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Bipolar Disorder and Spiritual Awakening

Are people who suffer from bipolar disorder really just spiritually awakened?  Is enlightenment in the modern world being diagnosed as a mental illness?

People are coming to a fascinating conclusion: bipolar mania is actually spiritual enlightenment or awakening.  How do I know this?  I suppose if you fish around the internet you’ll find this theory threaded around the various places where seekers are congregating.  I haven’t looked, to be honest, because I didn’t find this topic, it found me.  Looking at the search statistics for ModernAwakenings.com, I have been surprised to find that search terms are trending high that indicate people are making a connection between bipolar disorder, specifically the manic phase, and enlightenment.  Their search leads them to this website.

Sorry, I’m not going to be corroborating that theory for you.  Not even close.  As someone who has been through and continues to “go through” the enlightenment process, and someone who has also been intimately involved with people who are bipolar, and as a person who witnessed one person diagnosed with bipolar claim to be enlightened during a severe manic phase (that led, incidentally, to profound psychosis and ultimately, death)…I do not see that there is any link between bipolar disorder and enlightenment.

There are a lot of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who believe they are special. That having this mental signature makes them more creative, more intelligent, and so on.  I’ve known people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who fit that description, and I’ve known others who were quite the opposite.  So “being” bipolar is not an indication of any special talent. And being hypo-manic or fully manic is certainly not an indication of spiritual awakening.

So why are people confusing the two?  I can see why they might seem superficially similar.  There is this sweet spot in the mania spectrum, what might be thought of as the top end of hypo-manic, where people can experience all kinds of intense states of mind, such as euphoria.  They also run a lot of energy, become insanely charismatic and sometimes can experience a kind of one-pointedness of mind that they mistake for complete clarity or ultimate revelation.  They can even produce phenomena around them that seem paranormal.

This appears very similar on the surface to bliss states of spiritual awakening, the demonstration of siddhi powers, kundalini activation, third eye activation, resting in Clear Light, and so forth.  It’s not.

That’s not to say that people with bipolar disorder can’t awaken spiritually. In fact, there is something about their unique and challenging energy signature that gives them an extra push to revealing their true nature.  To effectively manage their condition, they need to vigilantly watch their thoughts, examine their thoughts, and challenge the reality of their thoughts and the emotions that follow.  It’s imperative. Because the manic phase brings paranoid thoughts, which are not real.  It brings thoughts of promiscuous sex, which is not really what you want.  It brings thoughts of invincibility, of maxing out your credit card on stuff you don’t even need, of gambling, of joining/starting a cult, of all kinds of things that are not real, not you. The depressive phase brings all kinds of thoughts that are also not real.  Thoughts of self harm, worthlessness, unbearable pain.  They are not real, and they are not you.

People who are not diagnosed as bipolar are effectively doing the same thing. They spend their lives in a thought world, a world that is not real, but their thoughts are more middle of the road so they don’t set off the big alarm bells, they don’t cause them to stop and say, “Who am I? Are these thoughts real?  Do they come from me?  Who is thinking the thoughts?” They are still sleepwalking, but it’s okay because their dream is just not that intense.  They can afford to be lazy, but people living with bipolar disorder can’t.  Being lazy means you might miss the small window when you have the ability to stop the momentum.  It’s actually a very short choice point, but those that master this can thrive.  But it’s absolutely a martial art.

So, while being bipolar doesn’t grant you some special status in terms of sudden enlightenment, it absolutely puts your feet to the coals.  You get a special invitation in neon, with dancing girls and fireworks: You are cordially invited to watch your mind, and in doing so, discover who you really are.  You are not blessed with this disorder, but neither are you cursed.  You are invited.


The Martial Art of Managing Bipolar Disorder

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications


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10 comments

  1. Rainbow says:

    You are not in the minds and bodies of people that experience “bipolar disorder.” I have a friend who experiences a true connection with all things and feelings of love during her “manias.” She’s actually a very bright/loving person. I also used to work with a bipolar child who would get very angry during his manias. But strangely enough, would demonstrate moments of the most peaceful state of mind. I think the label of bipolar is just extreme ends of the true center of who we are. It’s not to be judged. Who is anyone to say they are not having their own enlightening/spiritual experiences?

    • 21st Century Bodhi says:

      Who says I am “judging”? Distinguishing one thing from another is not judging. Most people distinguish and judge at the same time, but it is not the same thing and does not always happen together. I am distinguishing, and I’ve noticed that this makes a lot of people really uncomfortable.

      Also, I see that people have a certain set of definitions for what enlightenment is. After the threshold of enlightenment, the plurality of definitions goes away. There is a distinct difference between having spiritual experiences and enlightenment. Until you’ve crossed that threshold, you think they are the same.

      Anytime you open your mouth to say anything other than “it’s all good”, you are supposedly judging. And even talking about mental illness is very touchy. I never said people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are excluded from having spiritual experiences or crossing the threshold of enlightenment. I said that mania is not the same as enlightenment, even if on the surface, it can appear similar.

      Doctors don’t know what bipolar disorder is. They see a complex of symptoms and give it a name. But they don’t know what it is or what causes it or anything. There is no physical trace. It’s not like they can look anywhere in the body and actually point to it. It appears to be a wider range of mood, but it’s not just that. People who suffer from this are not merely more jacked up or more sad than the average person. And your true self is not the middle spot on a mood scale. Your true self is beyond mood.

      Accusing a person of judging has become the default way to dismiss what a person is communicating, rather than attempting to understand what is being said. And you don’t have to be in a person’s body or mind to know something about what is happening with them. For instance, a doctor doesn’t need to be in your body or mind to see you have a broken arm. Your mother might see clearly that you are addicted to drugs, even if you insist you’ve got it under control and are not an addict. There are plenty of situations in which a person can have a good idea about what is actually happening or not happening with another person.

      So I’m going to restate the point of my article. It’s really just this simple. Bipolar mania is not the same as spiritual enlightenment.

    • ash says:

      While I can see this written as a form of protection for bi polar individuals, I do not believe it is entirely true as you have written so matter of factly. This is coming from a bi polar individual who experienced the highs, a very odd side for the female gender to experience. During my mania experienced complete interconnectedness. In addition, I did feel special. I felt as though I could educate others on the truth of connected being. Of course my reality was off- and this is important to recognize- but it is not to say that I did not receive powerful minsight.

      Anyone with bipolar probably realizes the mental health care system is off. And what most people don’t realize is that any mania leads to the said diagnosis. So are we diagnosing right or are we missing an awakening.

      This reply is to give hope and to hopefully instigate change in the system- we are all different. Lithium is not the answer for everyonem

      With love and compassion,

      Ash

  2. Lozamay says:

    Wow – great article – thanks.
    I’m with ya…..We are Waking up to who we are – The End! We are Divine Multi-dimensional Beings who are in transition…each one of us an amazing Hero!

  3. Kris says:

    “To effectively manage their condition, they need to vigilantly watch their thoughts, examine their thoughts, and challenge the reality of their thoughts and the emotions that follow. It’s imperative..It’s absolutely a martial art” : this deeply resonates with me but how do I establish this vigilance/form a container for living this way? Vipassana? Transcendental meditation? Journaling? Something else? (Am just coming off meds now).Thank you!

    • 21st Century Bodhi says:

      Kris,
      Your question deserves a more thorough answer than I can offer in the comment stream. I’ll do a post with some suggestions soon. Keep an eye out for it in a day or two.

  4. Jan says:

    21st Century Bodhi, do you mean: “Bipolar mania is not the same as spiritual enlightenment.” when you say “I do not see that there is any link between bipolar disorder and enlightenment.”?

    I’m asking because it sounds to me as if these two are quite different statements. Getting forward and driving a car is not the same thing. But there is a link between driving and getting forward. And just because I have seen people sitting in a car that’s going backwards or not moving at all, or even see people in cars dying, that doesn’t mean that there is no connection between the two.

  5. Adda says:

    Thanks for this post. I have been going through kundalini experience. My kundalini started when I was having an affair with a bipolar man. During sex we used to talk through heart (without words)!! I’m trying to get over the hurt he caused me and actively trying to forgive him to accelerate opening my heart to the Beloved.

    I have often pondered over this question whether bipolar are waking up because the esp experiences I shared with ex and a friend who is diagnosed. I’m of the opinion that some of their higher faculties are open but they are more connected to lower frequencies of fear and their egos are too thick that they could not see beyond. It is as if they are experiencing hell without realising it.

    I also think one can’t mistake kundalini for something else. Nature will keep showing you the way, you can’t miss it.

  6. Mart says:

    Interesting article. I’ve been thinking its a gift. But the gift is the awakening. The bipolar is a result of adjustment. So much energy needs to be grounded or expressed. Lack of grounding or expression is frustrating. The energy burns you out and you need rest. It is an invitation. To know yourself. To heal yourself. To really be your true self and do what you love. Not be the person society expects you to be. Not do what your parents thought you should do. To do what’s right for you. This may look selfish and crazy to others but only in so doing can you find the balance.

  7. Gregg Schafer says:

    I wanted to get my comments on this subject I have been a bipolar Survivor for the last 22 years I have had the Mania of the depressive Lows. Back in 2013 and I’m unable to describe this to most people but at the time prior to this I just count gotten out of the hospital for a suicidal ideation about a year later I started going through a transformation I wanted to better my diet so I ate healthy I ran a lot and in the process of all this with the running while I was running primarily listening to music of course with Mania you do have heightened Sensations but these were more of a higher-level a much more Granduer your level than I had ever experienced before in fact I have had tingling sensations over the last four years. Primarily my brain area and throughout my my arms and I can tell it is a renewal of my body and the spirit so I would definitely say that this condition is totally different from mania. When the mind has undergone such bespair & extreme debilitating highs & lows it Isa “healing crises” or “spiritual Awakening” and I would have to say it’s been a gift beyond words and something that I am in the process of writing a book and going to be giving a presentation that’s what I’d also like to visit with others who have experienced these similar condition. Please reach out to me if you feel inclined!!

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