Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience

Best moments usually occurs when a person’s body or mind is stretch to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
Best moments aren’t necessarily the passive, receptive, relaxing times.

Flow: state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else matters

Enjoying life and being happy usually occurs when one is immersed in an activity that they thoroughly enjoy.

Learning about life and happiness we have to understand our mind and consciousness.

Optimal state of inner experience in which there is order in consciousness.. This happens when psychic energy or attention is invested in realistic goals and when skills match the opportunity for action.

Trying to achieve goals bring order into awareness b/c one must concentrate on one thing and forget the rest.

Frustration is deeply woven into the fabric of life

People seek religion, philosophy or something (money, power, sex) to shield them from chronic dissatisfaction.

The ability to derive moment by moment enjoyment from everything we do, can overcome the obstacles to fulfillment

The universe is not hostile, nor yet is it friendly, it is simply indifferent-
J.H Holmes

No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought-
J.S. Mill

The book is saying that there are alot of external forces that are outside of our control; viruses, food, war. To be happy we should not focus on trying to control these ‘external’ events because controlling them doesn’t add any happiness to our lives.
We should master the external environment b/c our survival depends on it, BUT it isn’t going make us happy.
So I interpret this as socially we should try master it and be in an advantageous situation, but even then you aren’t going to be happy.

Another variable that affects our happiness is our rising expectations. Once we fulfill a goal, another one pops up.

Goes down the list of all the progress we’ve made yet crimes, diseases, and discontent increases. Also how we spent 16 times more on surveillance, and weapons than on education
Theorize that it is because we have no improve our experiences.

Adult irrationality is often the result of childhood frustration

To overcome depression and anxiety one has to become independent of social environment for reward and punishment
-must be able to reward yourself and find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances

Civilization is built on the repression of individual desires, we are meant to respond to rewards and punishment

Seeking pleasure is a reflex response built into our genes for the preservation of the species, not for the purpose of our own personal advantage
–This instinct that we have is good, but if we strictly follow instinct then we relinquish any control of consciousness that we have.
Our instincts are there, but we if always act on our instinct then we are vulnerable to genetic programming and we are not acting towards our personal goals. Instead we are reacting to instinct.

Then society uses our instincts to sell us stuff, or to use us for their own purposes.

Most important step in freeing oneself from social control is the ability to find rewards in the event of each moment. We are not free to determine the content of experience, but we free to alter how we think of it.

Freud’s psychoanalysis:

ID: Servant of the gene
Superego: Lackey of society
Ego: stood for the genuine of the self, connected to its concrete environment

Let reflection rather than instinct dictate action

Temperament: combo of mental, physical and emotional traits of a person
Constitution: the way in which a thing is composed of made up
Ordain: predestine
Buffet (verb): to strike against or push repeatedly
Exhilaration: condition or feeling of being filled with life/ energy
Anomie: A state of condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norm and values.
Phenomena: plural of phenomenon
Effervesce: to show enthusiasm, excitement, liveliness
Humdrum lacking variety; dull
Idyllic: charmingly simple
Picturesque: visually charming or quaint
Quaint: having an old fashioned attractiveness or charm
Virulent: Actively poisonous; intensely noxious
Noxious: harmful or injurious to health or physical well being
Nuisance: obnoxious or annoying
Irreconcilable: incapable of being brought into harmony or adjustment
Prudent: wise or judicious in practical affairs
Insurmountable: incapable of being surmounted (to get over, to overcome)
Vigorous: strong, healthy, full of life.
Precarious: dependent on circumstances beyond one’s control; uncertain
Dispensation: something that is distributed or given out. Distribution
Juncture: A point of time, esp one made critical or important
Immutable: not liable or subject to change or alteration
Hubris: excessive pride or self confidence
Overweening: overconfident or proud
Presume: to assume as true
Morass: any confusing or troublesome situation: esp one from which it is difficult to free oneself
Apathy: absence or suppression of passion, emotion or excitement
Pervasive: Spread throughout
Listless (adjective): having or showing little or no interest in anything
Malaise: 1) condition of general bodily weakness or discomfort. 2) a vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort
Oppression: the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner
Specter: Some object or source of terror or dread
Unprecedented: never happened before
intimation: act of making known indirectly; hint or suggestion
Benign (adjective): favorable
Iota: a very small quantity
Daunt: to overcome with fear
Creed: any system, doctrine, or formula or religious belief
Definitive: most reliable or complete
Consolation: Act if consoling; comfort
Tacit: understood w/o being openly expressed
Refute: to prove to be false or erroneous
Splendor: Brilliant or gorgeous in appearance
Hypocrisy: a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles.
Ostrich:a person who attempts to ignore unpleasant facts or situations
Venereal: arising from, corrected with or transmitted through sexual intercourse
Recourse: access or resort to a person or thing for help or protection
Androgen: any substance that promotes male characteristic
Cajole: to persuade by flattery or promise
Dissipate: to scatter in various directions
Dissolute: indifferent to moral restraints
Tantalizing: having or exhibiting something that provokes or arouses expectation, interest or desire, esp that which remains unobtainable or beyond one’s reach
Antiquity: the quality of being ancient
Blandishments: Something, as an action or speech that tends to flatter, coax, entice, etc.
Lackey: a servile follower
Servile: slavishly submissive
Coerce: to compel by force, intimidation or authority

Ch 2.
Humans must process 40 buts of info each second to understand what another person is saying.

“The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness
is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions,
to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer.”

This person has so much control of her attention processes that she can disconnect her consciousness at will and fall asleep for a refreshing nap.

Attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.
Attention shapes the self, and the self shapes the attention.

Optimal experience: when a person’s attention can be freely invested to achieve a person’s goal.

Control your consciousness, control your attention (self discipline) and you will experience flow
Flow is the feeling of focusing your attention to achieve one goal
Following flow the individual becomes more complex or the individual has grown
Growing comes from differentiating oneself and integrating oneself
You become different from achieving goals b/c you become more capable, rarer, less predictable.
Integrated b/c in a state of deep concentration the consciousness is usually well ordered. Also need to feel integrated w/ other people.
Avoid both selfishness and confirmity but strive to be both different and integrated.

Pleasure like sleep, food, and sex returns consciousness to order but doesn’t produce growth

Concurrently: occurring or existing simultaneously
Omnipotent: having unlimited power/ able to do anything
Volition: a choice or decision made by the will
Arcane: known or understood by very few
Desultory: lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order
innocuous: not harmful or injurious
Transient: not lasting or permanent
Entrall: to captivate or charm
Entropy: things are going out of order
Negentrophy: things are becoming more in order
evanescent: vanishing; fading away
Precarious: dependent on ones circumstances beyond one’s control; uncertain
dubious: doubtful

Ch3: Enjoyment and the quality of life
She didn’t pay me the respect of assuming that I was going to try to take advantage of her

To get enjoyment, we must have 8 different components
1) confront w. task we have a chance of completing
2) concentrate on what we’re doing
3&4) concentration is possible b.c. clear goals and provides immediate feedback
5) one acts w. a deeep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life
6) enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their action
7) concerns about the self disappears but the self emerges stronger after the flow experience
8) time is altered, minutes can feel like hours and hours can feel like minutes

Competition is a quick way to develop complexity, but when the mind is focused on winning then it isn’t enjoyable. Competition should be used to perfect one’s skill/ performing as well as possible

Enjoyment appears when task are neither too challenging or easy

You don’t conquer anything except things in yourself

Clear goals and feedback are vital but sometimes its not possible. In these instances you must develop a strong personal sense of what you intend to do.

Almost any kind of feedback can be enjoyable given that it is related to a goal in which one invest psychic energy but we are all incline to a specific set of feedback which is more relevant than others.
ie. some are sensitive to sound, others are genetically sensitive to people
—–I’m not sure what I am extremely sensitive to.. what kind of feedback? I might be sensitive to how I influence others..

Concentration: when in flow, you forget about all the little problems in your life, and only focus on your flow activity

Control: in the flow experience, we aren’t worried about losing control, as we are in real life, where if we lose control, we will experience severe consequences
We don’t enjoy being in control, we enjoy exercising control in difficult situations — like climbing to the top of Mount Everest– In order to do that we must not be in control

Enjoyable activities have a negative effect, if one is so focused on the ability to control an enjoyable activity that he can’t pay attention to anything else, then he loses the ultimate control: the freedom to determine the content of consciousness. Also unwilling to cope w. the ambiguity of life.

When we are immersed in flow, we are so deeply focused we lose our self consciousness and because we aren’t focused on our self we are able to transcend to a more complex being.

This flow experience doesn’t have to bring about positive or good consequences.

People have found ways to transform pain into pleasure.

Antagonist: a person who is opposed to, struggle with or competes with another
Doldrums: the state of inactivity or stagnation
Ephemeral: lasting a very short time; short lived
Discern: to distinguish mentally
Ostensible: outward appearing as such; pretend
Respite: a delay for a time
Vigilant: keenly watchful, to detect danger

Ch 4: the condition of flow
Root of the word compete comes from the Latin con petire which means to seek together

What each person seeks is to actualize his potential, this task is made easier when others force us to do our best.
Competition improves experience only as long as experience is focus primarily on the activity itself

It is difficult to ignore challenges, once one notice it exist.
Flow leads to growth b.c. one can’t enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long.

IF slaves didn’t revolt its b.c. they believe being a slave is easier than revolting

Fit between psychological needs and option available for their lives.
Dont make survival too strenuous but don’t close yourself off into a rigid pattern that stifles the opportunities for action

Culture succeeds in evolving a set of goals and rules so compelling and so well matched to the skills of the population

If you are too self conscious, where you always worrying about what others think then you can’t experience flow

If you are too self centered, you cant enjoy things for what they are.
Both don’t have enough control over psych energy.
They also don’t care enough about intrinsic goals, to lose oneself in an activity, that offers no reward outside the interaction itself.

Environment can also stop enjoyment, previously people cease o exist b/c they no longer experience enjoyment.

Basically went thru flow, what disrupts flow, how being able to concentrate and flow are linked. People who can concentrate uses less brain power b/c they shut everything off.

Family effects on flow-Teenagers are happier
-when they know what parents want from them
-when They know parents are interested in them and what they are doing
-Choices ability to choose.
– trust which allow them to set aside their defenses
-also having challenges that they can go thru

This can help the child focus on what they are interested in, instead of constantly worrying about other peoples’ goals
Children who grow up without these 5 things will grow into someone who seeks pleasure instead of enjoyment.

People in harrowing environments were able to survive by following the procedure to obtain flow
-pay close attention to the details of their environment-discover hidden opportunities for action
-set goals that are appropriate to their situation
-once met, increase goals

Adversity will paralyze everyone———you must seek a meaningful goal around which to organize the self and redirect your psychic energy.

The survivor who survived under the harshest conditions needed a sense of non self- conscious individualism or a strongly directed purpose that isn’t self seeking.

Narcissistic individuals who are mainly concerned with protecting their self fall apart when external conditions turn threatening.

Rudiment: mere beginning, first slight appearance or undeveloped or imperfect form of something
Raison detre: the most important reason/ purpose for someone/something existences
harrowing: extremely disturbing or distressing

Ch 5: the body in flow
Steps to find flow
1. Set goals, as many subgoals as realistically possible.
2. Find ways to measure progress
3. keep concentration on what one is doing and make finer and finer distinctions in the challenge involved in the activity
4. keep raising stakes if activity becomes boring

Concrete actions and events are not the only thing that determines what you experience, a high investment of psychic energy is the thing that creates enjoyment.

Relationship- to keep it from going stale you need
physical challenge
romance and genuine care.

Says that the approach of meditation/ self control by itself is not the path to happiness.
Eastern approach – meditation
Western approach – material consumption

Perfect world is to strike a balance between the two

Yoga. 8 stages
1. and 2. first two stages intends to change a person’s attitude; restraint from thinking n acting in a way that can harm others/ following ordered routine
2. and 3. involve overcoming of the senses making it possible to concentrate w.o. growing tired or distracted; holding posture for a long time, and breath control
5. Learning to withdraw attention from outward objects, becoming able to see, hear, feel only what one wants to admit into awareness
6. Being able to focus on one stimulus for a long period of time
7. intense meditation- learning to forget the self in uninterrupted meditation
8. meditator and object of meditation becomes one.\

Flow fortify while Yoga attempts to abolish the self.

pg 105.


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