Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "From Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Reading 2: Robert M. Sapolsky, "From Why Zebras don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping"
In the opening of the chapter, Csikszentmihalyi discusses the concept of life and living life without enjoyment. Unlike Sapolsky who goes into a much more clear and direct explanation of the topic at hand, Csikszentmihalyi kind of builds off tangents to get to his point. He explains building enjoyment every day and having an individual take personal responsibility in how that enjoyment comes about. The introduction for Sapolsky, much like Csikszentmihalyi has a little bit of a story, discussing people prone to pursuit of biology and then discussing the mechanisms behind stress. But unlike Csikszentmihalyi, his transitions seem more cohesive. The introduction for Csikszentmihalyi has an almost mystical quality to it although a bit jagged in its interpretation of enjoyment and flow of words, it does create an air of intrigue. One of the examples from the beginning of the reading that made most sense as applied to the initial theme of the chapter overall is the comparison of the long-distance swimmer and the chess player and the rats experiment with the England bombings. They both carried over nicely what both authors wanted to convey.
The long-distance swimmer and the chess player, although differ in relation to how they exert themselves, (a long-distance swimmer exerts him/herself physically whereas a chess player does so, mentally) they both reach a level of parallel feeling. When the author then added musicians and teenagers from a ghetto in some sort of championship basketball game it got a little odd again. This felt like it could have been expanded further, the shared feelings concept of the chess player and the long distance swimmer. For instance, that feeling of anticipation and utter exhaustion, that feeling of defeat looming closer. These are things that can exist universally within any given time.
To juxtapose that example with enjoyment, made it all the more confusing. It seems as though the individual pursues enjoyment through varied experiences, that was supposed to be the focus of the first few pages, but it got marred by the use of specific and odd stereotypes. For instance, stating Japanese teenagers like to be in motorcycle gangs. How is that enjoyable? How does that connect with the other examples? It's off-putting to say the least. But then the chapter goes into a much more logical introduction as they discuss the studies of the phenomenology of enjoyment and its eight main components.
These eight components are important to understand as they serve as the introduction for the chapter. Although the explanation of the eight components was brief, there can be some brief analysis derived from the explanation. First, the authors discuss experience and how it typically happens when people confront tasks that they know they will complete. It would have been helpful if they included an example. But from what I understood, something like brushing one's teeth may be a good example. People began brushing their teeth early on. This was something that became easy. It's a task that most people know they can complete.
The second is having the ability to concentrate on tasks. Often people cite procrastination to explain their lack of focus or desire to complete tasks. It would have made the statement easier to connect to if he would have further expounded on that. People sometimes lack focus because of several things, perhaps even to seek enjoyment.
The third and fourth aspect, lumped together, explain that individuals are able to concentrate because they have clear objectives and the tasks, once completed allow for immediate feedback. In a way this can be seen as when a personal trainer trains someone. The trainee is instructed in a clear and concise manner with added support. If he/she does something wrong, he/she can receive immediate feedback, making motivation to perform the exercises that much easier. Had the authors provided this kind of example when stating aspects three and four, it would have made this much easier to understand.
The fifth is acting with an effortless, but deep involvement...
This one is confusing to say the least. Is that like when a person is engrossed in writing a novel? They're so focused on everything, from the characters, the setting, and the story, that they feel like they need to only focus on that. Any negative feelings they may be feeling, especially worry, seem to fade away. Is that what they mean for the fifth aspect?
The sixth is all about enjoyable experiences and how they allow a person to exert a sense of control when it comes to their actions. This is something that I can understand well as the rich for instance, they're used to eating delicious and well prepared food. So when they eat, they tend to eat slowly (Some not all), not only because they have the luxury of free time to, but because they know they'll eat something just as enjoyable the next day, and the day after that. That in a way, helps them exercise restraint and control.
In the seventh, one loses concern for one's self. In doing so, the sense of self becomes stronger, generating a paradox. This only happens after the culmination of the flow experience. This is the most confusing part and it seems very disjointed and vague. If one loses one's self, how does that equate to a stronger self? Again an example would have been helpful in immediately understanding what the authors were trying to convey.
It end in this whole time space warp thing where people feel hours go by as minutes. This experience is what they define as deep enjoyment. They also state people go through great lengths, expends a large amount of energy to have that experience. I guess the closest thing I could think of when it comes to this would be a marathon runner. They literally expend a tremendous amount of energy and in doing so, those hours ran, felt like minutes, and when they're finished, they are overjoyed and proud of what they have accomplished.
For Sapolsky, his delivery is much more mechanical albeit easier to understand as in his readings he deals with what causes stress through the creation of instability surrounding the homeostasis of an individual. He also explains psychological stress is the birthplace of stress and why people form physical symptoms like ulcers and so forth. The next couple of pages for Csikszentmihalyi's reading, deal with extreme joy and the experiences that may trigger such feelings. Some of these expressed were, music, scenery, even a sense of well-being. Still, the authors state that most people feel this heightened state of joy from goal-directed regulation bound sequences of activities. A good example is sports and the quarterback making an amazing pass. There's a lot of work involved in playing American football. Athletes practice day in and day out just to be able to win a game, and win the championship. These activities, as the authors point out, require "psychic energy." "Psychic energy" requires appropriate skills. Universally speaking this is an experience many people feel. This reading may be in conjunction with Sapolsky, a way to combat stress because one seeks to understand it and the other seeks to reduce it by doing things that are enjoyable. They both seek to better understand how functions within the mind in terms of concentration and thinking work
I think when they then went on to clarify "activity" and "skill," as well as biological processes, some of that was unnecessary. It's easy to understand skills and activities don't have to be physical. I don't have to read about the rat experiments over and over again. The earlier example they used of a chess player, that's a mental activity, with little movement. They used however, the example of reading to clarify their earlier statement. Reading is then defined as an activity, because it needs the person performing the activity to concentrate and reading generates goals. In order to fulfill those goals, one has to stick to and adhere the rules of written language. Skills necessary to read, which can be applied to several areas, are image recognition, manipulation of symbolic information, and recognition of cultural and historical contexts. Continuing this example, although somewhat informative, is a little redundant in that the reader can already see and understand the point of the example from the first few lines. They continue by describing other universally enjoyable activities such as socializing.
Socializing is in a way, a very complex system of rules and actions. People discern what to do and how to act in order to get people to like them and to get people to help them or even follow them. These actions are then used in order to fulfill objectives which further helps support the authors' idea that rules…
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