Posts Tagged ‘Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’

the evolving self

December 11, 2019

the evolving self is a new book by mihaly csikszentmihalyi. He’ll be referred to in this post as mc. The subtitle is “a psychology for the new millennium.” mc sets a high goal for himself. He sees it critical for the evolving self to evolve to overcome the forces of entropy. Indeed this is an extraordinary objective to achieve.

As a scholarly work, the evolving self is impressive. He reviews the worlds of genes, culture, and the self. He discusses predators and parasites, and the competition between memes and genes. HM learned much in reading this book. While reading he was thinking that an enormous number of posts would be required to capture the meaning of this book. But he came to the conclusion that this work is seriously flawed, and that it would be a mistake to have readers reading these posts. Still, if you find this topic interesting, read the book.

Key to everything mc writes is the concept of flow. Flow is what one experiences when a skill or train of thought is proceeding well. Indeed, flow is a most enjoyable experience. The problem is that mc seems to regard flow as an end in itself. To the best of HM’s experience, mc never discusses what happens when flow ceases or is disrupted. Presumably this is something that most of us have experienced. And it is an experience that can readily be viewed on television. Watch the performance of a figure skater who is obviously experiencing flow in a beautiful, flawless experience. Then she suddenly falls splat onto the ice. Or the professional golfer who is hitting birdies and eagles on consecutive holes. Then suddenly, his game deteriorates. Double bogies and sand traps become the rule. These sudden cessations in flow are most unpleasant.

mc sets the seeking of flow as goal in itself. But this could be quite harmful. The easier the task, the easier it is to achieve flow. Seeking flow itself could lead one to become addicted to such tasks, in effect becoming addicted to flow.

More difficult tasks and bodies of knowledge require extensive periods of learning which can be quite frustrating. Using the lingo of this blog, flow is a System 1 process. System 2 processing, more commonly known as thinking, requires the expenditure of mental effort.

Our personal development requires extensive System 2 processing. There are times when this becomes easy and flow is achieved. But this is not the end in itself. Indeed, it signals that the time has come to advance and to take on more difficulty.

This is what is advocated by this blog. Growth mindsets and continuous growth of these mindsets throughout one’s life. This results in a more fulfilling life and in the decrease in the likelihood of falling prey to Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Growth mindsets benefit not only the individual, but society as a whole. The advancements of science and technology require growth mindsets.

Moreover, one’s goals should not be on the acquisition of wealth and possessions. We must all feel responsible for all our fellow humans and for the development and advancement of society as a whole.

It is astonishing that despite all mc’s knowledge, there remains an enormous lacuna This gap is meditation. There have been many posts about meditation in the HM blog. There are more than 100 posts on this topic (search for meditation in the blog’s search box which is found at https://healthymemory.wordpress.com/?s=meditation.

Meditation is central because it helps us develop our powers of attention, which are central to cognitive achievement. Meditation can also lead to appreciation for and love of our fellow humans.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creative Time

December 27, 2014

Creative Time is another section in the chapter Organizing Our Time in Daniel J. Levitin’s book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. The section begins with a discussion of creativity and insight. We’ll skip this as many posts were written about insight fairly recently. Then he moves on to the topic of flow. Although flow has been discussed previously in this blog, it is an important enough topic and Levitin does provide some new information. Flow refers to the experience of getting wonderfully, blissfully lost in an activity losing all track of time, of ourselves, our problems. Flow is the sixth principle of contemplative computing as formulated by Dr.Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in his book The Distraction Addiction (you can use the search box to find these posts). The phenomena of flow were identified and discussed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced MEE-high, CHEECH-sent-mee-high). It feels like a completely different state of being, a state of heightened awareness coupled with feelings of well-being and contentment. Flow states appear to activate the same regions of the brain, including the left prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. Two key regions deactivate during flow: the portion of the prefrontal cortex responsible for self-criticism, and the brain’s fear center, the amygdala.

Flow can occur during either the planning or he execution phase of an activity, but it is most often associated with the execution of a complex task, such as playing a solo on a musical instrument, writing an essay or shooting baskets. A lack of distractability characterizes flow. A second characteristic of flow is that we monitor our performance without the kinds of self-defeating negative judgments that often accompany creative work. When we’re not in flow, a nagging voice inside our head often says, “It’s not good enough.” In flow, a reassuring voice says, “we can fix that.”

Flow is a Goldilocks experience. The task cannot be too easy or too difficult, it has to be at just the right level. It takes less energy to be in flow than to be distracted. This is why flow states are characterized by great productivity and efficiency.

As mentioned earlier, flow is also in a chemically different state, although the particular neurochemical soup has yet to be identified. There needs to be a balance of dopamine and noradrenaline, particularly as they are modulated in a brain region known as the striatum, the locus of the attentional switch, serotonin, for freedom to access stream-of-consciousness associations, and adrenaline, to stay focused and energized. GABA neurons that normally function to inhibit actions and help us exercise self-control need to reduce their activity so that we are not overly critical of ourselves, and so that we can be less inhibited in the generation of ideas.

Flow is not always good. If it becomes an addiction, it can be disruptive. And it can be socially disruptive if flow-ers withdraw from others.

Levitin goes on to describe how creative individuals and groups structure their environments and lives to enhance flow.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Seek Flow

October 13, 2013

Seeking flow is the sixth principle of contemplative computing.1 Flow is a state identified by Mikhaly Csikszentmihalyi (Chick-sent-me-high’-ee).2 It has the following components. “Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult or dangerous.”3 He says that you can reach flow doing almost anything. He gives an example of how lox cutters achieve flow.

Situations in which there are challenges, clear rules, and immediate feedback are likely to achieve flow. Usually video games are good for achieving flow, and they have been found beneficial in helping older people keep mentally sharp. Unfortunately, once you become especially good at something it can become boring. That is why many games have different difficulty levels. Once you have become bored with one level and are no longer achieving, you can advance to the next level and improve to the point where you again achieve flow.

Flow can be experienced in many activities, and some require considerable time before you start to achieve flow. I remember studying German in college. The first course was slow going. In fact, I received my first and only “D” in introductory German . I then learned that I needed to spend time drilling in the language laboratory until things started flowing. As I studied further, I could read German without consulting the dictionary so frequently. And got to the point where I could understand lectures when they were given in German.

Seeking flow can be regarded as an extension of the preceding principle, extend your abilities. Play video games and achieve flow. But don’t stop there. Consider athletic, and especially mental, activities were flow can be achieved. Mnemonic techniques can be developed to the point where flow is achieved in memorization.

The first five principles of contemplative computing have been discussed in the immediately preceding posts. The final two principles will be discussed in the subsequent posts.

1(2013) Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction

2 (2008) Csikszentmihalyi, E. The Psychology of Optimal Experience

3 (2013) Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.