The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium

by  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.

This is a sequel to Flow.
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P. 5 This, in brief, is the project of this book. It will first explore the forces from the past that have shaped us and made us the kind of organisms we are; it will describe ways of being that help us free ourselves of the dead hand of the past; it will propose approaches to life that improve its quality and lead to joyful involvement; and it will reflect on ways to integrate the growth and liberation of the self with that of society as a whole.

P. 11 The thesis of this book is that becoming an active, conscious part of the evolutionary process is the best way to give meaning to our lives at the present moment in time, and to enjoy each moment along the way.

P. 11 Individuals who develop to the fullest their uniqueness, yet at the same time identify with the larger forces at work in the cosmos, escape the loneliness of the individual destinies.

P. 15 The idea of free will is a self-fulfilling prophecy; those who abide by it are liberated from the absolute determinism of external forces. This belief, in itself, is a “cause.”

P. 15 …consciousness enables those who use it to disengage themselves occasionally from the pressure of relentless drives so as to make their own decisions.

P. 18 What people all over the world mean by good and bad: bad is entropy — disorder, confusion, waste of energy, the inability to do work and achieve goals; good is negentropy — harmony, predictability, purposeful activity that leads to satisfying one’s desires.

Note that entropy is an accurate description of the typical modern workplace.

P. 28 For our ancestors, understanding themselves better was a pleasant luxury. But nowadays learning to control the mind may have become a greater priority for survival than seeking any further advantages the hard sciences could bring.

P. 29 Our brain is a great computing machine but it also places some dangerous obstacles in the way of apprehending reality truthfully.

P. 31 Melvin Koner, neurologist, reviewing studies of the human brain: “the organism’s chronic internal state will be a vague mixture of anxiety and desire — best described perhaps by the phrase ‘I want,’ spoken with or without an object for the verb.”

P. 33 The mind needs ordered information to keep itself ordered. As long as it has clear goals and receives feedback, consciousness keeps humming along. … Paradoxically it is when we are ostensibly most free, when we can do anything we want, that we are least able to act.

P. 36 Depression, anger, fear, and jealousy are simply different manifestations of psychic entropy.

P. 51 …”human nature” is a result of accidental adaptations to environmental conditions long since gone.

P. 55 The brain is a wonderful mechanism … it forces us to strive after forever receding foals. To keep us from settling for daydreams, it begins to project unpleasant information on the screen of consciousness as soon as we stop doing something purposeful.

P. 61 Reality is created as one tries to apprehend it. … Ilya Prigogine, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, “Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate.” And the physicist John Wheeler said: “Beyond particles, beyond fields of force, beyond geometry, beyond space and time themselves, is the ultimate constituent [of all there is], the still more ethereal act of observer-participation.”

P. 65 Each creates the world he or she lives in by investing attention in certain things, and by doing so according to certain patterns.

P. 76 Instinctual desires and cultural values work their way into consciousness from the outside [of consciousness]. The third distortion of reality begins in the mind and works itself out: it is the side effect of consciousness –the illusion of selfhood.

P. 82 People who lead a satisfying life, … are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created. … They do what they do because they enjoy meeting the challenges of life, because they enjoy life itself.

P. 89 “Power” is the generic term to describe the ability of a person to have others expend their lives to satisfy his or her goals.

P. 105 the powerful lion turns out to be a living shelter for hundreds of different parasites … For every complex organism, survival is a constant battle against less complex life-forms that make a career of using its energy for their own ends.

At the psychological level, a parasite is someone who drains away another person’s psychic energy; not by direct control, but by exploiting a weakness or inattention.

P. 120 Dawkins “a meme is any permanent pattern of matter or information produced by an act of human intentionality”

P. 121 It is possible that one of the most dangerous illusions we must learn to see through is the belief that the thoughts we think of and the things we make are under our control, that we can manipulate then at will.

P. 135 Television is a dramatic example of a meme that invades the mind and reproduces there without concern for the well-being of its host.

P. 150 “organism” might be defined as any system of interrelated parts that needs inputs of energy to keep existing. … includes crystals and memes.

P. 151 (1) Every organism tends to keep its shape and to reproduce itself.

P. 151 (2) In order to survive and to reproduce, organisms require inputs of external energy.

P. 152 Entropy — or the dissolution of order into redundant randomness — is one of the most reliable features of the universe as we know it.

P. 152 (3) Each organism will try to take as much energy out of the environment as possible, limited only by threats to its own integrity.

P. 154 (4) Organisms that are successful in finding ways to extract more energy from the environment for their own use will tend to live longer and leave relatively more copies of themselves.

P. 154 (5) When organisms become too successful in extracting energy from their habitat, they may destroy it, and themselves in the process.

P. 155 (6) There are two opposite tendencies in evolution: changes that lead toward harmony and those that lead toward entropy.

P. 155 Harmony i.e., the ability to obtain energy through cooperation, and through the utilization of unused or wasted energy)

P. 155 Entropy i.e., ways of obtaining energy … causing conflict and disorder.

P. 156 (7) Harmony is usually achieved by evolutionary changes involving an increase in an organism’s complexity.

P. 156 Complexity, that is, an increase both in differentiation and integration.

P. 167 The world in which our children and their children will live is built, minute by minute, through the choices we endorse with our psychic energy.