Flow Goes Mainstream

Volume 3, Issue 6

March 18-20, 2013 — the Advertising Research Foundation Re:THINK 2013 program sports a lunchtime speaker, Steven Kotler, two days in a row on the subject of Flow state (the Zone) and how to instill it in business. Bravo! (See Review next issue.)

I’d like to think that my blogs on Flow, and the (somewhat) Flow-inducing ARF University Masters Level Playshop with Richard Zackon, helped create a conducive atmosphere for ARF to put Flow state high on their new program. Hopefully it will stay there over time as Flow state means better decisions, more creativity, more effectiveness, and significantly, it means authenticity, not the Mask of the Advertiser, as Nick Pisacane calls it. Advertising itself as well as its research will benefit more from Flow state than by any technology.

Authenticity is the key attribute most necessary in the new social era of media advertising and persuasive communications. In Flow state, one has no egoistic tugs on the essence of the idea emanating. One is not self-protective (except in martial arts settings). Authentic feelings are expressed and this is what the public thirsts for — both to receive authentic messaging and to evoke it from inside by immersion in a world of role models acting genuinely. This is the promise of the future society powered by Flow state.

President Obama is initiating a federal research program into the brain and consciousness. Flow state for the military and government is one motivating driver. I began to pepper US presidents with this idea 40 years ago and have run workshops for top US military officers to teach the inner “tricks” of Flow.

Our work at the Human Effectiveness Institute is focused on the experiential handles. What goes on within the subjective frame that can be guided? Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman, my old friends and partners, lead the world in both understanding the psychology of consciousness at the brain level, and in disseminating the information so that everyone can benefit. I see our workstreams as complementary. Theirs is objective and mine subjective, the way consciousness is experienced from the inside and what controls we have over it, which are largely subtle.

Dan in his great book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights (reviewed here recently) uses the term “Self-Management” to describe one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence, a quotient conducive to Flow. We would probably use the word “guidance” in place of “management” in that managing is not as encompassing as guiding. Freud in Civilization and its Discontents calls the ego or secondary principle the “manager”, arising from the id or primary principle, which is who we are at first. In Freud’s view both the id and ego persist together as aspects of the self, joined by the impounded incoming other-directedness of the superego or conscience.

Zen is the art and science of making the ego and superego transparent (though still present) so the self is expressing the id in a way that is in Flow with the Tao or universal consciousness. Zen’s contempt for words and concepts neuter the ego, which depends on the intellect, concepts and words for its management style. In Mind Magic, the section on Mindquiet provides a simplified step-by-step approach to removing the over-emphasis on words.

In his Maximize your “Aha!” Moment blog post recently (see also my post Set Yourself up to Cultivate “Aha!” Moments from Sept 27, 2012) Dan points out that there is a burst of gamma activity (signaling “far-flung brain cells connecting in a new neural network”) in the neocortical right temporal lobe 300 milliseconds before an “Aha!” moment. He also describes that part of the brain as being the part that gets jokes: “It understands the language of the unconscious… the language of poems, of art, of myth. It’s the logic of dreams where anything goes and the impossible is possible.”

That’s a good description of the inner-mind language used throughout Mind Magic, which is designed to be a stimulus to bring the reader into the Observer state as an ideal Launchpad for Flow. We hypothesize that the subjective self is more centered in the right temporal lobe than the left during Observer state, as sensed by the natural ease with which one thinks wordlessly — whereas the left temporal is the “Worder” as I call it. Both right and left temporal areas have active insight collection capabilities, the left seeing differences analytically through abstraction and symbols (e.g. words), and the right seeing connections holistically in feeling/images.

Main takeaway: we need tools we can use to get into Flow and these must speak in layperson terms. Dissecting the physical brain processes underlying Flow is needed too, but in itself does not replace tools that the layperson can apply to get into Flow — which is the purpose of our work. More on Flow Goes Mainstream in the next post.

Best to all, 


3 thoughts on “Flow Goes Mainstream

  1. Pingback: Can Creativity Be Induced? | Bill Harvey Blog

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