of this process, culminating in a generally stabilized and broadened worldview (Maslow, 1971; Wilber, 2000). In psychology, Viktor Frankl (1966) posited self-transcendence as an integral part of the human ability to create meaning, and Abraham Maslow offered this definition:

Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos. (1971, p. 269)

More recently, the phenomenon of self-transcendence has emerged as a key theme in several disciplines including transpersonal development (Levenson et al., 2005; Wade, 1996; Wilber, 2000), personality theory and psychiatric genetics (Cloninger, Svrakic, & Przybeck, 1993), nursing theory (Coward, 1996; Reed, 1991b; Runquist & Reed, 2007), and gerontology (Braam, Bramsen, van Tilburg, van der Ploeg, & Deeg, 2006; Tornstam, 1996), among others.

In each of these domains scholars have posited distinct definitions and theoretical underpinnings in an attempt to understand and explain selftranscendence from the standpoints of their respective fields. Accordingly, a number of assessments have been proposed as means of measuring selftranscendence, and discovering what, if any, are its component facets. These include the self-transcendence subscale of the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) devised by Cloninger et al. (1993), the Self-Transcendence Scale developed by Reed (1991a), the Spiritual Transcendence Scale created by Piedmont (1999), and the Adult Self-Transcendence Inventory (Levenson et al., 2005). Using such measures in empirical research, interrelationships between self-transcendence and other biological, psychological, and spiritual constructs have been explored across a variety of populations and cultures, yielding considerable results. However, the scarcity of widely accepted methods of quantifying self-transcendence with a single valid, reliable measure has caused some difficulty in the research arena (Akyalcin, Greenway, & Milne, 2008; MacDonald & Friedman, 2002).

This article presents research from diverse fields surrounding self-transcendence as quantified by the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), a self-report measure of seven personality dimensions developed by Cloninger et al. (1993), who define self-transcendence as ''the extent to which a person identifies the self as an integral part of the universe as a whole'' (p. …

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