“Bipolar Disorder,” is a psychological disorder in which the sufferer swings rapidly between extreme mania and extreme depression. Bipolar is a terrible, debilitating disorder, which is becoming more and more prevalent in our society, and can only be treated with powerful psychoactive drugs.
Or, at least that’s what the drug companies want you to believe. o.0
If you’re suffering from “Bipolar Disorder,” it’s very easy to believe that this is just something that you “have,” like a virus, a scar, or some other physical condition. At times, it can feel like it’s “impossible to control.” Add to that the fact that drugs DO have an immediate impact on the symptoms, and it seems simply OBVIOUS that these rapid cycles of mania and depression are arising from your “chemical balance.” In this way, people get the idea that “bipolar disorder” is just “a part of who you are.”
This misperception — the idea that “bipolar disorder” is something that you HAVE rather than something you are DOING — is extremely detrimental to people who suffer from this “condition.” It makes them feel powerless over their “disorder,” and forces them to become completely dependent on expensive drugs, which have some very inconvenient side effects (like nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, seizures and hallucinations just to name a few), and do nothing to fix the ROOT of the issue.
The root of the suffering that comes from “bipolar disorder” is not the chemical fluctuations themselves, but the ignorant and unskillful ways in which we use our minds to perceive the reality around us.
Mania and depression are both primarily rooted in perception. In our western paradigm, we tend to label and classify psychiatric problems based on two major criteria: physiology and behavior. “Manic people have THIS chemical balance, depressed people have THAT chemical balance.” “Manic people behave like THIS, depressed people behave like THAT.” While it is certainly EASIER to collect objective data about physiology and behavior than it is to collect data about perception, ignoring the perceptual roots of these “states of mind” causes us to lose sight of the bigger picture.
Why is a manic person manic? Why is a depressed person depressed?
If the manic person is thinking “I’m going to conquer the world!” and the depressed person is thinking “What’s the point of doing anything,” clearly they are perceiving reality quite differently.
The drug companies would like us to believe that the root cause of these different perceptual states is neurophysiological. Essentially: the manic person wants to conquer the world because of his chemical balance, and the depressed person wants to lay in bed all day because of his chemical balance. This assumption is good for the shareholders’ bottom line… if everything stems from brain chemicals, people need to buy more drugs.
However, in the eastern paradigm, in countries with a long history of meditative tradition, this is not how mania and depression are viewed AT ALL. In the East, mania and depression are seen not as DISORDERS in and of themselves, but as SYMPTOMS of a deeper PERCEPTUAL disorder, which we might call “Judging Disorder,” “Attachment Disorder,” “Delusion of the Objectivity of Good and Bad Disorder,” or “Dualistic Thinking Disorder” (yeah let’s go with that last one, that sounds cool). In fact, within the meditative paradigm, this perceptual disorder is not even named, and is barely discussed at all, because, through meditation, it can so easily be dissolved in any moment in which it happens to arise.
It is interesting to note here that in a 2011 study by the World Health Organization (http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=211192), surveying over 60,000 adults across 11 countries, the USA topped the list for percentage of the population displaying symptoms of “Bipolar Disorder.” Interestingly enough, China, Japan, and India — the three countries generally associated with the meditative paradigm — were at the bottom of the list. This study was the largest scale, most methodologically rigorous global study ever conducted on Bipolar Disorder. The researchers note that unlike other studies, this data was not provided by medical reports; it was independently gathered by the WHO researchers themselves, which rules out the possibility that these results were simply based on “under-diagnosis of the disorder” in India, China and Japan. There is an ACTUAL, MEASURABLE difference in the mental health of people in India vs. USA. In fact, according to this study, the USA has 44x the rate of Bipolar Disorder than does India. FORTY FOUR TIMES THE RATE, PER PERSON. 1.5x the rate would be A HUGE FINDING. DOUBLE the rate would make world headlines. But FORTY FOUR TIMES THE RATE? American scientists have been baffled by this for over a year now. They have been suggesting everything from “genetics” to “immigration patterns” to “chemicals in the water.” Google it! Google “bipolar rates per country” or anything like that. See it for yourself! They just can’t figure it out!
But in the East (and to those of us in the West who have experience with meditation), this out-of-control rate of mental disorder in the western world is not surprising at all. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Western society is still under the spell of the illusion of “good” and “bad,” a dualistic viewpoint that is not only completely at odds with reality, but is also extremely harmful to the happiness, sanity, and mental health of the population.
Meditation is, as far as I know, the only way to really truly see through this illusion. By reading this article, you may be able to UNDERSTAND, and may even agree that “good and bad are in the eye of the beholder,” but until you have a real, full-contact experience with REALITY ITSELF, without the smoke-screen of your mind getting in the way, you will never be able to really SEE THROUGH the illusion of “good” and “bad.” When, through meditation, you are able to step back from your thoughts for a moment, and get outside of the whirlwind of your mind, you are able to see REALITY clearly for the first time. And by REALITY, I don’t mean some belief system or other… it would be arrogant to refer to a belief system as “reality,” because everyone has different beliefs. By REALITY I mean YOUR BODY, and THE COMPUTER SCREEN IN FRONT OF YOU, and the keyboard, and the mouse, and the space around you, and the matter, and the air, and the colors, and the energy… THAT is reality. Everything else… things like our kooky concepts of “good” and “bad,” … have absolutely nothing to do with objective reality. They are merely concepts in your mind. When you realize that “good” and “bad” are only figments of your imagination, bipolar disorder completely disintegrates.
Mania and depression are simply SYMPTOMS of a mind that has a tendency to see things as objectively “good” or objectively “bad.” When things seem to be “good,” this quality of “goodness” becomes of great importance to the mind. When things seem to be “bad,” this quality of “badness” becomes of great importance to the mind. When a person goes into a depressive spiral, it starts with the thought that “life sucks” in some way. Something is judged as OBJECTIVELY BAD (this in itself is a delusional thought). This type of “negative” thinking leads to a chemical balance in the brain that leads to more “negative” thinking, which puts the person into a “downward spiral.” Mania is exactly the same process, but in the positive direction. Something is judged as OBJECTIVELY GOOD. This type of “positive” thinking leads to a chemical balance in the brain that leads to more “positive” thinking, which puts the person in an “upward spiral.” In fact, I would argue that these manic and depressive cycles have more to do with triggering specific “positive” and “negative” neural pathways than simply “fluctuating chemical balances,” but that is a topic for another article.
The more strongly a person is under the influence of the illusion of the objective reality of “good” and “bad,” the more powerfully these cycles are activated. For “normal,” “healthy” people, these cycles present simply as “moods.” Most people don’t consider moods to be “a big deal,” because if you don’t give a lot of importance to the “goodness” of a good mood, or to the “badness” of a bad mood, then the moods themselves aren’t all that important. But imagine if you were to be in a bad mood, and you get EXTREMELY UPSET that you were in a bad mood, because this quality of “badness” is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT. Wow… your bad mood would turn into a NIGHTMARE. Because now, the worse your mood gets, the more upset you get about it, and the more upset you get, the worse your mood gets. Get it? It’s a cycle. The same is true for the positive direction… if you’re in a good mood, and you get EXTREMELY EXCITED ABOUT IT, because this quality of “goodness” is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT… well then your good mood turns into a FRENZY… the better your good mood gets, the more excited you get, and the more excited you get, the better your good mood gets. This is how manic/depressive cycles fluctuate so sharply upward and downward.
The key to transcending this is to see reality clearly and become aware that “good” and “bad” are imaginary concepts that have nothing to do with objective reality. This awareness nips the problem in the bud. The negative cycle can’t get going if your “bad mood” isn’t really “bad.” The positive cycle can’t get going if your “good mood” isn’t really “good.” The more clearly you can see through the illusion, the more level your emotional state is going to be, and the more stable your perception of reality is going to be. And the only way (that I know of) to see through the illusion is to practice meditation.
Meditation was invented several thousand years ago, by some guy (or girl), somewhere in Asia. Nobody can really pinpoint exactly where the first meditative practices began, but we know that the methodology has been refined and modified in many different geographical areas as far apart as the land of the Philistines (modern day Israel) to ancient India, Thailand, and Japan.
Meditation is a mental practice that was essentially invented to cure what Dr. Siddhartha Guatama (aka The Buddha) referred to as “dukkha,” which can be roughly translated as “Psychological Suffering.” This overarching word (“dukkha”) for all kinds of psychological suffering can be applied to pretty much any of the multitude of states of mind that we call “disorders” in our western society, from anxiety to bipolar to narcissistic personality disorders. Through the advent and popularization of the practices of meditation, this type of suffering has largely receded from enormous geographic areas of the globe (as evidenced in part by the above-mentioned study). We westerners on the other hand, with our “modern psychiatry,” have fallen into a deep dark hole of mental illness. Clearly, meditation is a much more effective paradigm for developing and maintaining mental health than is modern psychiatry.
“Bipolar disorder” is just one of the symptoms of the untrained mind that can be cured with meditation. Other symptoms include ADHD, anxiety, and narcissistic personality disorder. Click here to read more about meditation as a cure for pretty much all of the “mental disorders” in our society.
Or, click here to read an article about how to meditate.
Choose your own adventure!