Human Peak Experience Triggered by Encounters with Cetaceans

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Although wild animals are listed in the literature of the humanistic sciences as a known peak trigger, this phenomenon has not until now been formally explored. In investigating peak experience from the perspective of the human–animal connection, the present study focuses on spontaneous encounters with cetaceans (whales and dolphins) that the human participant considered to be a highly significant personal event. Seven narrative stories were obtained from six human percipients who reported peak experience as a result of interactions with cetaceans which, with one exception, were free-ranging. The species represented are the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus); the orca (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whale or blackfish; and the beluga or white whale (Delphinapterus leucas). The data were analyzed through the process of phenomenological reduction, yielding five invariant themes: reciprocity of process, intention, connectedness, aliveness and harmony. Other essences of the wild-animal-triggered peak experience also are presented, along with suggestions regarding dynamics that may underlie spontaneous encounters which culminate in an emotional catharsis or other healing.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2000

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