How “Normal” Are Your Ups & Downs?

Dr. William K. Larkin

Pain GainSince we were children, we have been taught not to live in flow.

We have been taught the philosophy of “no pain, no gain, the harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed.”

We have been taught that struggle is necessary, that it is a requirement to succeed at anything. It is a necessity in justifying your success.

We have not been taught that “flow” is the way to success.

Esther Hicks used the wonderful metaphor of being taught all of your life to swim upstream against the current.

Believing that where it’s at is struggle, where it’s at is overcoming difficulties, it’s getting strong by overcoming hardships, and the more you swim upstream and the harder you swim upstream and the longer Struggle Handyou swim upstream, the stronger you become, and the more you struggle, the better the person you will be.

We have sanctified suffering partly because, if we did not, we would look foolish having done so much of it for so little.

If the world has not learned everything it has to learn from suffering by now, it will not learn more from creating, living, or researching any more than we have already exhausted it.

Suffering is not a requirement for a life of flow, success, happiness, or joy.

Had we been taught differently, by people who believed differently, we would have chosen far less suffering in our lives as the way we would learn many of our lessons.

Brain FLowDr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the great researcher on flow, says that the experience of flow produces something that he believes is “psychological capital.”

Psychological capital means that your neurons are beginning to communicate and network more efficiently with each other. There begins to be more inter-neuronal association in the brain. That simply means that various parts of the brain begin to talk to each other and began to cooperate in creating and unleashing the real untapped potential of the brain.

The more you are building these associations in the brain, the less prone to dementia and Alzheimer’s you will be. We already know from the research of Barbara Fredrickson and positive affect that one of the outcomes of psychological capital is this buffer zone that we build against the negative.

This “buffer zone” has great significance. It engages when you experience threat and negativity; these mind states simply don’t impact you so quickly and for so long. It’s a buffer zone between Immunitynot only you and negativity, but also a buffer for the immune system as well.

That buffer system is a kind of immunology that is protecting you against disease.

This buffer of psychological capital is being built up because you’re “drumming” the positive and staying in an UpSpiral.

You’ve built a buffer that makes you much more resistant to disease and much more resistant to the things that make you sick.

I can remember years and years ago, when I would get in a negative state, when things would start to bother me, and I would start to be afraid, and I would start to worry and be anxious – usually about things in the future that might happen, that rarely, if ever, did happen.

It was nothing to have a negative mood last for perhaps five or six days, to be in a negative state, and then maybe for it to start breaking. It really was something of a learned cycle.

Ole MeThere was little or no psychological capital built up in me to deal with worry and stress.

There was certainly no intention to be and remain in a positive state as a normal, everyday way to live my life.

I never go there anymore, and if I do go there in some rare circumstance, it is very short-lived.

 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • joseph967

    I’m grateful for this educational post,I started to beat my self up on how I could really improve my insight on the blogs . This Joe needs to get back into the flow. Thanks much appreciated .

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I wasn’t taught to struggle. I just seemed to observe that some things were harder. Wonder if this might have been different if I had known my strengths.

    My mom was a good old-fashioned worry wart. And that I did learn. Even as a child, I worried and experienced fear.

    As a mature adult, I’m in the process of changing life-long habits. At times this transition can even feel like a struggle. But I notice it’s not unlike returning to the gym after an absence. At first there seems to be resistance. After a while, the exercise gets “easier.” After a while, getting in the Flow happens without so much resistance.

    The same is true with training my mind and emotions. My progress became apparent recently when I underwent emergency surgery. I noticed that my first thoughts had a positive slant. That was different. Rather than fall into worry, I actually thought that removing the non-malignant mass probably saved my life. I didn’t have to remind myself to be optimistic. It was a spontaneous positive reaction. Hallelujah! The “ole” brain had learned some new tricks. Now to continue to practice having positive thoughts and emotions until they become my MO.

    My aim is to continue to build psychological capital.

  • Joe_Mojo

    I really like, and can visualize, the ‘Buffer of Positivity’ that Dr Larkin describes here. This is a process of learning, of literally changing how our minds process information, and of truly understanding what makes us tick and feeling correct and empowered to grow our strengths and reject the negative whether we are ‘actually’ targets of that negativity or not. This takes time, it takes practice. Early on that buffer isn’t fully engaged and the act of learning itself and feeling the changes can cause our UpSpiral to slip. Everything is different and sometimes different is scary. Along with building the buffer we must also learn to trust ourselves and our commitment to rejecting helplessness. Then, in the event we do slip into a DownSpiral or negative flow we can make it very short, and use it not as a way to continue to enable helplessness, but to build certitude that we possess everything we need to drum up our own positive support and return to an UpSpiral.

  • Yogess1111

    As I child I learned very clearly that you need to work hard and that anything worth having required a lot of hard work. I learned to swim up stream and somewhere I got the message that nothing is good enough and you should keep pushing yourself. When I hit a tough time recently, I continued to push and torment myself for not doing it right or enough or hard enough. I berated myself for falling out of the flow and for not being able to utilize all my tools to snap out of it. I had a friend tell me “Quit being a Salmon” and for some reason that resonated with me. It was only when I let go and allowed myself to quit fighting and let the river carry me that I was able to again align with my strengths and feel the flow. Tools are wonderful and I am so grateful for them, but remembering to be kind, patient and loving to ourselves is crucial as well!

  • Swanstar98

    For some reason the popularity of things like the Tough Mudder competitions come to mind for me with this post. I think a huge part of the success of these events is the novelty and another part is the challenge. People pay good money to sweat, push themselves beyond what they’ve done before, to do things not everyone else has done, and to get covered in mud in the process. I’ve only done the short version of this kind of competition, and I loved it, particularly once I was done – feeling accomplished!

    When we engage with challenges in the flow and engaging our strengths, it’s a blast! That’s living life and enjoying it. When we engage with challenges from the downspiral of negativity, that’s suffering. Either way we feel more alive, alive with joy or alive with pain and suffering.

    I am someone who through much of my life bought into the struggle. I have related to the chick who has to break itself out of the egg on its own or it isn’t equipped to live. But it’s my projection that names that as a struggle for the chick. Does the acorn “struggle” the day that it cracks open and begins to grow? Are those struggle experiences or flow experiences as experienced by the developing chicken and oak tree?

    This topic invites me into deeper contemplation of what struggle (and my attachment to it) means in my own life and more importantly what flow would like in the same circumstances.

  • Joanne E Harrington

    I didn’t at first relate to the notion of suffering as the prerequisite to success and even happiness. Over time though I have come to accept that I did suffer – it was my doing though because of my style of reciprocity. I didn’t like to decline requests to help out at work. I was devoted to helping Canadian war Veterans and their families. The long hours I worked did get noticed and I did advance my career. But …. I began to resent being the only one asked to take on extra work or be away from my family doing projects. The oppression I started to feel affected my mood and relationships at home and work. I didn’t know how to access what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson in her book Positivity calls the “active ingredient” i.e. positivity. I didn’t know how to re-set my mood once I got into the spiral down into negativity. I didn’t know how to use my Strengths to find a solution to my out of kilter work and home life balance. Even as a semi-retired person, I am still inclined to over-extend myself in a diverse number of interests – volunteer, learning and coach related. The lasting legacy of the ANI NeuroPositive method though is that I now have an my early warning system to alert me when I am no longer in Flow – when I am beginning to feel overwhelmed and a bit fretful. I have built deeper positive neuropathways that connect me to a cache of psychological capital that continue to cushion me against the occasional slips into over-giving of my time. Moodiness? No way. Resiience? Oh yes.

  • I certainly WAS taught that struggle is a necessary requirement to succeed at anything. In contrast, I certainly WAS NOT taught that FLOW is the way to success. It was a welcomed surprise to learn about Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of FLOW during my ANI training. Yet, it deeply made sense to me and I quickly began to integrate what I was learning into my own life, particularly related to my role as a parent. I think appreciatively about my three adult children who experienced the benefit of this shift (as teens & young adults) due to my ANI exposure to the works of Drs. Csikszentmihalyi & Fredrickson, as well as other neuroscientists working in the field of neuroplasticity. I so resonate with the statement: “Had we been taught differently, by people who believed differently, we would have chosen far less suffering in our lives as the way we would learn many of our lessons.” I am grateful for the changes that have occurred within my family in one short generation.

  • kkhm

    “I can remember years and years ago, when I would get in a negative state, when things would start to bother me, and I would start to be afraid, and I would start to worry and be anxious – usually about things in the future that might happen, that rarely, if ever, did happen.

    It was nothing to have a negative mood last for perhaps five or six days, to be in a negative state, and then maybe for it to start breaking. It really was something of a learned cycle.”

    It’s refreshing and encouraging to know that even the pros once had similar struggles!

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