Complex Healing States – a key to healing through bipolar disorder
Our healing through bipolar disorder happens not as much from mood stability (which is a manifestation of the healing, not a cause), from finding a happy medium between the ups and downs, as from bipolar integration – getting the two poles to integrate with each other, to communicate, to mix it up, so that we can harvest the gifts of each state. The most direct way to make this integration happen is through something I am calling a complex healing state.
A central characteristic of bipolar disorder is that the two poles tend to stay separate from each other – they dis-integrate us. When we are down, we are just down – with pretty much nothing positive going on. When we are up, we dance ahead of anything that might bring us down.
In a complex healing state, elements of up and down co-exist. We may be depressed, yet with something positive also going on – stuff that usually doesn’t happen when we are down. I have recently combined depression with feeling encouraged about my writing, with praising myself for fairly mundane accomplishments at my desk, with having a good dance. None of these usually happen when I’m down.
It’s tougher when I’m up – I tend to fear coming down, tend to run away from any sign that I might be coming down. But I have recently had some glimmers of up-based complex healing states on the free-form improv dance floor – which is such a microcosm of life. (You may want to read the page on Ecstatic Dance. One of my dance buddies likes to say that whatever you are processing in your life shows up on the dance floor.)
I like to totally cut loose on the dance floor – to surrender to the flow. When I’m up, running out of spontaneity on the dance floor – falling out of the flow – can be threatening. It can seem like a sign that I am coming down. But I have been experimenting with just letting the flow fall away when it isn’t there any more – stopping dancing altogether. Just walking or standing – waiting for the spontaneity come back and trusting that it will. This opens up the possibility that it won’t, and that my mood will start to drop. It takes some courage, but it opens up the grounding which is a gift of the depressive side – and it is a complex healing state.
A complex healing state is different from a psychiatric “mixed state”, which combines some of the toxic symptoms of up and down. Here the difficult symptoms of one of the poles is combined with one of the positive gifts of the other side. Most of psychiatry is solely focused on symptoms and does not recognize that mania and depression each hold gifts to be harvested.
I am experiencing more complex healing states lately – and this is both a sign of healing going on and the mechanism of this healing. The more the two sides are co-existing, are interacting with each other, the less you are likely to experience chaotic fluctuations of up and down. The two sides no longer need as much to resist each other, to push against each other – they are integrating.
Focusing on complex healing states can open a door to healing. When I am depressed, no longer do I need to get undepressed – even, in the short-term, to feel better. I just need to make my state more complex. I sometimes ask myself, “What is something I could do now to make this more complex?” Sometimes it’s to write, sometimes to dance, sometimes to call a friend. When my goal in these activities is to lift my mood, the bar sometimes is too high – my depression is too heavy to be lifted by one activity like this. I may get discouraged and not even do it, because I “know” in advance that “it’s just not going to make a difference”.
It helps me to instead not reach for a change in mood. I know in advance that doing one of these things will make my state more complex – they are things that don’t fit with being depressed. If my goal is only to make my state more complex, then I’m guaranteed success. And, paradoxically, knowing that I am achieving a complex healing state does tend to lift my mood.
For more information on “Why complex healing states are healing”, click on the link below.
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