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Increase Contentment–Shut out the ‘Self’

February 11, 2011 by  
Filed under blog

In the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihaly says the battle over self is the only battle that you must win for complete contentment, that all other battles will be relatively easy when battle over self is won.

It’s not an easy battle, I can tell you. But it helps if you understand what ‘self’ is and can recognize it.

Self is that part of you that is instinctual, the part that would prefer to rest, eat more, and spend more time in physical pleasures. This part of ourselves is rooted in our long ago past. Way back when every day was focused on just surviving, we had to rest whenever we could because every waking hour was spent hunting and gathering. It was also a time when food wasn’t always readily available so you would eat up when you could. And as lifespans were short, a strong sex drive was a matter of survival for our species. These desires for rest, food, and sex were a necessary part of our lives.

Our society and our way of life have evolved dramatically in a relatively short time but these impulses did not. We still battle the instinctual self every day, trying not to be distracted by it so we can accomplish the things we want and know we should be doing. When we are in ‘flow’, however, all of this inherent self falls away. Our world becomes the challenge we are engaged in and nothing more. We are no longer battling old instincts or even wrestling with modern pressures. There is no self to be concerned with, just the task at hand and that sense of contentment it brings.

It would be great if we instantly fall into this flow state whenever we needed it but it’s just not that easy to overcome the self. However, we can work towards it in many things we do, shutting out that voice that sidetracks us or complains about the work to be done. This is the old, unnecessary ‘self’ talking to you. Learn to recognize it for what it is and shut it out. We can’t do much about it being there, but we don’t have to listen to it either. That is another thing about modern man. We have a choice.

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