Saturday, January 21, 2012

Illness or Instinct in Manic Euphoria?

What forces stimulate a euphoric sense of cosmic oneness?
November 15, 2011.

In the great legend of the FALL, where are we now? Apple i-pads, Google & the Tree of Knowledge? The Eternal Now keeps on Emerging as we keep learning about ourselves? ( status post)

Should I feel ashamed to have acted on the impulse to make such thoughts public?

Should I view another episode of manic euphoria as mental illness or madness?
Should I judge this recent episode a relapse into illness or part of my journey of self discovery in a maturing sense of self?

Where is the sense of objectivity in such nonsense, others might ask? Surely such simple emotive associations as Apple I-Pads with the Biblical tree of knowledge, make no sense at all in our 21st century AD? "Just another dickhead with a messiah complex - A loony tune psychotic," would be understandable quips. Many psychiatrists would suggest a disease like illness, affecting a chemical imbalance within my brain?

Others see the madness experience as a right of passage in the challenge to maturity, and part of the birthright of a maturing species. Some suggest that bipolar & schizophrenia have survived the evolutionary process because they serve a purpose, for beyond the routine of normal survival, some kind of visionary intuition is required to guide the way forward. Hence the high number of creative's with bipolar and from a destiny point view there has been sensitivity in leadership during darker times.

Our mind has this amazing ability to "conceptualize" the experience of being. Yet there is a tendency to rush over the actual felt sense of the living moment with kind of "yeah, yeah I know," or concern about things to do. This conceptual mind space vs the felt sense of experience is a dilemma that plagues intellectual analysis and the slice & dice nature of science research via the dispassionate use of technology.

In our clever and sophisticated daily dialogue with self and others, we seem to pay mere lip service to Darwin's famous theory, "yeah, yeah learnt that in school." Yet on the felt level of our awareness of being human, it literally means we are an evolved animal with instincts that energize the limbic systems of emotional expression and ultimately the thinking neo-cortex area of the brain.

Perhaps mental anguish is more about instinctual energies than a mysterious illness?

Bipolar disorder is also well documented in people with high creativity & natural leadership abilities. Should we not ask why men like Winston Churchill become the man for moment in times like the second world war, when the regressive urge of fascism raised its very ugly head?

In the deeper, wider reality of the evolving process, is there method in natures instinct for a chaotic madness that seeks new order? Does the experience fit within the complex chaos theories that explain the deeper reality of a cosmic background to the evolution of human life? Chaos theory suggests a cosmic reality of chaotic activity that somehow forms new orders of hierarchical stability.

"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." (Schore, 1994).

Hence the suggestion that the spontaneous experience of madness in its classic early adulthood onset, is an attempt by the organism to reorganize its energy expression towards further growth. This has been my experience of mental illness, with euphoric mania the disruptive energy that sees me making facebook posts like the one above.

I haven't been troubled by the more negative energies of fearful illusions or delusions like hearing voices, and I understand the confusion caused by the wide variety of individual experience. My own journey has always revolved around the issue of separation & individuation, perhaps a need to mature into the person I was born to be? Separation, the loss of an intimate relationship has always been the trigger to my most disruptive periods of mania. Periods when I get lost in a rush of spiritual euphoria that revolves around the well known, "one love, one world," desire.

Managing the excitement of an elated sense of being alive, has been my most potent problem, with relapses into depression seemingly a despair that I would ever experience the natural ebb and flow of a normal life and its spontaneous joys. Here is the rub too, in that elation is now accepted as a highly desirable emotion, fueling the metabolic needs of early brain/nervous system maturity.

"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 described in 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." (Schore, 1994).

My November experience of surging manic energy included all the old ideas and feelings of self reference (this TV show is about me) and messiah like sense of self worth.

Told ya!” The cynic in you might have just reacted? Yet this last episode was different from the one before, with a little more self awareness and a little less compulsive behavior. I recall there were two days of outright fusion when I'd slipped into full blown messiah like feelings and thoughts. The one before was over a year ago now, with no intervening depression or sense of shame. Instead there has been a continuing effort to understand my deeper nature, those natural energies beneath my minds subjective sense of awareness.

'You know, that first time in 1980, it was like the real you had come out. - Then everyone wanted you to go back in again,' my best friend said to me last year.

Almost 32 years on from my first experience of manic euphoria I find myself feeling like I've come full circle, as the very same existential questions plague my unconscious/conscious desire. Luckily I'm in a place and period of my life, when I can afford to allow such a disruption of my subjective sense of everyday normality.

In February 1980, sudden relationship loss triggered my first episode of mania and set me off on a thirty year struggle to understand the nature of my abnormal experiences. I still remember those very first moments that led me into mania, the unusual body sensations and the shift in perceptive awareness that overcame me. (see here)

In the Chaos, Chance & Circumstance that is the nature of experience, if I'd found myself on this mans doorstep, the night I went searching for the meaning of a spontaneous euphoric experience we label mania, the last 30 years would have unfolded in a different way.

Perhaps I would have followed my natural curiosity and lived more of my Celtic birth sign, as a guide? No reductionist view of symptomatic behavior captures the essence of my first experience of a spontaneous reorientation of energy like Kevin McEvenue's explanation of the FELT sense of being in the lived moment, which the mind habitually avoids.

The Alexander Technique and Focusing have in common an awareness of
the power of "not doing" in order to allow something more to happen.

Kevin's description of altered perception, "as a kind of trance like state," resonates with my own experience described in The Music of Trance State Mania and my current feeling that the experience is essentially a spontaneous attempt to re-wire my brains past experience of terror (intense negative affect) and stimulate a more relaxed approach to my own feelings and other people.

Perhaps the reason that the madness experience brings up so much primal imagery, is the survival imperative of approach or avoid? Does madness imagery & sensation reflect the primal reality of survival in our life eats life world, and those awesome forces of creation and destruction within the wider cosmos, which created the Sun, Moon & Mother Earth?

As Kevin says "its as if I was re-visiting my own evolutionary pattern very quickly - within me is my whole history of evolution - all the trails and errors of what made us the humans we are today." His comments resonate deeply within, that place of unspeakable knowing and wisdom, we call the body. A fearful place perhaps, for our bright shinny intellect, newly come into its own?

Another writer suggests "Mental illness can be a kind of “tough grace” where people can reframe their experiences to understand them as a hero’s journey that creates wisdom and steely strengths. This shift makes a tremendous difference to enhancing self-esteem and reducing stigma. This book is a major contribution to a new paradigm. Mental illness can be a journey to the soul, a challenging route to wholeness." _ Alice A Holstein, "A Tough Grace - Mental Illness as a Spiritual Path."

If I had found my way to this man's door in 1980 would I have come to understand the experience as an expansion of awareness, beyond the constricted shell that guided my life through childhood when it was safer to remain unseen, unheard and unnoticed? Perhaps I would have simply accepted the spontaneous "coming out," as my best friend put it and not compounded its affect with rationalizing thoughts?

These days I do let go its expansive energy and sleep at night, simply by accepting the motive energy as fundamentally about body movement, not thought. Feeling for subtle inner tensions allows me to calm my thoughts and drift into sleep, as described (here)

Fast forward, January 20th 2012
Michael Cornwall, Ph.D. is practicing therapist specializing in madness who has recently started a blog on with an opening post titled "Initiatory Madness." The very first line asks the question, "if madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?"

Michael is a Jungian/Laingian psychotherapist who went through his own intense experience of transformative madness without medication or treatment that formed his vocation. For over 30 years he has specialized in providing psychotherapy for people in psychotic states in medication free sanctuaries and community settings.

In the the second of his illuminating blog posts "Pilgrim’s Progress: From Young Madman to Old Therapist, he quotes Carl Jung who is perhaps the most famous of free thinkers to wrestle with the experience of madness;

"The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important of my life- in them everything else essential was decided. It all began then; the later details are only supplements and clarifications of the material that burst forth from the un-conscious, and at first swamped me. It was the prima matetria for a lifetime’s work.”

Michael also asks the question;

"Is madness in fact a potentially growth and renewal process that one becomes stronger from having undergone, even possibly gifted from the ordeal with hard won natural abilities for intimately knowing about the nature of sanity and madness, and with a capacity for additional compassion for fellow mad people with which one so easily identifies?

Doesn’t the ancient ritual of madness allow a person to be changed for the better- to be better off than one was before the initiation? Isn’t that the same process and purpose of all the initiations and rites of passage we go through in life- for one to pass through a liminal threshold into a new zone of personhood?

If every beginning experience or subsequent ’episode’ of madness is, as I believe, an auspicious crisis of potential initiation and re-birth into a fuller life of enhanced possibility, then psychiatry thwarts the initiatory process by not realizing that that is what is really happening, is really possible, if the mad person is only received with loving acceptance as I fortunately was."

In my response to his refreshing articulation of real experience I wrote;

"There surely is no other experience that plumbs the depths of existential reality like madness, making dispassionate intellectual concepts of the nature of being human, a mere shadow of the real thing. Once experienced, it is impossible to forget and presses on the back of the mind with the age old existential question, why?"

Taking a very wide view, with a very long bow. Does my own experience of the heightened state of manic euphoria allow me some sense of connection to the evolutionary forces that spawned my nature? In this year of 2012 AD, there is an anticipation among a growing band of people for something called ascension based on interpretations of the Maya (or Mayan) Long Count calendar.

As you can see from my headline about Apple I-pads, my own sense of curiosity seems most tempted by the interpretations of myth and there existential meaning. I do believe that science and spirituality are converging in our time, and we are entering the much prophesied golden age. Perhaps in the long run our failing experiment with a psychotropic meddling with our own inner nature, will bring greater impetuous for further convergence?

The challenge I face when going through these episodes of manic euphoria, is to sift through what are my personal needs of self empowerment, self comfort and self support, in my subjective fantasy. On a physical level there is a spontaneous relaxing of muscular posture and an urge for movement towards others, the opposite of a life long urge for isolation.

Obviously the messiah ideas can be seen as a need for supportive love and the one world, one tribe ideas, as a mindful interpretation of the physiological reaction in the urge towards others. We are a social animal and our need for proximity and happy inter-relations, is well documented in the health journals. Smiling at each other is literally a vitality affect, which benefits the autoimmune system.

Even understanding such rational explanations for my experience though, I'm left to ponder my ceaseless fascination with the nature of being, and what lies beneath so many myths, legends and fairy tales. I had a deep personal need to educate myself about my interior plumbing so to speak, and discovered there is an electro-chemical stimulation of the experience of being me. It has helped me enormously in managing my experience of bipolar and has changed a classic cycle of manic-depression.

It has also deepened my fascination with existentialism and the nature of the metaphysical, with its metaphor interpretations of the consciously unknowable. Who knows? Maybe you can draw an association between Apple i phones, i-pads and the biblical tree of knowledge? For instance my view of the old immaculate conception stories is a metaphor for the birth of consciousness, and Moses journey through the desert towards the promised land, a metaphor for the minds journey to self awareness.

My current view of the old resurrection stories, is one of resurrection of all that matter that has been spent in the creation of our awareness? How else does the universe prevent ultimate decay, an empty place of dark matter and energy, if not by evolving into a form that can act upon itself?

Ah! Metaphor, Meaning & those manically energized epiphany moments, maybe?

To quote Michael Cornwall, "If madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?"

Is my manic euphoria stimulated by illness or evolved instinctual energies?

Does the hidden Meaning in Myth & Metaphor contain Meant to be elements, like those whispering hints of serendipity in accidental scientific discovery?

To miss-quote the end scene in the movie "Blade Runner," 'nothing lives for ever, right?"

Metaphors & Unspeakable Meaning?