I am generally a happy person so, much of the contents of how to be happy rang true for me. What I found insightful tended to be about what unhappy people focus on. In chapter one, Happiness Revisited, I was struck by the authors claim that chaos is a major cause of unhappiness. I myself have always been comfortable with chaos and uncertainty. The fact that this was brought up several times as the central reason for unhappiness caused me to reflect on why it wasn't something that bothered me. I have come to several conclusions, each center on the fact that I have developed a stable center of self and an understanding that uncertainty is certain.
The Anatomy of Consciousness, chapter two, was of particular interest to me. The way that I come to understand concepts is by identifying core elements and finding relationships to and within my current understanding. Consciousness is something that seemed to big for definition, however Csikszentmihaly manages to do it concisely. Consciousness is all about processing and acting on information. Information seems to be central to everything. the human consciousness is essentially an information processors. Last semester we were assigned Seth Lloyds Programming the Universe here the author made the argument that a unified theory of physics could be grasped if the laws of thermodynamics were looked at in terms of information. The Anatomy of Consciousness chapter of Flow puts information at the center of consciousness.
In chapter three I continued to find parallels between Programing the Universe and Flow. The relationship between complexity and entropy was a central theme of Lloyd's book. To paraphrase, the result of expending energy is simultaneously complexity and entropy. Csikszentmihaly mentions something along the same lines however not in relation to the energy contained in elementary particles but rather the psychic energy of self. By Lloyd's definition, entropy is the information that is unknowable in a given system, according to Csikszentmihaly entropy increases when psychic energy is expended under sub-optimal experience. Optimal experience occurs when skill meets challenge, this is also called the flow state. The alternative to flow state is boredom or anxiety. To relate back to elementary particles, a flow state is analogous to efficient energy expenditure.
In chapter four The Conditions of Flow I found two sections interesting. The first looked at internal barriers to flow experience the second was external barriers. Specifically Csikszentmihaly outlines the relationship between skills and optimal experience. He states that unless an individual works to build skills they will slip into boredom. conversely, if one enters into a situation that is more challenging than ones skills they will suffer from anxiety. The external threats to flow state are both natural and social however it was the social threats that I found most interesting. Specifically "When it is no longer clear what is permitted and what is not, when it is uncertain what public opinion values, behavior becomes erratic and meaningless. People who depend on rules of society to give order to their consciousness become anxious." I found this interesting because it is reminiscent of our current times.
Our bodies provide the means of experience, this is the theme of the forth chapter The Body in Flow. I found this concept interesting in itself. "The body is like a probe full of sensitive devices that tries to obtain what information it can from the awesome reaches of space." When I was younger I would think of myself as my body. As I grew older I began to reject this line of thinking. However Csikszentmihaly brings states an unavoidable point. Regardless of how we relate to our body, it is the interface between the outside world and the inner self.