Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bipolar Disorder Instinct?

The Power of Instinct in Bipolar Disorder?

Trapped Survival Energies in Disordered States?

The Social World & Instinctual Energies?

The Autonomic (Animal) Nervous System?

Do You Really Believe the Theory of Evolution?

Most of us are happy to put our faith in science as it continues to shine its light into the unknown and relieve our painful ignorance. There are few serious scientists who do not acknowledge Darwin's epoch changing theory as factual. Yet this science proven fact dwells uncomfortably in the human psyche with most of us paying intellectual lip service, while showing little conviction towards any felt sense of it. Can you let go your thinking and feel yourself a human animal?

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) with its surging energies of sympathetic and parasympathetic outflow mobilizes our metabolic energies and mediates our reactive behaviors. The mobilization power of the (SNS) and the immobilization capacity of the (PSNS) mediate instinctual responses ranging from flight/fight, kill or be killed to freeze, with its capacity to feign death as a last ditch means of survival.

These evolved and denied instincts seem to be expressed in all the symptoms of bipolar disordered states, such as freeze energized depression with its withdrawal from engagement. Flight/fight energy discharged as chaotic thinking and behavior can be seen in mania. If we resist the easy logic that would see 'feign death' in a literal sense, we can accept such well known sensations as acute embarrassment, fainting, shock and the many symptoms of dissociation as varying degrees of parasympathetic stimulation.

Our social world is an evolved adaptation of instinctual energies, based on an extraordinary range of emotional expression involving the head and face. When social connectedness has followed a normal path and the neural stimulation of our evolved (SES) social engagement system flows smoothly, life is good and we feel ok. Trauma of any kind though, whether conditioned by birth, neglect, emotional, physical, sexual abuse, torture or events like war will bypass the SES and trigger older survival defenses through the mechanism of neuroception, and the neural stimulation of the (ANS).

There is a growing recognition of trauma and its damage to the human psyche, with increasing interest in mindful awareness of sensations and somatic therapies of release.  Although we are comfortable with the idea of releasing tensions by manipulating the body, we are far less comfortable with the notion that such tensions may be trauma stimulated.

Over the last forty years Peter Levine has built up an extraordinary insight into the nature of human trauma and how it manifests.  His 1997 book “Waking the Tiger,” described his unique views on PTSD as trapped survival energies needing to be discharged. His ideas and success in treating trauma sufferers with his unique approach, helped lead to a revolution in the mindful approach to emotional issues.

His latest book In an Unspoken Voice has helped me release the stimulated tensions of a trauma conditioned nervous system, by using the method he calls titration. Levine’s concept is allowing me to steadily increase my tolerance for stimulated sensations, helping me to manage surge’s in the sympathetic nervous system during manic excitement and my parasympathetic compulsions towards depressive withdrawal.

Raw survival energies of denied instincts drive my experience of so-called mental illness, with the kind of core release seen in the animal world simply not acceptable in the matrix of our social world. Other trauma specialists have developed techniques like David Berceli's (TRE) Trauma Release Exercises, seen here in Trauma Recovery for Women.

(EFT) Emotional Freedom Techniques, also tap into nature's stimulus for survival and have developed techniques for addressing the freeze response. Freeze causes much emotional distress due to confusion and denial about its unconscious expression through the (ANS). Watch how the mammalian body is evolved to face trauma in the wild and release these instinctual survival responses.

The freeze response plays a unique role in our social world through its stimulation of shame, shame - humiliation is the great socializing glue that helps mediate group behavior through the fear of its stimulated sensations. Shame, when stimulated in the nervous system brings feelings of worthlessness, a downward spiraling of healthy vitality that is similar to the instinctual response of a defeated animal.

In judging emotional anguish as mental illness are we guilty of denying instinctual responses, and not just in the behavior of the anguished individual? 
Does a fear of being overwhelmed by instinctual energy drive our judgement of people who have lost control?
Are the sensations of the freeze response a motivating factor in shame, denial and the inability of humans to shake of traumatic experience?

Is bipolar disorder really a disorder of instinct, as trapped survival energies seek expression? 

As long as we live in denial of our animal instincts they will continue to both protect and defeat us? Yet now that science has brought us such valuable insights as The Polyvagal Theory do we really need to fear the sensations stimulated by our own instincts? Having gained life changing insight into my own instinctual sensations, the phrase "There is nothing to fear but fear itself" has come to life, with the feeling of what happens really about these systems within me. 

Neuroception?-An Unconscious Perception?