A Complex Self

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi three decades of work on psychological concept of Flow establishes a link between happiness, creativity and making. Idea of an optimal learning environment is one where the activity engaged in is perceived as meaningful, one’s abilities are in balance with the challenge at hand, and one has the tools to express the emerging knowledge. While making people experience the state of flow in which they are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; 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. The experience itself is so gratifying that they will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

Making leads to higher form or complexity of human consciousness and to the growth of self. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: Differentiation and Integration.

A complex self is the one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies. Flow helps to integrate the self because in a state of deep concentration consciousness is unusually well ordered. Thoughts, intentions, feelings, and all the senses are focused on the same goal. Experience is in harmony. Once experience is over; one feels more together, less predictable, possessed of rarer skills and unique than before, not only internally but also with respect to other people and to the world in general.

Differentiation implies a movement towards uniqueness, towards separating oneself from others.

Integration implies a union with other people, with ideas and entities beyond the self.


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