To Reorganize my Autonomic Nervous System?
It is just over six months since the beginning of my last manic episode 17/9/2010, and just like my first in February 1980, it was triggered by LOSS. I had lost an intimate relationship, a potential life partner who had gone the way of five others, in another classic confirmation of the damage done by affective disorder. Only time will tell of coarse if the six weeks of hypo/hyper mania will be my last, yet something has definitely changed, with no autonomic descent into depression despite the highest and longest mania of my life.
Six Months Ago
On that day, last September I started writing blog posts on theicarusproject.com, much like I write now, here is that 1st post; Of Gods and Goddesses:
Last year in Australia a team of surgeon's comprised of men and women performed a miracle operation in separating Siamese twins joined at the head, these twin girls shared cranial bone and brain matter and were successfully separated in an operation took 38 hours to perform.
When the smiling doctors were presented to the media along with the incredibly grateful parents of the twins, I remember wondering how such an event would be perceived by a three thousand year old Greek writer or a Hebrew priest.
Surely the prophesy is true, tis the time of Gods and Goddesses! They might be expected to exclaim or even that God's kingdom has surely come.
Some think that all we ever do and have done is project what is within us onto the 3d moving screen before our eyes, that all thought is metaphor and spoken words the same, old testament Gods whose names should not be uttered are perhaps a simple metaphor for an indescribable reality at a micro level that we cannot see, yet advanced technology is taking us there.
Like the billion neurons in our brain each capable of 10,000 connections, you could say it's like the milky way galaxy inside your head in a funny micro reflecting the macro kind of way.
So is there such a thing as prophecy, a deeper connection within the brain/mind, and how do we sometimes know things we should not logically know, premonition's and the deeper truths told in old fairy tales like "mirror mirror on the wall" how did that writer know we would find mirror neurons in the brain and how our perception of ourselves is formed by the reflective feedback we get from others in their looks and gestures towards us, like Neytiri's "I see you" in the movie Avatar.
Maybe we are God, not individually but collectively and maybe not yet, for we all still resist the maturing process as much as possible, happy to be cradled in the bosom of family, friends and community, the social womb as some have called it.
I mean if we can perform miracle operations like the one above in the year 2010 AD and scientists are looking for the God particle by creating the conditions that existed at the beginning of the universe, what will we be up to in the year 4010 AD.
That day marked the beginning of a rise in euphoria like so many I have experienced before, and self medicated my way through over a 30 year experience with Bipolar Disorder. It was also the second time I had decided to allow a manic episode to unfold without any kind of remedial action, chemical or otherwise.
Although the first time, back in 2007 I did end up taking a small amount of medication, to appease family and friends.
I chose to experience the full ramification's of un-medicated mania after much study and forming a belief, that mania may be similar to the early life requirement of elation emotions, in affecting the growth of neural networks in the brain. I had become convinced that Birth Trauma had affected a predominance of negative affect, within the primitive neural networks in my brain, causing an unconscious pattern of avoiding behavior.
My belief had formed over the coarse of a decade of therapy training and experience's, which included reading as much 'neuroscience' as I could, once my interest turned from objective, speculative descriptions of human nature, to a need to know as much as I can about what does go on inside me. Reading science from the top of the tree, in men like Allan Schore, who has been described as the Einstein of neurobiology, and others like Stephen Porges and Peter Levine, I re-framed my beliefs away from the mental illness model.
The chaos, chance & circumstance of systems theory now underpins my sense of 'affective disorders,' understanding that my brain is a self organizing system, just like everything else in the universe. The loss of my one intimate relationship, my all important affect regulating and stabilizing 'better half,' triggered a need for approach behaviors in order to seek a new mate, mania was the need for positive 'affective states'. The kind of unconscious energy states that were missing from my early life experience, when an unconscious 'neuroception' of danger had become predominant within the neural networks of nervous system regulation inside my brain.
"neural network or connection matrix," and the creation of the architecture of this network depends on
pulses of electrochemical energy through the infants brain "at critical developmental junctures" (Page, 185)
Such a primitive trauma conditioned defense kept me from engaging in important energy vitalizing 'affect' transactions with others, like the described above. There was no objective thinking involved in this wonderful interaction between mother and child, here only pre-verbal energies will do, here is the essence of life, in instinct-affect-emotion, thoughtful appreciation comes after such delightful acts, not before them.
Only with the 'one' safe and intimate other could I freely engage in such important life enhancing energy states, and until recently even those transactions had been limited. Only now with the integration of the manic experience last September, and all the insight gaining education that went both before and after it, am I practicing a much freer and affectively healthier expression.
Using exercises from Peter Levine's book In an Unspoken Voice I practice daily the increase in my tolerance for bodily sensations, that is so constricted by trauma conditioning of the autonomic nervous system. Like the now popular concept of 'brain plasticity' I'm learning how to re-wire my brain, in how it innervates my nervous system and allows me life enhancing vitality affects.
It takes time to adjust a mindset of linear cause and effect objectivity, towards a deeper awareness of systemic interaction, even though we are all aware that unconscious communication takes place between us. In mutual gaze transactions, information passes between two brains & nervous systems at speeds 100 times faster than thought and God only knows how much faster than speech, the data transmitted between two sets of eyes could easily be described as neural eye-fi, its so fast.
As for the irrational content in mania, which so confuses both the person who has the experience and the observers, perhaps we slip into a pre-conscious state in order to address the foundational needs of re-ordering the hierarchical predominance of negative affect in the brain/nervous system's energizing of the organism. As the chaos theorists tell us chaotic systems somehow self organize into hierarchies of stability.
Some writers use affect and emotion interchangeably, while the father of Affect Theory, Silvan Tomkins suggests there are only nine primary affects, which are the root of human emotions, he calls them innate affects suggesting that they are similar too and probably are pre-wired instincts.
Startle, Distress, Fear, Anger, Shame, Interest, Joy, Disgust and Dismell are Tomkins innate affects which are physiological, whole body reactions. Is this how animal instincts fire our complex human emotions?
We can see how powerful innate affects are in negative behaviors like road rage, an intense form of anger, we see someone so out of conscious control, its as if they become the rage state. Or have they slipped back into an original form of consciousness? Are delusions then, a slipping back into this original form of waking consciousness when emotions were more important than reason, suggesting that it’s the emotional energy expressed during delusions that should be the focus of inquiry, not the seemingly muddled thinking.
Were innate affects/emotions more important than reason long ago because action and movement were the crucial elements of survival, e-motive movements towards or away from other animals? Some people suggest that all our complex emotions and behaviors can still be classified in terms of a basic approach or avoidance.
Those of us who experience ‘mania’ certainly know how much energy and movement is stimulated during these basic survival states. My own experience is one of high energy with very spiritual ideation perhaps affected by innate joy, and the religious ideation is a reflection of simple existential questions about life.
During my last delusional period of mania did I sink into states of innate joy at times, similar to what we see in innate anger-rage states in road rage? And are these instinctual roots of emotion so powerful that we suppress and deny them, using our famous objective reasoning, not to reveal, but hide the truth of our nature, using word symbols like PTSD to distance our heads from the visceral impact of what was once so well described with terms like "shell shock."
Primary affects like Interest & Joy rouse us to life, while Startle, Distress, Fear, Anger, Shame, Disgust and Dismell rouse us to defend it, and does neurochemical imbalance reflect an imbalance of innate affects?
Tomkins tells us that innate affect is highly contagious, like infectious laughter or the wild fire spread of fear in panic situations. Can the learned psychiatrist separate his/her own innate reactions from the diagnosis of mental illness, and is the judgment of madness stimulated more by instinctual fear than intelligent insight?
Panksepp, J, 1998, “Affective Neuroscience - THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL EMOTIONS,” Oxford University Press, USA.
Tomkins, S, S, 1995, “Exploring Affect - The Selected Writings of Silvan S, Tomkins,” Cambridge University Press, UK
Neuroception?-An Unconscious Perception?