February 19, 2010

Peak Experiences/Stendhal Syndrome

The Stendhal Syndrome is what happens when you are overwhelmed by exposure to great beauty, either in art or nature. The author of The Red and the Black nearly fainted from the beauty of Florence. Stendhal allowed himself to be open enough to fully engage in understanding the significance of where he was so that he could completely appreciate what he saw. Sometimes such experiences cause sensory and psychological overload, or stop short of going overboard, and instead go to a place of heightened awareness, that pushes aside distractions to awaken what some call the soul. These peak experiences, according to the famous psychologist Maslow, make a person mentally healthier, stronger and happier, more resilient and self actualized. These joyous and exciting moments are the result of throwing yourself completely and fully into an intense positive experience like that of love, aesthetic or natural beauty. Body and mind are built to work together to combine intellectual understanding with sensuality in such a way as to inform and aid each other to make life as wonderfully vivid as can be.

These moments happen to everyone during the course of life, but one way to have them more often, and it seems that one tends to lead to another, is to fully engage the senses and mind together by paying full attention. It's amazing how much more pleasurable an experience can be with undivided attention.

We know the sense of smell is a direct road to the emotions through the prism of the mind and memory, and it's possible to experience the full beauty of the materiality of earthly life by inhaling it and letting it waft through personal inner perceptions. Peak experiences are very beneficial for the psyche, according to Maslow. I like the idea that seeking out and then paying full attention to beauty will result not only in an ecstatic personal experience but will also steady my mind and create a deep fund of inner strength and resilience. So I have practical reasons after all, to pursue and enjoy the artistry of perfume that recalls and reveals the beauty of the world and memory.

Above - The Birth of Venus by Botticelli at the Uffizi in Florence, in the room that causes the most cases of Stendhal Syndrome

12 comments:

chayaruchama said...

AMEN !

Shw has always been a source of awe and wonder to me-
Dewy, nacrescent, emerging from her immense mollusk...

Is it HOT in here ?
Am I in love ?

What a fabulous way to start my day.

Lucy said...

Dear C! Glad to have been of some service today! Here's another link for you, scroll down to
8 Ways to Self Actualize (re Maslow)
in which the pursuit of the peak experience features most boldly:
http://psikoloji.fisek.com.tr/maslow/self.htm

Warrior said...

What a beautiful affirmation. Thank you!

Lucy said...

Dear Warrior, I am happy it helpful to to. It's very intriguing, the idea that such peak experiences are healthy for your mind and body, and it makes sense.

Perfumaniac said...

Unlike the peak experiences drug users get from indulging their habit, the worst that happens to me when I partake of perfume is maybe a headache or the need to pop an allergy pill. OK by me! Thanks for another excuse to continue my sniffin', Lucy!

Lucy said...

Dear Perfumaniac,

Yes, it's all a matter of nuance. Does it take a sledgehammer or can one get there with something a little more refined...which sharpens the senses while you're about it...

Lauren said...

Aw great post! Tomorrow I am going to focus on beauty all day!

Lucy said...

Lauren,

Sign me up!

Select Perfume said...
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Select Perfume said...
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Michael Mattison said...

Great choice of topic, great post. I'm happy to say I've had lots of Stendhal experiences on my travels through Europe, actually in -- surprise! -- Florence for the first time (which I just got through writing about at my own blog actually; the fresco you see there helped cause my first "Stendhal high".
Love your blog topics in general; great stuff.
All the best,
Michael

Lucy said...

Thank you for your kind words, Michael -- I look forward to going to Florence again in the warmer months next time and having more Stendhal moments myself...