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There are many misconceptions surrounding the flow state.
Flow research hasn’t been around a long time and Neuroscience much less so. However, when it comes to rigorous scientific research, first, flow must be defined clearly and specifically, if we are to understand what we want to engineer. Otherwise, how do you know if you are training flow or another muscle?
The flow state is our optimal state of functioning, our ideal mental and physical state to generate peak performance. It is denoted by absolute absorption of the task at hand to the level of time dissociation, as well as effortless ease throughout the performance.
In understanding flow it is important to note that Flow is not ecstasy, where we feel great but cannot apply ourselves optimally. This feeling can certainly share similar characteristics with flow, such as the distortion of time, distance from self-consciousness, but more often than not, this feeling is antagonistic to the awareness of surrounding objects and the proximal environment. It is epitomised by the loss of self-control (to an extent) and is capable of neither optimal actions, communication or decision making.
Flow is not the experience of total absorption induced by hallucinogens or stimulants.
These drugs can help reach a state of bliss, heighten creativity, and open doors in the mind to reveal remarkable insights. They may also be energizing and absolutely thrilling, but they simultaneously dampen other senses and functions that are necessary for optimal functioning. For example, someone under the influence of these drugs would not be able to catch a glass that has been knocked off the table. Neither could they tackle complex situations and make optimal decisions instantaneously. The absorption and excitation experienced due to drugs are often not controllable, meaning it is just that, the feeling of absorption and excitation no matter the context. Although these exogenous chemicals can temporarily relieve us from the dominating conscious-thinking ‘monkey mind’, these momentary uplifts will only leave us crashing back down to earth as the mind and body recover from the cognitive fragmentation and artificial chemical invasion.
Contrary to this, flow leaves us feeling surprised, creative and fantastic. And obviously, there is no threat of becoming dependent on the “drug” after repeated encounters with flow.
It is a natural state, after all.