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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Getting Unstuck from the Cycle of Bipolar Disorder

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 18th 2009

SOSI'm going to make an argument here that will likely be unpopular. Let me draw that caveat first that I am of the belief that bipolar disorder is genetic and often an issue with brain chemistry. However, Bipolar Disorder and ADHD for that matter are often misdiagnosed and at those times may not be issues in brain chemistry. However, one thing seems clear to me, the cycles that get exacerbated when getting stuck in the cycle's of bipolar disorder have to do with a denial of the uncomfortable or even comfortable experiences while they're happening in a moment. 

What do I mean by this? In an earlier article I wrote about breaking the cycle of shame when it came to ADHD. That was more about creating awareness as a culture into how we see and treat people who struggle with ADHD, but really with any mental health issues.

In this article, I want to bring that internally. In what ways does the culture of sub-personalities in our minds exacerbate the uncomfortable feelings that come with the onset of a depressive episode or even an uncomfortable manic episode of intense irritability? Might there be a part of us that would do anything to stay away from the pain of uncomfortable feelings?

Often times we develop these unconscious strategies in our minds of being judgmental and berating ourselves with the aim of getting rid of the discomfort. We criticize the parts of ourselves that we don't like. For example, when we're starting to feel an onset of sadness or maybe a feeling of shame, a voice pops up inside, "you're such a loser, no one is going to like you" or "don't even try, what's the point?"

Behind these judges inside of us is often times a sense of fear. Fear of what? Fear that if we allow ourselves to accept the reality that these feelings are here, somehow they're going to swallow us whole and we may never come back.

However, the strategy of judging and criticizing only deepens our feeling of depression and shame or maybe lends us to behaviors of just staying up late or not paying attention to our diets which lead to a manic episode. Because after all, "who cares?"

Getting unstuck from this cycle involves cultivating a sense of awareness of these voices and understanding where they're coming from. It also involves seeing that these voices are there to support us in staying safe, but they're strategy is faulty. The judger is not a part of you to treat with disdain, but quite the opposite. It needs to feel like you are in control and things will be Ok, otherwise it feels like it needs to exert control.

Remember Gary Schwartz's model of awareness leads to connection which leads to balance.  Unawareness leads to disconnection and then imbalance.

The cycle is maintained when we avoid and disconnect from parts of ourselves. All parts want to be understood, loved and feel safe. When this is the case we can create greater balance and regain control over the cycles that seem to control us.

Keep in mind, this is a practice which we are not expected to be experts at. The point is just to try and get on the dance floor even though the moves may feel awkward.  (Note: This is not to imply that this takes the place of medication, both may be necessary for optimal results)

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and what works for you. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
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became unstuck - really - Dec 22nd 2009

I agree. I became unstuck when I quit running from the voices faced them head on because they were only my fears. They (the voices) were the ugly nasty things my abusers had always told me. EX. You aint nothing You never will be worth nothing. You're a Loser. You're worthless. You're fat lazy stupid and no one will ever truly love one. Everybody hates you. You know all those kind of wonderful things

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