Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford


  • Danilo GarciaEmail author
  • Patricia Rosenberg
  • Nigel Lester
  • Kevin M. Cloninger
  • C. Robert Cloninger
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_2269-1



Self-transcendence (concept of our participation in the world as a whole) is one of the three aspects of human character in Cloninger’s biopsychosociospiritual model of personality (Cloninger et al. 1993). This character trait is a measure of how well people identify themselves as an integral part of the universe as a whole and their experience of something elevated that goes beyond ourselves, that is, self-forgetfulness, transpersonal identification, spiritual acceptance, contemplation, idealism (Cloninger 2004).


Self-transcendence represents the judicial branch of mental self-government or the ability to know when rules apply to a particular situation. Self-transcendent people are described as self-forgetful (intuitive and light), transpersonal (holistic and joyful), and spiritual in perspective, whereas those who are low in self-transcendence are self-striving (controlling), individualistic (defensive), and secular (materialistic and nonreligious).


Self-transcendence is measured using the Temperament and Character Inventory (Cloninger et al. 1994). Self-transcendence is composed of five subscales: Self-forgetfulness versus Self-preoccupation (ST1), Transpersonal Identification versus Disidentification (ST2), Spiritual Acceptance versus Rational Materialism (ST3), Contemplation versus Skepticism (ST4), and Idealism versus Practicality (ST5). See Table 1 for details on high and low scorers in these subscales (see also https://tci.anthropedia.org/en/).
Table 1

The three lower order subscales that compose the self-transcendence (ST) scale of the temperament and character inventory

High scorers


Low scorers

Tend to transcend their self-boundaries when deeply involved in a relationship or when concentrating in what they are doing, forget where they are for a while, and lose awareness of the passage of time. Thus, appearing “in another world” or “absent minded.” Individuals who experience such self-forgetfulness are often described as creative and original


Self-forgetfulness versus self-preoccupation

Tend to remain aware of their individuality in a relationship or when concentrating on their work. These individuals are rarely deeply moved by art or beauty. Thus, others usually perceive them as conventional, prosaic, unimaginative, or self-conscious

Tend to experience an extraordinarily strong connection to nature and the universe as a whole, including the physical environment as well as people. They often report feeling that everything seems to be a part of a living organism and are often willing to make personal sacrifices in order to make the world a better place by trying to prevent war, poverty, or injustice. They might be regarded as fuzzy-thinking idealists


Transpersonal identification versus disidentification

Rarely experience strong connections to nature or people. They tend to be individualists who feel that they are neither directly nor indirectly responsible for what is going on with other people or the rest of the world. Such individuals view nature as an external object to be manipulated instrumentally, rather than something of which they are an integral part

Often believe in miracles, extrasensory experiences, and other spiritual phenomena such as telepathy or a “sixth sense.” They show magical thinking and are both vitalized and comforted by spiritual experiences. They might deal with suffering and even death through faith that they have, which may involve communion with their God


Spiritual acceptance versus rational materialism

Tend to accept only materialism and objective empiricism. They are often unwilling to accept things that cannot be scientifically explained. This, in turn, is a disadvantage when they face situations over which there is no control or possibility for evaluating by rational objective means (e.g., inevitable death, suffering, or unjust punishments)

These individuals pray often, listen to their inner voice and sense supernatural guidance


Contemplation versus skepticism

These individuals do not believe in supernatural communication and are spiritual skepticals. In other words, they lack faith and creativity

These individuals have high moral ideals and might be described as honorable


Idealism versus practicality

Pragmatic in their moral choices and are easily tempted. They lack charity and kindness


The degree of self-transcendence refers to the degree to which a person feels connected to the world in a meaningful way. In clinical practice, there are three distinguishable pathways that lead to a downward spiral (Cloninger et al. 1997; Wong and Cloninger 2010; Cloninger 2013a). Decreases in, or underdevelopment of, self-transcendence leads through a pathway of catastrophic and impatient thinking, which involves a loss of faith in struggles between being controlled and seeking to control others. When we catastrophize or become impatient and judgmental, there is a decrease in self-transcendence and we become preoccupied with struggles against problems and obstacles over which we have no control, as in posttraumatic stress disorders (Cloninger 2004, 2013b; Cloninger and Cloninger 2011; Cloninger and Garcia 2015).



  1. Cloninger, C. R. (2004). Feeling good: The science of well-being. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Cloninger CR. (2013a). The importance of ternary awareness for overcoming the inadequacies of contemporary psychiatry. Rev Psiquiatr Clin, 40, 110–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cloninger, C. R. (2013b). What makes people healthy, happy, and fulfilled in the face of current world challenges? Mens Sana Monographs, 11, 16–24.  https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1229.109288. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Cloninger, C. R., & Cloninger, K. M. (2011). Development of instruments and evaluative procedures on contributors to illness and health. The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine, 1(3), 446–455.Google Scholar
  5. Cloninger, C. R., & Garcia, D. (2015). The heritability and development of positive affect and emotionality. In Genetics of psychological well-being – The role of heritability and genetics in positive psychology (pp. 97–113). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cloninger, C. R., Przybeck, T. R., Svrakic, D. M., & Wetzel, R. D. (1994). The temperament and character inventory (TCI): A guide to its development and use. St. Louis: Washington University Center for Psychobiology of Personality.Google Scholar
  7. Cloninger, C. R., Svrakic, D. M., & Przybeck, T. R. (1993). A psychobiological model of temperament and character. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 975–990.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cloninger, C. R., Svrakic, N. M., & Svrakic, D. M. (1997). Role of personality self-organization in development of mental order and disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 881–906.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cloninger, C. R., & Zohar, A. H. (2011). Personality and the perception of health and happiness. Journal of Affective Disorders, 128(1), 24–32.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2010.06.012.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Josefsson, K., Jokela, M., Cloninger, C. R., Hintsanen, M., Salo, J., Hintsa, T., Pulkki-Råback, L., & Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (2013b). Maturity and change in personality: developmental trends of temperament and character in adulthood. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 713–727.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Josefsson, K., Jokela, M., Hintsanen, M., Cloninger, C. R., Pilkki-Råback, L., Merjonen, P., Hutri-Kähönen, N., & Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (2013a). Parental care-giving and home environment predicting offspring’s temperament and character traits after 18 years. Psychiatry Research, 209, 643–651.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Köse, S. (2003). A psychobiological model of temperament and character. Yeni Symposium, 41(2), 86–97.  https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820240059008.Google Scholar
  13. Wong, K. M., & Cloninger, C. R. (2010). A person-centered approach to clinical practice. Focus, 8(2), 199–215.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danilo Garcia
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  • Patricia Rosenberg
    • 1
    • 4
  • Nigel Lester
    • 5
    • 6
  • Kevin M. Cloninger
    • 1
    • 5
  • C. Robert Cloninger
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Blekinge Center of CompetenceBlekinge County CouncilBlekingeSweden
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  4. 4.Network for Empowerment and Well-BeingLyckebySweden
  5. 5.Anthropedia FoundationSt. LouisUSA
  6. 6.Center for Well-BeingWashington University School of Medicine in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Christian H. Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.Wilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada