Why have you lost your child like motivation?

Important dimensions of adult creativity have their roots in the childhood of the creator. – Howard Gardner; Creating Minds

What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult. Freud

In 1968, psychological theoretician Richard deCharms published a book discussing the importance of a concept he called personal causation. He believed that the key to intrinsic motivation is the desire to be the “origin” of one’s own action rather than a “pawn” manipulated by external forces. Intrinsic motivation is associated with richer experiences, improving self esteem, better conceptual understanding, greater creativity, achieving competency, and improved problem solving. Using his line of thinking and experiments with subjects seemed to suggest that rewards had undermined subjects’ feelings of personal causation, and thus their intrinsic desire for mastery. Rewards seemed to turn the act of playing into something that was controlled from the outside: It turned play into work, and the player into a pawn.

“When people talk about control, they usually mean coercion— they mean controlling through power and threats. Most people find it easy to accept that the use of force can have a range of negative consequences. Dictators control, and dictators are despised. But money also controls. When people say that money motivates, what they really mean is that money controls. And when it does, people become alienated—they give up some of their authenticity—and they push themselves to do what they think they must do. One take on the meaning of alienation is that it begins as people lose touch with their intrinsic motivation, with the vitality and excitement that all children possess, with the doing of an activity for its own sake, with the state of being that Robert Henri called a more than ordinary moment of existence.”

To be connected to and involved with others—that is, to satisfy the need for relatedness—children make accommodations, and they are naturally inclined to accept values and rules of their immediate groups, and of society. Through making such accommodations— through internalizing values and behavioral regulations—children learn to competently negotiate the social terrain. But it is important to realize that there are two quite different types of internalization, so merely internalizing regulations does not guarantee autonomous or authentic self-regulation.

The two forms of internalization are: introjection, which Fritz Peris likened to swallowing a rule (whole) rather than digesting it; and integration, which involves “digestion” and is the optimal form of internalization. To hold a rigid rule that pushes you around—that declares, demands, and demeans—and to act in accord with that rigid rule means that the rule has only been introjected, so it does not form the basis for truly autonomous performance of the activity. Autonomous functioning requires that an internalized regulation be accepted as your own; the regulation must become part of who you are. It must be integrated with your self. Through integration, people become willing to accept responsibility for activities that are important but not interesting—activities that are not intrinsically motivating.

People’s need for autonomy, their need to be a causal agent in managing themselves, provides the energy for integrating (rather than just introjecting) a regulation. Thus, although the needs for relatedness and competence can motivate introjection, it is the need for autonomy that champions the integration of a value or regulatory process into one’s self.

Those students who were more introjected were extremely anxious about school and displayed maladaptive patterns of coping with failure, whereas those who were more integrated enjoyed school and evidenced healthier patterns of coping when their efforts went awry.

Some students even say they have no real sense of themselves separate from all the shoulds, musts, and have-to’s. Overpowered by these introjects, the young people present a facade—a kind of false self—for they have lost touch with their true self. They have found acceptance from others by taking on an alien identity, by rigidly interjecting, rather than flexibly integrating, aspects of their social world.”

Relating to others; sharing awareness

We have mentioned that autonomy, child like observation skills and relatedness are the most important for achieving intrinsic motivations. Relatedness plays an important role in this equation. But how do you develop meaningful and lasting relationships?

Here is our model:

Connecting with others is not a secret or magical skill. Like meditation or any other skill, it can be learned. When you try to connect with others, you use the emotions part of your awareness to communicate for connection. At the start, people give each other hints or cues when they plan for new connections. You will either accept these hints or cues and respond positively or you ignore them or you might even be hostile toward these hints. If you are operating on the right side, most of the time you respond positively to these hints from like minded people. If you are operating on the left side, your responses might be harsh.

Major conflicts arise between friends as the result of emotional connections that originate from the left side of our illustration. Exactly opposite happens when friends or married couples disagree. If they are operating from the right side, they use their emotional bank to joke about their disagreements. They might be really mad at each other, but they give each other a break. Rather than getting angry at each other, they make fun of each other while they are tuned to each other (strong observation), yet you can see the mutual respect is strong between them. They are still affectionate toward each other rich in good past feelings that acts like a reserve. If they share their positive awareness, they can never ignore each other or ignore what it is that make them disagree on. The key again is strong attention to their disagreement and the subject of disagreement. If, however, they start ignoring the subject of disagreement, or ignoring through lack of attention and observation, that is when they no longer share each other awareness. There are no emotional connections. Most marriages are slowly heading toward divorce when that happens.

The most satisfying connections are those when you completely see through other people, their emotional awareness and you share yours with their awareness. Some people are very skilled at this that they can detect another person’s unspoken pain, happiness, cues and then refer to it compassionately or properly. This must be your aim to foster better emotional communication by developing better listening and observation skills. I strongly suggest child-like connections, where the connection is for joy, playfulness, humor, affection, engaged in shared fantasies (Connecting over Harry Potter Books), shared meaning, and harmony. Can adult connect over Harry Potter type books?

In our today’s society people feel lonely despite their closeness to many people in their lives, lovers, friends, family, spouses, and coworkers. Why? The answer is that the connection exists, but it is not at the level of shared awareness and emotional connection inside each other consciousness.

Scientist believe self disclosure or allowing others to see right into your awareness is the most profound solution to a genuine relatedness or connection. This is mainly done by sharing the most inner and most guarded feelings with others. However, in today’s society self disclosure is almost impossible even between spouses. People talk with each other, but they don’t observe each other. The attention and the child-like observation is missing in their conversations or any other types of connections. Again, strong paying attention and observation plays an important part here.

Dr. Gottman in his excellent book called “The Relationship Cure” discusses the subject or relationships in detail and gives some of the best examples I have read.

Some suggestions for a meaningful connection

Just like meditation, we suggest finding an area of your mind that is not mapped. Connecting with others based on this area where you are neither operating on either right side or left side can be very pleasant. Here are some suggestions, if you are still considering yoga, connect with people in your yoga practices. How about art galleries or new art openings. How about cooking, dance, or pottery classes? Strong child like observations, attention, child like playfulness, humor, and sharing feelings (try to let people you like and trust to see into your awareness) are all the main ingredients of a healthy connection or relatedness.

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