Examining the Role of Aesthetic Experiences in Self-Realization and Self-Transcendence: A Thematic Analysis

Creativity. Theories – Research - Applications 10 (1-2):68-94 (2023)
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Abstract

Numerous scholars, philosophers, and experts in aesthetics have underscored the profound significance of a life enriched by the presence of beauty. Consequently, the appreciation of aesthetic experiences is considered pivotal for achieving self-discovery and self-transcendence (Howell et al. 2017). Despite theoretical prominence, limited qualitative research has been conducted on this topic. To address this gap in research, this study’s objective emphasized two questions guiding the inquiry; What is the role of aesthetic encounters in aiding self-realization or individuation? and, how do these experiences foster self-transcendence? A thematic analysis was performed on the online interviews conducted (N=25), and their results revealed seven themes pertaining to self-realization: a) Losing Yourself to Find Yourself; b) Relatability and Self-Reflection in Art; c) Identity as a Collection of Skills; d) Art as a Medium for Self-Expression and Acknowledgment; e) Aesthetic Genres and Taste as Identity; f) Belonging and Social Identity through Art; and g) Personal Interests and Choices in Artistic Consumption. Furthermore, seven themes for the second research question of self-transcendence were also discovered: a) Mother Nature’s Beauty; b) Intense, Passionate, and Overwhelming Experiences of Heightened Consciousness; c) Sacred Symbolism, Archetypal Imagery, and the Collective Unconscious; d) Collective Effervescence, Social Connection, and Shared Meaning; e) The ‘Profound’ Found in the Mundane; f) Feelings of Spiritual Elevation and Wellbeing; and g) Self-Referential Meaning-Making through Art. These findings evidenced the transformative potential of aesthetic experiences, shedding light on the facets of personal growth and meaning that individuals derive from such encounters.

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Rayan Magon
University of Toronto at Scarborough

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References found in this work

A theory of human motivation.A. H. Maslow - 1943 - Psychological Review 50 (4):370-396.
Art as Experience.John Dewey - 1934 - New Yorke: Perigee Books.
The Organism.Kurt Goldstein - 1995 - Princeton University Press.

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