Your Brain On Flow & “Chaos”

Brain Chaos

It is the brain state of “flow” that we get into that is like being “one with the music.”

It points us in our emotions and thoughts more toward the experience of inner connectedness, making our lives much more an experience of “oneness.”

“Flow” is interestingly enough really about chaos and differentiation.

We define “chaos” as novelty.

It is about novelty and how much novelty we are able to allow into our lives. The opposite would be how much we choke off life and demand satisfaction from the world around us in ways that become narrower and narrower.

The opposite of chaos might be addiction or any other form of extreme narrowing.

Differentiation means the ability to allow things to be diverse and different –to be “other” than us without fear or intimidation of their “otherness” or “differentness.”

Life is about as interesting as the amount of chaos and differentiation we allow into our world.

Remember, chaos here doesn’t necessarily mean chaotic in the sense of everything out of order and gone awry, but chaos in terms of the ability to allow and tolerate wider and wider, larger and larger spaces of things that are different and don’t seem to make sense, but actually do.

Chaos “theory” refers to how random a system can be and how full it can be of different ideas, notions, facets, and particularly, of novelty.

Chaos here is the potential to allow novelty, newness or differentness. It is the capacity to tolerate and allow “otherness” and diversity in our lives.

Too little chaos or differentiation in a system means that things get boring, because the “same old, same old” keeps showing up.

Here’s the main theme: the greater the “flow,” the greater the novelty and differentiation.

Put differently, when you know what you want, believe you’re going to get it, and are open to all the ways it can happen, or at least on the way to this, you’re beginning to experience “flow” in life.

You begin to be cool or easy with a way of life that is one with the music –things seem to be more of a whole.

When that happens over time you are going to find that there is more chaos, in terms of novelty and diversity in your life. You will also experience or try to experience greater differentiation.

However, allowing chaos (novelty) and differentiation in your life is not always an easy thing. The better you are at getting into flow, the easier it will be.

The more used to a more frequent and consistent experience of flow you become, the more you will be capable of increasing novelty and differentiation.

The more difficult this is for you, the “tighter” and narrower you are.

The whole process of flow aims to open you up.

Where in your life are you most open to “chaos” and expanding differentiation?

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Alan Cohen

    As a person in long time recovery, I particularly resonated with the section of the blog that talks about the narrowing that occurs in addiction, that this would be the opposite of chaos. I know from my own experience, that when in addiction, there may have been an illusion of being open to novelty…when, in fact, my options were completely limited. I was not experiencing flow, more a numbing to the possibility of flow. An artificial sense of being one with the music. In addiciton, rather than an openness to the new and novel. there is a need to control all circumstances. Attachment to how things should be.

  • Kelsey Abbott

    I really like this: “the whole process of flow aims to open you up.” I would also say that the more open we are, the more likely we are to experience flow. It’s a circle of constant change, consistent evolution and once we recognize that every moment is a brand new moment, we see that every moment is an opportunity to chaos and for flow. That takes a lot of weight off our shoulders!

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I don’t remember considering the aspects of novelty, differentiation and chaos when I’m in “Flow.” I am typically in flow when I’m writing a newsletter. Writing the newsletter is familiar in that I’ve written many. But each one is an original slant on a topic. And there is novelty in that I’ve never written this article. And there is chaos in the blank page – how do I write this so that it makes sense?

    And my insecurities may fuel the chaos in my uncertainty that I can complete the task. There is a bit of angst in the unknown, and that may be the chaos. It is always a stretch outside my comfort zone to write almost anything. But the challenge is part of what gets me into the zone of uncertainty and do it anyway.

    I’ve always loved novelty and not overly fond of same ole, same ole. I love talking to someone I know and getting into meaningful conversations that reveal parts of ourselves that we have not yet shared. When I’m fully engaged in conversation, it’s like everything else fades away. This is confirmed by people’s comments: “What’s so interesting that you two have been talking about for so long?” I didn’t realize that it had been so long….

    And in most task that truly capture or attention as an element of differentiation. When gardening, deciding how to prune or where to plant takes some thought and deciding. How much to reveal of ourselves in conversation exercises some differentiation. The content and length of a newsletter includes the tasks of how to say things and how much to say.

    I often say that discernment can replace judgement. Saying that a restaurant is good or bad is stating an opinion as fact. Sharing that your restaurant experience was good or bad is sharing an opinion as an opinion. This may sound simple, but I believe these factors enter into how much diversity we allow into our lives. Will Rogers said something like: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” That includes both novelty and differentiation….

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