Friday, April 1, 2011

My Last Manic Episode - Maybe?

My Last Manic Episode - Maybe?

Could there be Purpose in My Manias?

To Reorganize my Autonomic Nervous System?

Can Systems Theory Explain the Chaos of Mania?

Can I Integrate the Experience with New Insights?

Changing Unconsciously Conditioned E-Motivation?

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.

Loss is the Pivotal Human Experience
You Can Go Home Again, Monica McGoldrick.

Six Months Ago
On that day, last September I started writing blog posts on, 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. 

So What?
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.

"This psychoneurobiological developmental model views the brain as a self-organizing system.
It also fits particularly well with a number of essential tenets of nonlinear dynamic systems (chaos) theory.
This powerful model is now being utilized in physics, chemistry, and biology to explore the problem
of how complex systems come to produce emergent order and new forms. A fundamental  postulate
of this conception is that there is no dichotomy between the organism and the environmental context in
which it develops. The physical and social context of the developing human is more than merely a 
supporting frame, it is an essential substratum of the assembling system. Of particular importance to
chaos theory are the transitions from one developmental stage to another, when the organism encounters
instability while it shifts from one stable mode to a new mode." (Page, 63)
Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development

"When the organism encounters instability while it shifts from one stable mode (a predominance of negative affect and avoidance) to a new mode," (a predominance of positive affect and approach) using unconsciously stimulated metabolic energy, mediated via the autonomic nervous system. My birth was traumatic, causing a cycle of nervous system motivation that revolved around flight/fight sympathetic nervous system (SNS) engagement with life, and a parasympathetic nervous system conservation/withdrawal that resulted in a long low grade depression before my first manic episode.

It is this aspect of early life experience and systemic orientation which leads to the classic early adult onset of affective disorders, when we need to engage a new group for support in life, beyond the family group and its mode of generation-ally conditioned affect/emotion regulation and expression.   

"More specifically, this affective-limbic conditioning may pair an introceptive (internal), autonomic 
response, such as the maternally induced cardiovascular accompaniment of affective behavior
with an extroceptive ( external) visual input. The involvement of limbic structures in the classical 
conditioning of heart rate by visual (as well as olfactory and auditory) inputs has been 
demonstrated in infant mammals. That is an excited anticipation, a prefrontal (cortex) 
"anticipatory set" of  emotion induced selected attention, associated with an object." (Page, 111)

Objectively speaking, I needed to re-organize my internal representations of external objects, on a neural level within my brain. The objects that have always affected me most are other human beings.

"The development of internal representations of external objects - such as faces - that consistently
provide stimulating responses to the infant. The elements which mediate this function are found in a 
"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)


"Affect dysregulation is also a hallmark of Bipolar Disorders that involve manic episodes. Manic depressive
illnesses are currently understood to represent dysregulatory states. The developmental 
psycho-pathological precursor of a major disorder of under-regulation can be demonstrated in the 
practicing period histories of infants of manic depressive parents. I suggest that the  necessary 
gene environment condition is embedded specifically in practicing period transactions." (Page, 410)

"Noting the commonalities between elation as a basic practicing period mood in infants and manic 
symptomology in adults. Elation as a basic mood is characterized by an experience of  exaggerated
omnipotence which corresponds to the child's increasing awareness of his muscular and intellectual
powers. The similarity between the two is striking.  Manic disorder has also been describedin terms of a 
chronic elevation of the early practicing affect of interest-excitement; this causes a "rushing" of intellectual
activity and a driving of the body at uncontrollable and potentially dangerous speeds." (Page, 410-411)

Is mania an unconscious need for 'positive affect,' an inner sense of vitality that allows us, not only the energy to approach others but also creates a positive internal energy state, which is in turn approachable, resonating like a beacon and drawing others like moths to a flame. The very antithesis of previous internal energy states which repelled like the opposite poles of a magnet, the way people steer clear of a depressive.

"A nine month old girl becomes very excited about a toy and reaches for it. As she grabs it, she lets out
an exuberant 'aaah!' and looks back at her mother. Her mother looks back, scrunches up her shoulders,
and performs a terrific shimmy with her upper body, like a go-go dancer. The shimmy lasts about as long
as her daughters 'aaah' but is equally excited, joyful, and intense." (Page, 82)

Throughout his book Schore tells us how important the emotion of elation is in the early development of neural networks in the brain, stimulating those pulses of electrochemical energy that fire synapse and form the neural substrate of a 'vital' human being, all of which takes place in an 'affective,' social environment. In autonomic nervous system disorders, people become trapped in a primitive defense of the organism, evolved for the primal forests, and now miss-placed amongst a forest of human faces. 

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. 

These Days
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.

"The keystone of this model is the principle of the development of self regulation. An emergent 
property of hierarchically organized cortical-subcortical systems is the capacity to regulate the
transitions between various internal states that support affect, cognition and behavior."

In a chapter titled, “Sleep, Arousal, and Mythmaking in the Brain,” Jaak Panksepp, a leading researcher in the neurobiology of emotions, tells us “we are forced to contemplate the strange possibility that the basic dream generators are more ancient in brain evolution than are the generators of our waking consciousness” (Page, 125.) And of our REM dream state, he writes “Indeed perhaps what is now the REM state (dreaming) was the original form of waking consciousness in early brain evolution when emotionality was more important than reason” (Page, 128.)

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?

We use our minds not to discover facts but to hide them. Like a veil thrown over the skin to secure its modesty, 
the screen partially removes from the mind the inner states of the of the body, those that constitute the 
flow of life as it wonders in the journey of each day. _ Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens

Was that my last manic episode? Only time will tell of coarse, yet I did fly pretty dam high and have not yet suffered the crashing of my manic Icarus kite, far down to the stony ground.


Shcore, A, N, 2003, “Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self,” W. W. Norton, USA.

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?