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An essay describing certain states of mind known as 'mania', 'hypomania' and 'psychosis' and the role that synchroncity or 'coincidence' plays in these experiences.

Something sets off the notion of a bird.

Maybe you're thinking of a skylark you saw yesterday, or maybe you have a feeling of wanting to 'fly away'.

The idea 'bird' includes all sorts of 'sub-ideas' branching off, even in normal consciousness such as 'flying', 'flight', 'wings' and 'tail'.

In the expanded (or 'hypo-manic') mind, there are two things happening: thoughts are speeded up in time (more ideas per minute) and expanded in space (more ideas at once). While thinking of a bird, in this state, one might also have a sense of 'airplanes', 'rudders', 'ostrich', 'robin redbreast', 'bluejay', 'dove', 'eagle', 'hawk', etc. and beyond even this... 'flutter', 'angels', 'pegasus', 'harpies', 'Medusa', and so on. One could quickly go into a stream of thought having to do with mythology.

The point is the mind, in this state, doesn't think of ALL the possible connections and branches, just much MORE than the normal-consciousness mind, and more quickly.

By virtue of the fact that there are more thoughts going on in this state, statistically the chances that you will encounter any of these sub-ideas outside of yourself is greater. When this happens, you have this kind of aha! experience which we tend to call 'coincidence'. An outside object has coincided with an inner thought. One would think this is concomitant with a chemical change in the brain, as is any subjective experience, perhaps an increase in dopamine.

One might for example, in the expanded/hypomanic state, while thinking about birds, see someone wearing a Paul McCartney and Wings t-shirt, or overhear a conversation about angels, or see a Condor flying on TV, or see a commercial for Hitchcock's 'The Birds', or hear a song by The Byrds on the radio or see a billboard advertising Dove soap, or see an airplane flying low advertising buffalo wings at a nearby restaurant... or any number of possible coincidences accompanied by a pleasurable 'aha!'.

Coincidence could be called the junk food of understanding. It may be like an empty calorie or a dead end but nevertheless you have it. Of course, it can be indicative of what one is thinking without one's complete awareness and may or may not be 'important', but it is nevertheless accompanied by a feeling of importance or a pleasurable and eerie 'significance'.

The mind can be a 'significance junkie' and gravitate toward a feeling of 'this is significant' or that it's 'onto something' because that's the sort of thing it's built to do.

This can lead you into some freaky areas if you don't manage the coincidences properly and see them for what they are: namely a statistical phenomenon indicative expanded associational thinking, rather than something necessarily significant.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and since the mind is part of nature, the expanded mind desires content, in other words, stimulation. One often finds stimulation, in modern environs, with devices such as the computer and television. These things are stimulating to the senses because they are a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of 'subjects' or 'objects' coming up at right angles to each other. Eventually, between the many inside thoughts and many outside objects, something is going to 'hit'.

These hits provide the basis of the common delusion of 'the television is talking to me' or is reading one's thoughts and why this is a standard question during intake at hospitalization.

If you had two groups of 25 people all throwing softballs at each other one group called 'TV' and one group called 'mental thoughts', statistically you're going to have a certain number of balls hitting each other in mid-space either glancing or head on. For a hypo-manic person watching TV is like a constant stream of softballs being thrown at each other.

The coincidences in this case can be pleasurable and compelling but also kind of scary because there is the possibility that you can get too drawn into this interesting experience and become lost in the coincidences... this can lead to a psychotic state, like a ball rolling down a hill you start to see coincidences, and then you make connections between the coincidences, then connections between the connections. And then connections between those connections.

Since this process is initially pleasurable, it is a kind of 'seduction'. Since it is a seduction it can be also scary. The instinctive recognition of the potential for getting lost is where the fear or 'freakiness' of the experience comes from. This is why the bipolar experience (which includes hypomania) and psychosis are so close to each other... as well as madness and creativity. In this latter pair, both have in them an activity of 'seeing connections'. The difference is artists use the coincidences in the making of art, and healthy ones can manage them. People who go mad tend to get caught up in the experience and it's accompanying chemical 'squirts', getting lost and addicted either to their own chemistry changes or seeking external substances they seek to control, or enhance these effects.

The 'will to meaning' that is peculiar to humans can explain why people go mad and not animals... because people's minds are geared primarily toward the experience of finding significance.

As Kurt Vonnegut said: "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, man gotta sit and wonder why? why? why?"

'Man' understands his world by buildling mental maps of it from the answers to 'why' questions, that is, finding the meaning to things.

Animals build maps of their the world through smells, sonar, sensing the magnetic field of the earth, temperature and any number of ways.

In other words m an makes his way through the world asking 'why' and when he finds out.... 'aha!'

In this way, one can think of madness, at least in one sense, as the mechanism of 'finding meaning' going out of control.



Creative Commons License Phineas Narco 2006
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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