How Personal Transformation Occurs Following a Single Peak Experience in Nature: A Phenomenological Account

Lia Naor, Ofra Mayseless

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study focuses on a particular form of positive transformation taking place in the wilderness, defined here as peak transformative experience. A large number of studies have been conducted on the negative transformative effect of a single traumatic event, while very little research has focused on positive transformational events. We addressed this lacuna by studying a unique case of quick positive transformation, taking place in nature. This study goes beyond the common description and outcome of the peak experience by focusing specifically on the process of personal transformation. Applying a phenomenological approach, 15 participants aged 28 to 70 years, who identified as having had such an experience, were interviewed. Analysis of these interviews revealed the “essence” of the peak experience in nature which led to the rapid transformation. This essence involved the recognition of formerly unknown aspects of self, projected onto nature and experienced in an embodied way, evoking an insight into a meaningful personal issue. Choosing to own these newly discovered aspects and integrate them resulted in rapid personal transformation. The findings are discussed, underscoring the centrality of nature in this process, the importance of free choice, and the potential for harnessing positive transformative peak experiences in nature for human development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-888
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Humanistic Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.


  • identity
  • nature
  • peak experience
  • phenomenology
  • transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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