A Reflective Look At Autotelic Experiences

1364 words - 5 pages

A Reflective Look at Autotelic ExperiencesThe concept of an autotelic experience is one that I lived and never really understood or could explain until reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow. How does one comprehend the constant compulsion to do something(s) which never really gave one pleasure in the first place? And yet, it is a preoccupation with that very thing that propels one to endure the strenuous drudgery of daily exercise or the inexplicable need to clean every orifice of one's dwelling with veracity and no pause until the chore is complete-the kind of compulsion that leads to a feeling of fulfillment when all is said and done. As Daniel Willey most eloquently explains, "I am fascinated at how much time we spend doing things that we don't enjoy."` Of the most vivid of my childhood memories is the torture of Saturdays-or chore days-as my mom referred to them. After a grueling five days of two mile treks to school on foot, lengthy school days and equally long return trips home on empty stomachs, followed by six hour study evenings, Saturdays were supposed to be a day of rest. And they were, for all of my school friends but me. Saturdays at our house were the bane of my existence, long and tiring days of uninterrupted washing at the river until every piece of laundry smelled mountain fresh and was dried and folded. One would assume that it ended there, but no. On returning home, we got to cleaning until every surface in our home shone. As a child, I remember waking up to my mother yelling that I "…better understand that this is no hotel…" and asking who did I "…think was going to clean [my] nasty room or wash [my] dirty clothes?" Like Mozart's experience in Flow, mine was painful-literally. My fingertips would end up sore and pink from the chemicals, my palms raw from rubbing the clothes as I washed at the riverside. Who would have thought that when I finally got the chance to be in my own home with the independence I had sorely longed for and no Mom breathing down my neck, that I would find myself continuing this most unpleasant task of washing and cleaning till it hurt? And yet, Saturday cleanings are a part of who I am. Although I no longer am forced to wash at the river (oh the joys of washing machines!), Saturdays are still my day for doing all the week's laundry, no matter how many loads. Of course, while the washing machine does its thing, I get down to cleaning, dusting, wiping and washing down every surface of my house, no matter how clean it may look to the "untrained" eye. The comforting smell of bleach and clean laundry (just like it smelled back when I was little), the sterile scent of the Dettol (now Pine Sol) on my newly washed floors-floors which I still get down on my hands and knees to scrub-provide a sense of comfort and completeness that few may identify with. Until my exposure to Csikszentmihalyi's writings, I was not aware of the autotelic properties of my above experiences, yet I now...

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