Tuesday, February 21, 2006

2 Types of Happiness

I've been alluding to it in the last few posts, so here's a full exposition:

Generally we (I?) tend to think of our BiPolar mood states as some kind of spectrum with total lack of excitement at the one end (depression) and total over excitement at the end (mania). And, as depression is at the "lack" end, I, for one, always equate happiness with excitement. No excitement and things are just plain bland.

The problem with this spectrum is where does contentment fit? Contentment doesn't need excitement, but it is certainly not depression.

One of the reasons why our society tends to concentrate on excitement rather than contentment is that the global economy depends on it. Producers need a populace of never-satisfied consumers, that want more and more and more. Advertising exploits this, pushing the cool of the latest trendiest goods (and the uncool of the older ones). The very last thing the global economy wants is a world of content people that are quite satisfied with their lot in life. Capitalism would grind to a halt. As Time magazine put it in a feature article on the contentment derived from regular meditation: "meditation helps you accumulate contentment, but not real estate."

So straight away, we've got the cards stacked against us with our quest for contentment. Advertising penentrates deeper into our psyches than most of us realise.

But for BiPolars, the contentment quest is even more difficult. Extreme happiness is exciting for sure. Exhilarating. Intoxicating. So when you've tasted mania or hypomania, which, by definition, is a state of over-excitement, we tend to become bored with, what for other people is normality - hence depression.

The German Philosopher Schopenhauer described it eloquently:

"as soon as want and suffering present rest to a man, ennui is at once so near that he necessarily requires diversion"

Yeah, I had to look up "ennui" in the dictionary:

"boredom and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement" - Collins Paperback Dictionary.

Spot on! Exactly what I've been trying to say in this post. Us BiPolars need mania to be unbored, but mania cannot be sustained, so boredom results in depression.

Which is why I'm gonna stick with meditation. Hoping to up it soon from 20 minutes a day to 25. Screw the real estate - I'll take the contentment and try keep out of the excitement/non-excitement spectrum for as long as I can.

It's no surprise that I've turned my attention to contentment. Having Miss L living with me, finally, after all these years, has bought a new mindset into my life. A deep calm. Contentment?

Having said all of this I'm having a pretty shitty day. I try my hardest to divorce my thoughts from my moods, which is why this post sounds positive. The down is probably due to not getting a proper sleep for the past 4 nights. Bound to catch up with ya.


  1. You need to get some sleep!!

  2. The other day I wrote a little article comparing myself to an private airplane -- either I was up in the air for a few hours or I was down on the ground for days and days.

    There's a problem: I don't just live in the extremes. It just felt like that at the time.

    Susan Sontag spent her life battling the construction of our lives entirely on metaphors. We might, for example, romanticize cancer as a judgement on ourselves. But really, it is just cancer and the best way to face it is to know it for what it is and undertake chemotherapy.

    Likewise, I need to be mindful of the analogy of the airplane. In the short term, it can help another person understand my illness and in the long term it can lead them to stigmatize me, to assume that I am mostly in a state of illness. And for me, it means that I ignore the fact that most of my life I am on undulating in states that are neither manic nor depressed.

    The moral of the story? I turn again to Sontag: "Metaphors mislead."

    Grapple life or shake its hand as you are.

  3. I have found contentment. Contentment to me is accepting my illness and living the best I can in spite of it. Knowing that both of my children are ok. ( That is a HUGE factor) Having a place that is mine, a safe nest with no one abusive or critical allowed in, having enough , enough income to provide for basic needs. I lived thru some severe times where I didnt have these things. My daughter was NOT ok, for a long time I didnt think she was gonna make it. While I waiting for my disability and pension to be approved I had no income for several months and had to stay with an abusive ex. There was nowhere else to go but the streets. Anymore I am easily contented. Just let my kids be ok and let me have what I need to be safe and have the basic nessecities of life and I am content and greatful. The illness is what it is and I deal with it the best I can. Would I be happier without it- Definitely. but I am content. When hypomanic (which is not often enough to suit me) I have learned to have projects to work on that keep me occupied and safe. Maybe if I ever hit full mania that would be different , but then there is something else to be greatful for

  4. I should add that when i am in severe depression I am of course not happy at all, but in my life I am still content.

  5. I'd take contentment over excitement any day.

  6. I guess, i'm not bipolar. No medical statement of the situation, at least. But I've got bored with my gray and stupid life, that's for sure. I wasn't contented with it.

  7. have a nice day , greetz from holland…

  8. I wonder; can I learn to be content with constant excitement?


  9. when i get bored i get into trouble and lean towards hypomania or depression, depending on the source of boredom

  10. Great post. The only way I knew what ennui meant was because I speak French.

    I love how you said we think excitement is happiness--that is so bipolar!! I totally get bored with other peoples idea of excitement and fun. Spot on indeed.

    Thanks for shining the torch upon a spot I couldn't quite find inside me and thus define.


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