Self-transcendence and life stories of humanistic growth among late-midlife adults

Hollen N. Reischer*, Laura J. Roth, Jorge A. Villarreal, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Self-transcendence is the experience of feeling connected to something greater than oneself. Previous studies have shown high scores on self-transcendence are associated with well-being and other psychological benefits, but have rarely examined the lived experiences of highly self-transcendent people. Method: Black and White men and women in late-midlife completed Life Story Interviews and self-report measures of self-transcendence. In Study 1 (N = 144, Mage = 56.4), we used grounded theory methodology to differentiate the stories told by participants scoring either extremely high or extremely low on self-transcendence. In Study 2 (N = 125; Mage = 60.4), we created a quantitative coding scheme and scored 1,375 new life story scenes. Results: In Study 1, six narrative themes were identified (closure, interconnectedness, lifelong learning, secure attachment, self-actualization, and spiritual pluralism) as part of a “humanistic growth story.” In Study 2, four of the narrative themes were found to predict self-transcendence scores with significant effect sizes of β =.26 to.47. Conclusions: In our sample, highly self-transcendent individuals tended to narrate their lived experiences as spiritual journeys of humanistic growth. This study adds to our understanding of one path of personality growth in late-midlife, that toward self-transcendence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-324
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • ego integrity
  • humanistic psychology
  • life story
  • narrative identity
  • self-transcendence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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