“Dad! Nathan and I just did the giant slingshot! We shot way up into the sky overlooking Myrtle Beach; it was awesome! I feel so great, I’ve never felt like this in my life!”
Ten minutes later, a second phone call:
“Dad. We just got back to where I parked my car. It’s gone, they towed it away. I’m so depressed, I’ve never felt this bad in my life.”
“Well Erica, you’ve just experienced, firsthand, bipolar disorder—a better lesson than you’ll ever get in a psychopathology class at school.”
It is the consequence of bouncing between polar extremes that gives bipolar a bad name, but the truth is that all life is produced and powered by two mutually dependent opposing energies. In my daughter’s experience these opposing energies are opposite ends of the same system. What goes up must come down. What goes way up must come way down.
Everything that exists is a composite of opposing energies. All elements are constituted of opposing energies that bond them together. Electricity contains positive and negative energies, which combined create power. Daily life requires day and night—awake active time and sleep dormant time to rejuvenate and sustain itself. We strive for order but hunger for chaos. The light or ‘rational day’ dims to the irrational release of the night. Boredom is the result of too much living in the day. Addiction is too much living in the night. The human challenge is to reconcile these bipolar energies within the self. Most problems in life arise from an overattachment to one or the other opposing energies. True reconciliation must include an acceptance and joining of both of these primal energies.
In the East, this human dilemma is energetically seen in the spine of the human body. At the base of the spine, in the sacrum bone, resides Kundalini Shakti, a primordial cosmic energy, the divine feminine creative power, corporeal energy at the feminine pole. Kundalini lies coiled up like a snake, dormant, awaiting awakening. At the crown of the head resides Vishnu, the supreme masculine god, associated with light and the sun. Many yogic practitioners focus meditation upon awakening Kundalini to rise through the chakras and ultimately merge with Vishnu in transcendent bliss.
In the East, this androgynous bipolar nature in humans—that is, as containers of both masculine and feminine energy—is depicted in gods with genitalia of both sexes. In the West, these primal energies have been completely polarized and assigned to respective sexes: men as masculine energy, women as feminine energy. The contrasexual nature in both men and women is projected outwardly onto members of the opposite sex, or onto members of the same sex who nonetheless personify opposite energy. Herein lies the compulsion to relationship in the West. If we are sex-typed to only one of our primal energies we are compelled to seek the other in relationship in order to achieve wholeness and completion. The inner mysterious other energy can only be found ‘out there’ in another. We must find it, possess it, and merge with it, after all, it is us—we cannot live without it.
Of course, the opposition inherent in these opposing energies is no less challenging to resolve in relationship than it is in doing years of meditation and yogic practice. People enter relationships, briefly, under the romance of felt wholeness—having finally joined with their lost other, their soul mate—only to shortly encounter the conflicts that naturally arise between polar opposites.
One polar energy always seeks to control or dominate the other. Each wants the world their way. Compromise, more often than not, results in secret resentment. Well-ordered agreement often results in secret chaotic affair. True relationship, deep intimacy, requires a genuine meeting and joining of Kundalini and Vishnu, not a meeting of power and subservience.
The split and projection of polar energies in the Western psyche is also evident in the rise of science and the downfall of organized religion. Religion once ruled the world; early scientists were put to death. In the modern world, though many in the West affiliate with a particular religion, it’s far less a spiritual affair and more of a social identity. Now science rules.
Actually, modern Western religion aligns itself more with science and rationality than it would appear. The deep connection to spirituality—the feminine power of intuition and religious or numinous experience—split off from the tightly controlled, rule-based rational church and synagogue long ago and found life in the secret traditions of alchemy, the Kabbalah, astrology, and the like. We read the weather report to satisfy our rational, ordered lives and the horoscope to feed our mysterious, intuitive, irrational lives.
With the election of Obama, America, and frankly the entire world, saw the transfer of power from the masculine pole to the feminine pole. It’s not just racism that seeks to unseat and destroy Obama; it’s a black and white issue at a deeper level. Blackness is associated with the darkness, the night, the earth, the maternal, the feminine, the mysterious, the irrational, the Kundalini energy of the self. In our fragmented Western world, whiteness—bright, light, rational, masculine energy—that has dominated the world for so long, in a deeply polarized fashion, leading to its current extremely precarious condition, is threatened and reacting with all the hysterics currently played out by the Republican party. Though Obama has, in actuality, fallen way short of Pachamama’s true need to be properly cared for, he nonetheless symbolizes a shift away from the long domineering, extremely polarized masculine energy bent on greed and destruction.
Looking elsewhere in the world, we see the same interplay of polarized energies, interestingly and relevantly, in the main players of World War II. Japan, who destroyed Pearl Harbor in a blast of masculine aggression that drew the United States into World War II, has been devastated by the recent tsunami, with Pachamama directing her energy at nuclear power plants.
On Memorial Day, Germany, the main perpetrator of abuse of masculine power in World War II, announced the decision to close all nuclear power plants over the next decade. Furthermore, Germany’s economy has grown slowly but steadily in the midst of the current world recession. This economic growth has not been at the expense of social programs and basic needs in Germany. Germany has been willing to grow less and take care of the needs of its citizens, as well as prepare to pay more for energy as it gives up nuclear power as a source of energy. Germany, with this decision, is doing the right thing for itself and the health of the world. Here we have a country that, after brutalizing the world and attempting to extinguish a scapegoated people, has emerged with a conscience and a new balance of masculine and feminine energies, showing genuine leadership in the modern world.
Finally, Israel—though well-prepared for prior to World War II, through a well-established Zionist movement—is a modern country created and sanctified as a compensation to a people nearly wiped out during World War II. Unfortunately, as subsequent history has proven, this did not go smoothly, as displaced Palestinians and Arab neighbors have not been so accepting of this decision by the Allied Powers. Israelis in turn, well-schooled by centuries of Diasporas and holocausts, dug in their heels to fiercely preserve their people and their homeland.
Today, that protective fierceness has polarized into dominance by masculine energy and a rigidity that Obama recently challenged by insisting that negotiation with the Palestinians be based on the 1967 border agreement. How will it play out? Resolution will require a reconciliation of the bipolar energies—clear boundaries (masculine pole) that care for the welfare of all peoples (feminine pole).
Our bipolar selves and bipolar world demand that we take on the challenge of finding our wholeness in acceptance and reconciliation of the opposing energies that we are. This requires owning our bipolar nature and forging a relationship with opposing energies. There are hopeful signs in the world now that our bipolar disorder may find its way into the balance of a new bipolar order.