Think of a time when you were suddenly struck by the most wonderful feelings of joy and elation.
Maybe a heavy moment of falling in love, achieving a very personal goal, or becoming fully immersed in a satisfying creative project.
These intense feelings of natural euphoria are a rare occurrence, but experiencing this ecstatic high has the power to forever change your perception and alter how your life unfolds.
Attaining Natural Euphoria
Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was first to classify this phenomenon as 'Peak Experience'. Well known for his concept of the hierarchy of needs, Maslow has theorized that peak experiences provide a glimpse into of the real human psyche, which has become obscured throughout our existence.
This experience is said to play an important role in self-actualization (the very top of Maslow’s pyramid of growth and fulfillment); and although not everyone will reach the peak of this pyramid, we all have access to this state of euphoria and bliss.
The ecstatic moments of winning a big personal victory, or becoming so involved in an activity that the world seems to fade away and nothing else seems to matter. Even being captured by an intensely thrilling book that you just can’t put down can connect you to this unique reality.
In The Handbook of ‘Humanistic Psychology’ Gayle Privette describes:
"Peak experience is intense joy or ecstasy that stands out perceptually and cognitively among other experiences. …… A precious moment of highest happiness and joy, are personally valued experiences. We cherish these times, enjoy remembering them, and intuitively expect that they can enlighten our lives.”
Such momentary breakthroughs of expanded consciousness can arrive unexpectedly in our daily lives- taking root in the subconscious mind and sending strong messages of empowerment and intense inspiration to our conscious brains for us to experience through the release of endorphins.
Although this release of neurochemical in the brain is similar to the concept know as flow, not all instances of flow qualify as peak experiences. These experiences are categorized as an even deeper and more profound state of being.
This sensation has been reported on top of Mount Everest and quite often by people after overcoming adversity or danger to help someone in need. Peak experience has been described as a brief and spontaneous spiritual awakening where we are more conscious and deeply aware; allowing us to peer into a realm greater than ourselves.
So what is a peak experience and what happens when we achieve this natural euphoria?
Here are some characteristics of peak experience based on the most common phenomena reported to Maslow throughout his research:
• Feeling at one with the world. Accepted and loved.
• Life is viewed as worth while and meaningful.
• Fully immersed in the moment and extremely aware.
• Ego transcending, egoless and selflesss.
• Intrinsically rewarding and validating.
• Disorientation in time and space ( creative artist oblivious to surroundings, two lovers to whom a day seems like a year or a second).
• Pure positive and happiness where all doubts and fears melt away.
• Spontaneity and naturally flowing behavior that is not constrained by limits.
• Increased personal power and deep understanding which can serve as a turning point in one’s life.
• World is seen as a unity; a single rich live entity.
Peak experiences are considered transcending moments of natural euphoria. These are the moments that stand out from everyday events and endure the test of time by leaving a profound impression on our soul. An indication of self-actualization, Maslow believes that peak experience is one of the most important goals in life; opening the door to our greatest potentials.