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Maslow, A.H. (1961). Peak Experiences as Acute Identity Experiences. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):254-260.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):254-260

Peak Experiences as Acute Identity Experiences

A. H. Maslow, Ph.D.

As we Seek For definitions of identity, we must remember that these definitions and concepts are not now existing in some hidden place, waiting patiently for us to find them. Only partly do we discover them; partly also we create them. Partly identity is whatever we say it is. Prior to this, of course, should come our sensitivity and receptivity to the various meanings the word already has. At once we find that various authors use the word in different kinds of data, different operations. And then, of course, we must find out something of these operations in order to understand just what the author means when he uses the word. It means something different for various therapists, for sociologists, for self-psychologists, for child psychologists, and so forth. And, of course, for all these people there is some similarity or overlap of meaning. (Perhaps this similarity is what identity “means” today.)

I have another operation to report, another kind of investigation on peak experiences,1 in which “identity” has various real, sensible, and useful meanings. But no claim is made that these are the true meanings of identity; only that we have here another angle. Since my feeling is that people in peak experiences are most their identities, closest to their real selves, most idiosyncratic, it would seem that this is an especially important source of clean and uncontaminated data—invention is reduced to a minimum and discovery increased to a maximum.

It will be apparent to the reader that all “separate” characteristics following are not really separate at all, but partake of each other in various ways as, for instance, by overlapping, saying the same thing in different ways, having the same meaning in a metaphorical sense.

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