Exploring the potential of the human mind has been a central fascination for most of my 55 years. I have spent as much as eight hours a day in meditation and lived in a monastic environment for over eight years. One thing I am very sure of is that we are capable of far more than most of us even imagine. This is especially true regarding those of us who are bipolar.
I have spent the last 10 years exploring what we are capable of during the extremes of mania and depression. In the process, I've met hundreds of people who's insights have validated my own experiences. With the help of experts in various complementary fields, including medicine, psychiatry, sociology, spirituality (what theorists like to call Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual), accelerated learning, and bipolar-specific meditation techniques, I have developed the most advanced system of training available to date for mastering functionality in all intensities of both mania and depression.
There are many who have established themselves as experts at understanding bipolar in its disordered state. While their focus has been on trying to make bipolar go away, my focus has been on deeper understanding and better functionality at higher intensities. This puts me in a very unique position to discuss what is possible while manic or depressed.
There is one particular area about which I have found an incredible level of confusion: when does controlled hypomania escalate into an out-of-control manic state? Based on discussions with thousands of people, it is generally believed that there is a level of intensity that is impossible for anyone to control—the line that cannot be crossed. This notion is not only patently false, but irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.
Although the exploration of the furthest reaches is interesting and informative, it is not something most bipolar people are looking for. They simply want to find a way to remove their suffering and get life to work for them. They are not interested in devoting every waking moment of their lives towards mastering the skills necessary to manage higher intensities. For them, there is a far more important line that they need to be careful about crossing.
As a first step, we teach how to minimize manias and depressions to an intensity where people are highly functional. A critical criteria is that the people around them are very comfortable too. This is the most important line of all; the line that should not be crossed without a high level of supervision.
Only when a student proves that he/she can become highly functional and make everyone around completely comfortable with their 20% mania or depression, do we help them to learn how to handle it at 30%. We teach students to be acutely aware at all times of what level of intensity they are at. If they cross the line into an even slightly higher intensity, they immediately use strong enough tools to bring the state back inside of their "functionality and comfort zone."
Those who diligently apply the advanced tools find that they rapidly gain control of both their manias and depressions. It takes a year or so before they expand their range to become comfortable in their "sweet spot," typically at a 30 - 40% intensity of mania. At that level they are highly aware and vigilant of never crossing above the intensity line where they begin to lose even minor amounts of control.
Advanced students with incredible discipline and a strong desire sometimes wish to expand their range in exploration of the possibilities. If they show the capacity and are willing to take precautions that minimize the risks, we help them to achieve functionality at higher states. This is where it gets especially interesting for me.
Although we can handle 80 - 90% intensities of mania for as long as a month before it begins to be too much for our bodies to handle, we find that it is not worth the effort it takes to stay in control and detracts from the positives of the state. We choose to explore it to see if it is possible, but then choose not to go there again. We end up preferring the same 30 - 40% intensities as the "sweet spot," not because we fear higher states, but because we understand the trade-offs of being in them (none of which include danger of losing control any more).
The depressive side is a completely different case, but that is for another article.
What level of intensity can you be highly functional at? What do you do to make sure the people around you are comfortable and agree with your assessment?
This is part three of a series on hypomania. Please read Part One and Part Two to better understand the context.