Pamela Reeds Theory of Self-Transcendence explains peoples ability to grow and overcome obstacles when faced with stressful situations such as: life-threatening illness. During serious and stressful life situations people have the ability to cope and develop healthy boundaries. Nurses and other healthcare professionals can assist those in need of self-transcendence. There are three major concepts in Reeds theory: self-transcendence, vulnerability and well-being. Reeds theory is extremely important in the nursing community and will continue to be in years to come.
The main concept of Reeds theory is self-transcendence and discusses ways that a person can expand their boundaries and improve their overall well-being. There are multiple ways that self-boundaries can expand: intrapersonally, interpersonally, transpersonally and temporally. Intrapersonal growth is the ability to grow within themselves and become more self-aware of ones hopes dreams and values. Interpersonal growth is the ability for one to connect with those outside of themselves such as the environment, nature and other people.
Transpersonal growth is the ability for one to connect to dimensions outside of the visible world in a spiritual manner. Temporal growth is the ability for one to combine their past and future and gives meaning to their present.1 Self-Transcendence has been shown to help provide hope and significance which will allow a person to cope with stress and illness. All four of the subtypes of self-transcendence have demonstrated to not only positively affect people emotionally, socially and spiritually but, physically as well.2 It has been shown that the older adult population are at high risk for maintaining purpose in life due to increased risk for losses such as: retirement, loss of spouse/family/friends.
3 Self-transcendence may help those who are struggling with difficult times find a sense of life meaning amidst terrible losses. This sense of meaning in a persons life may help reduce overall symptoms depression. It is also possible that self-transcendence may allow both patient and caretaker to view their situations differently and accept their current life status and stressors; helping them to move forward, connecting with religion, caring for others and increasing overall self-awareness may lead to a more meaningful life.4
There have been studies conducted to test if the four sub-concepts have any affect people who are at high risk for maintaining high levels of purpose in life. One study tested the following four hypotheses:
1) elders and caregivers spirituality will have significant positive relationship to their own purpose in life
2) caregivers purpose in life will be positively related to elders purpose in life
3) caregivers and elders purpose, I life will each have a direct and inverse relationship with elders depression
4) elders depression will be indirectly related to elders spirituality, caregivers spirituality, and caregivers purpose in life, via the pathway of elders purpose in life.5
It was found out to be that elders purpose in life was directly attributed to depression. Caregivers purpose in life was indirectly related to elders depression through elders purpose in life. Overall the data from this study shows that caregivers may help those suffering from stress may help reduce depressive symptoms by taking part in their life meaning. By following Reeds self-transcendence could help restore both caregiver and patients life purpose and cope more effectively and have decreased depression.5
Vulnerability is the second concept in Reeds Theory. Vulnerability is a contextual concept in the theory an refers to a persons increased awareness of their mortality. There is a list of different things that can increase ones awareness but mostly they are related to health events that are life changing or involving loss. There are a wide variety of a persons vulnerability such as: understanding risk for illness, worries about potential loss, and understanding living with a life-threatening illness.1 Vulnerability has been shown to be directly related to increased self-transcendence, meaning that increased consciousness of ones vulnerability can improve positive inner strength.1 Various life experiences such as: aging, illness, childbirth and many other life crises can invoke well-being and transition these major life changes into healing. It is been stated that it is likely that low levels of vulnerability do not affect self-transcendence compared to high levels of vulnerability such as prisoners of war that may lead to increased spiritual and other forms of self-transcendence. 7
Well-being is the third major concept in Reeds Theory of Self-Transcendence and is which is a persons personal sense of health or entirety. Well-being involves personal judgement by the person and is dictated by ones past, ethos, core values, relationships and genetic make-up. According to the literature there are many measures for the assessment of well-being and have been directly correlated to self-transcendence. Those with improved self-transcendence have overall improved satisfaction, happiness, life purpose, absence of depression, anxiety and overall improved well-being.1
There was a study performed to assess Reeds Theory on the homeless adult population. Sixty-one adults performed the Spiritual Perspective Scale, the Self-Transcendence Scale and the Index of Well-Being. These scales were to help measure overall fatigue and health status. The study showed an overall positive correlation among spiritual viewpoint, self-transcendence, physical status and overall well-being. There was also an inverse relationship among fatigue and physical status and well-being. There was a proven relationship that self-transcendence and physical status improved the overall persons well-being which supports Reeds Theory. This study along with many others support with evidence that a vulnerable population have spiritual, physical, emotional capacities that can be used by healthcare professionals to foster well-being.7
Reeds Self-Transcendence Theory has been studied, tested and proven that those undergoing challenging life situations will thrive in the presence of positive interactions with nurses to help facilitate patients self-transcendence and overall health and well-being.8 All healthcare professionals should assess the needs of the patient and ensure all their physical and emotional needs are met. By treating the patient in a holistic manner will help those suffering transcend transpersonally, intrapersonally, interpersonally or temporally and decrease overall stress and improve wellbeing.