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The light and dark of what we call "bipolar disorder"

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

We live in a world of polarity. I don't just mean political polarization, which is just one example of the intrinsic polarity of life. There is also you and me. This and that. Here and there. Now and then. That's just for starters.

There's also black/white, good/bad, absolute/relative, real/imaginary, self/other, and so on. Take the polarity–or more descriptively, bi-polarity–out of life, and nothing we recognize exists, including ourselves as individual human beings.

Among all the bi-polarities we experience, light and dark take on special importance because they modify as our ability to "see" or re-cognize what we call ourselves and a world. You can see the phone you're holding only because of the interplay of light and dark as shades of color. You can see the thought, curiosity, and doubt you experience now only because of the interplay of "inner" light self-modifying and shining against the background of the unknown.

Light and darkness hold special importance to all human civilizations and show up in some of our most popular and meaningful phrases:

  • I see the light

  • she lights me up

  • I'm in the dark

  • what a bright idea

  • darkness falls

  • enlightenment

  • the Dark Ages

  • lightning strikes!

  • eating lightly

  • illumination

This very sentence and its meaning would be rendered non-existent (as opposed to existent, of course) without the pixelated contrast of light and dark that appears as characters and its resonant counterpart of the foreground of thought against the background of awareness that we call your mind. Note further the waxing and waning of light/dark as night and day, sleeping and waking, and the explosive creativity of the Big Bang with the possible quiescence of the Big Crunch.

Wisdom traditions around the world have always recognized the Second Mind view, which sees light-dark bi-polarity as life. This has been given different names, including Shakti/Shiva, yin/yang, and feminine/masculine. As this view, the expressed universe surrounding and including you is intrinsically, unavoidably, and necessarily light-dark bi-polarity in its most descriptive sense. This is why such traditions also make use of innumerable methods to maintain light-dark balance, including food, sound, the company we keep, exposure and connection with nature, times of day for certain activities, posture, and more.

This bi-polar world buys itself a label of "bipolar disorder" when a person's ordering of the intensity and/or ratio of light-dark interfacing changes against the background of a particular culture that does not understand the mechanics of light-dark interplay. Different ranges of light-dark access different ranges of perception, behavior, and understanding that may not be easily reconcilable with and by a particular culture–a phenomenon described in many philosophical texts. Although such texts and their corresponding traditions are certainly not infallible, they do recognize the importance of explorers spending at least some critical period of growth learning with someone who is well-practiced in managing light-dark homeostasis.

This is not to say that sitting with crossed legs and focusing on light–or some similar idea of meditation and introspection–is the solution to light-dark imbalance. What I am saying is until we as a modern and educated society begin to diligently and consistently investigate the nature of light and dark with our own instruments (mind, consciousness, body)–which in many cases remain unfamiliar to us–and not only through the secondary instruments of digital screens, telescopes, chemical analyzers, and photon counters, we will not understand the underlying mechanisms that express as dis-ordered bi-polarity. Without this understanding and without the willingness and skill to engage this light-dark mechanism, our treatments can offer only so much.

Once we do responsibly engage light-dark exploration, our understanding of "bipolar disorder" and many other dis-orderings will improve in leaps and bounds.

Anoop Kumar, MD, MMgt is a physician, author, and speaker who communicates about the intersection of consciousness and everything else. He is the creator of the Three Minds framework and Second Mind Medicine. By training, Anoop board-certified in emergency medicine and hold a master's degree in management with a focus in health leadership.

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