The nature of peak experience in wilderness

Publisher:
Routledge/Taylor & Francis
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
The Humanistic Psychologist, 2009, 32 (2), pp. 121 - 139
Issue Date:
2009-01
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This study sought to identify the distinctive elements of wilderness settings that contribute to triggering peak experiences. Thirty-nine participants who had visited wilderness areas were recruited using a voluntary wilderness registration system operated by the Victorian National Parks Service, Australia. Using a postal survey, participants were asked to provide a written response to an open-ended question requesting them to describe, in their own words, a peak experience in the wilderness. A conventional approach to qualitative content analysis of the participants descriptions revealed that the aesthetic qualities of the wilderness setting and being away from the pressures, people, distractions, and concerns of the human-made world were key elements in their peak experiences. To gain an understanding of this phenomenon, the concept and theory of restorative environments was applied to the participants experiences. This analysis indicates that wilderness settings provide a mix of aesthetic pleasure and renewal that can lead to a triggering of peak experiences that provides the basis for individual spiritual expression.
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