Some weeks back, I discussed the connection of flow—- as the integrative, passionate engagement of competence and skills toward a discrete task —- with an internal, late-life correlate to the mother-child relationship, now freed from external dependency on institutional facilitation or permission. That is, the freedom to demonstrate pleasurably one’s skills and competence. Certainly, from the perspective of healthy aging, reports such as Vaillant’s Aging Well, suggest that such preoccupations are central to psychologically successful longevity.
One way to think about this is as a protected and protective form of love, directed meaningfully, toward the transformation of a passionate object such as painting, jogging, or meditating—- wherein all manner of internal and external preparations are oriented to a single purpose.
Another way to think about this is in the productive use of hate— in that the withdrawal from other, perhaps less satisfying life activities that might otherwise have been one’s focus— suggest a repudiation of something—- minimally, the creative destruction of a worldview that existed at an earlier moment. It becomes necessary to overturn this view, this allocation of resources, in order to reallocate them to another purpose.
The engagement of competence poses no problem (at least conceptually) for most of us. But then, in the passionate engagement of flow, the experience itself and not its product, is the joyous outcome. Where most of us have difficulty is in the engagement of productive hate— in that moment where the hard-won, if currently dysfunctional structures of the past must be deconstructed. First, there is no guarantee of future success. Even if there are no productive outcomes in the holding-on to earlier viewpoints, at least earlier viewpoints provide a known structure or security. Second, perhaps flow will not come; nothing is guaranteed.
Certainly, it cannot, if productive hate is not utilized to reconstruct resources toward personally meaningful ends. But then, the frustration of continued non-productivity means that sooner or later, the individual will turn frustration into self-hatred, which undermines successful longevity.
Like it or not, this is our common lot. And individual decision.
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