Thursday, July 1, 2010

Resolving Human Bipolarity

As a woman who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for a while now, I've had the opportunity to observe how this so-called "disease" manifests inside me, as well as to notice when and why it manifests. I've also learned what to do to help myself move beyond it, to the point where it no longer feels like a medical disorder but has actually become a helpful tool for navigating reality.

The good news is, bipolar disorder isn't "personal." It's actually happening to a whole lot of people these days, which means it's probably something humanity has to move through as part of a collective evolutionary shift in our consciousness.

The best way to explain what I see as the cause of bipolar disorder is to use a computer metaphor most people can understand. Anyone who's ever owned a computer knows that they rely on a basic operating system to make them work. Programmers write applications specific to the operating system using languages the system understands. Things may run smoothly for a while, but inevitably we learn that the operating system we've been using has some serious limitations, so we upgrade to a new operating system. Unfortunately though, after we upgrade we often discover that our old applications will no longer run on the new operating system. That means we need to buy brand new applications (or application upgrades) to get our new system to work.

The modern human brain - like many computers nowadays - is concurrently running dual operating systems: let's call them Humanity 1.0 and Humanity 2.0. Humanity 1.0 has been mankind's default operating system for many thousands of years now. It's a system that basically tells us we're each separate from everything else and that life is a win/lose game. Humanity 1.0's programs are filled with usses and thems, victims and persecutors, the victors and the vanquished. In Humanity 1.0, mankind is the ruler of all that he sees and the entire natural world is his to exploit for strategic advantage. Virtually all our present social applications - our traditional religions, judicial systems, educational systems, economic infrastructures and political systems - were designed to operate effectively using Humanity 1.0.

Sometime in the recent past a new operating system birthed itself into being, one with fewer limitations and a lot of exciting possibilities for the future. It's a pretty cool system too, in that it removes the fear of loss from the game of life and replaces it with things like trust, love and social harmony. Humanity 2.0 informs us we live in a unified, interconnected and fully alive world in which our differentiation doesn't separate us from everything else so much as makes us more valuable to the whole, which in turn nourishes and supports us as individuals and as a collective. Humanity 2.0 proposes that, because everything in life is inextricably interconnected, the only way any of us can truly win is if we all play a win/win game. In Humanity 2.0, mankind's role is to carefully steward the world's natural resources for the long term benefit of all the life forms with whom we share our space. While Humanity 2.0 is a wonderful operating system, to date mankind hasn't written many applications that run on it. That makes it really hard for our brains to function well in 2.0, because our existing programs only run on 1.0.

What, you're probably asking by now, does any of this have to do with human bipolar disorder? My proposition, based on my own internal experience, is that what we presently call bipolar disorder is actually a clinical observation of what happens to people under one of four problematic operating conditions:

1) Their minds are running on Humanity 1.0 and they perceive themselves as big losers in the game of life (depression.)

2) Their minds are running on Humanity 1.0 and they momentarily perceive themselves as huge winners in the game of life (mania.)

3) Their minds are running on Humanity 2.0, but they keep bucking up against those who are running on 1.0 and don't understand how to play a win/win game (depression.)

4) Their minds are running on Humanity 2.0, but they haven't yet found enough useful applications to help them manage the system's immense capacities and bring some working structure to the game of life (mania).

The trouble is, none of the programs we've written for Humanity 1.0 will run on Humanity 2.0, because win/lose games are fundamentally incompatible with a win/win operating system. If we try running a 1.0 program on the 2.0 system we wind up with a total system crash, which I can tell you REALLY hurts the head! A hard reboot will eventually restart the system, but it isn't a pleasant experience from inside.

For an example of the kind of system incompatibility I'm talking about, let's consider the environmental folks known as "ELF," which stands for "Environmental Liberation Front." As 2.0 operators, they fervently want all of us to do whatever we can to nurture and support the environment that sustains us. So far, so good. The trouble begins though, when they then go out and blow up automobile dealerships that sell gas guzzling trucks and SUV's to make their point. That's clearly a 1.0 solution for a 2.0 operation. It's also bound to get the attention of the 1.0 police, who perceive the new system as some kind of worm, virus or other no-good intruder and try to kill it, or at least box it up for a good long time so it can't create any more conflict with the 1.0 system.

An example of 2.0 software that some people tried - and failed miserably - to run on the 1.0 system would be (don't bite my head off!) communism. As an economic philosophy communism was a win/win application, written to illustrate what our world could look like if everyone supported everyone else in maximizing their talents, passions and skills, then we each gifted of our abilities freely to everyone else. It predicted a world of peaceful abundance, and would have been just fine running on Humanity 2.0. The trouble with applying communism to society at the time it was first implemented was that the 2.0 operating system wasn't up and running in nearly enough human beings, so the proponents of communism tried to jam it onto Humanity 1.0 using the power and fear of fascism to make it work. Win/win games can't succeed at the point of a gun, so the 2.0 program crashed and burned and everyone assumed the program itself was very badly written. Unfortunate, but predictable with the benefit of 2.0 hindsight.

The key to successfully navigating this complex systems/programming mess seems to be twofold. First, we must remember there is always an operator - our own internal sense of awareness - who can choose, at any moment, which operating system he or she wants to run. If we don't choose consciously, our unconscious mind will choose a system for us, which means by default we'll mainly be running the very limited Humanity 1.0, since it's the system most compatible with our existing applications. If we choose instead to consciously run Humanity 2.0, which is kind of like an iPhone on super steroids, we then have to take some responsibility for designing new software for everyone else so they can see what a really cool system we're able to run. The early software we write probably won't shake up the world, but if we can design a couple of really neat applications and begin using them consistently we're going to demonstrate swiftly how much more we can collectively accomplish - and how much faster - using 2.0. One amazing 2.0 application already in operation is the Internet itself, which offers a dizzying array of information and fresh new ideas to anyone with access to a computer...and does so for free, out of the deep desire to give and share of ourselves.

My recommendation is that everyone check out the new Humanity 2.0 operating system for themselves and play around with the possibilities. Let's then put our heads together and see what software we can come up with to make it work for us all. The sooner we do so, the quicker we can retire Humanity 1.0 with honors, and the sooner "bipolar disorder" will become a disease of the past.