1.3.1 Bipolar Ethology

After the “scientific experiment” of episode III, I realized that I saw something that doubtless very few people have seen. The rational explanation which unifies my episodes is so simple that I wonder why I haven’t read it in any bipolar disorder related material. This experience related to what is deepest, archaic and animal in a human being. I believe this unambiguous eye contact between me and women refers to some kind of deep connection between individuals. I thus assert that a bipolar patient is a dominant individual during his manic episode. Dominant must be understood in it is ethological meaning. For the moment, let’s content ourselves with this unusual and counterintuitive assertion. Be surprised but don’t be afraid, I will elaborate on this concept in the next articles. However the question is how can a mentally ill person be dominant? Again, I’m building the picture here like you would do it in a brain storming session. Things will get clearer and clearer as we’ll detail the theory.

By the way, what does that mean to be dominant? From an ethological perspective, a dominant is the lucky guy who gets preferential access to both resources and reproduction. He’s located also on top of the so called dominance hierarchy. Again, the change of women’s behavior was animal and instinctive. This feeling to be immediately accepted as mating opportunity without costly courtship process can be translated, from a theoretical perspective, into an ethological privilege that is usually granted only to alpha male. As a consequence, the evolution theory was blowing in my sails, hugely inflating my selective value (fitness). The boat was the same boat, only the wind changed. I other words, my fitness skyrocketed while my DNA remained unchanged. I am not wolverine, so how was this possible? How a simple guy could impress women without any knowledge of who he was? Nothing in my external appearance had changed: one 501, a shirt, and a jacket. How on earth these women detected my internal manic all-mighty feeling? Correlatively, how, suddenly, the reality depended on the internal state of the subject? It is known for a fact that women drive you crazy. But it seems that something drives them crazy too. Nature, in its great wisdom, balances the relationship so that everybody gets… mad!

Let’s return to the article goal of linking bipolarity and dominance. A few months after my episode III, the mood had come down again and the episode started to fall into oblivion. I was satisfied that it did not have any impact on my job and in my private life. I was toying with the concept of dominance bearing in mind that a lot of silly ideas crossed my mind when up. When you are bipolar and you want to think things seriously you need to make sure your ideas are still valid both in ups and downs. Otherwise, it is a hint that something foolish is being thought. The idea was still present even if was slightly depressed, so maybe it wasn’t a bad idea after all. One day, I wanted to find out for sure and decided to do some internet investigations. These were fruitless at the beginning. Google was not cooperative. It returned nothing using keywords like bipolar and dominance. Lot of crap like “How to be an alpha male” spammed my Google screen. Eventually, I won the Google lottery when I entered 3 magic words: Bipolar, Dominance, Submissiveness. A single link in the middle of tons of garbage appeared as if by magic: the behavior of dominance / submission as model of the mania and the depression.

Source: DOMINANT-SUBMISSIVE BEHAVIOR AS MODEL OF MANIA AND DEPRESSION CNRS/INIST/Neuroscience and behavioral reviews. Malatynska E, Knapp RJ (2005) – Abstract
This review examines the ways in which dominant-subordinate behavior in animals, as determined in laboratory studies, can be used to model depression and mania in humans. Affective disorders are mood illnesses with two opposite poles, melancholia (depression) and mania that are expressed to different degrees in affected individuals. Dominance and submissiveness are also two contrasting behavioral poles distributed as a continuum along an axis with less or more dominant or submissive animals. The premise of this article is that important elements of both mania and depression can be modeled in rats and mice based on observation of dominant and submissive behavior exhibited under well-defined conditions. Studies from our own research, where dominance and submissiveness are defined in a competition test and measured as the relative success of two food-restricted rats to gain access to a feeder, have yielded a paradigm that we call the Dominant Submissive Relationship (DSR). This paradigm results in two models sensitive to drugs used to treat mood disorders. Specifically, drugs used to treat mania inhibit the dominant behavior of rats gaining access to food at the expense of an opponent (Reduction of Dominant Behavior Model or RDBM), whereas antidepressants counteract the behavior of rats losing such encounters.

When I finish reading this extract on the internet, my soul was filled up with elation. I was not that crazy after all. In brief, the medication that you’re given has a direct impact on dominance in animals. This clearly establishes a relationship between bipolarity and dominance. However, let’s do not draw hasty conclusion. The main topic of this publication from Knapp & Malatynska is to provide a framework valid for bipolar drug testing. It is not meant to discuss the link between mood disorder and dominance. However, when you read their material in detail, the authors seem to accept this relationship as a rationale. It could be argued that it is only about mice and rats. In the depiction of my experience, I have attempted to share something universal in animal, as a primitive and instinctual phenomenon. Dominance is a widespread phenomenon in Nature. Thus, it is not absurd to extrapolate the concept to include human being in it. I do not violate my rational mind in doing so.

It was not the end of the story. When you start to do investigation on bipolar topic, the thread tends to be prolific. I purchased the study. Science is not generous. I found it expensive to pay 28 dollars. But it was worth it. In the list of references where the authors indicates the credits, I discovered another scientist who reinforced my theory. Price (now you know why science is expensive: It has a price!) shared his intuition on mental illnesses in Lancet in 1967.

In our evolution, we passed through a stage in which small social groups were regulated by strict dominance hierarchy; much as now exists in societies of baboons and macaque
s. For their stability, hierarchies require certain behavior patterns from their members: irritability towards inferiors, anxiety towards superiors, and elation on going up the hierarchy and depression on going down. Because of the great survival advantage to the group which a well-functioning hierarchy provides, these behavior patterns have been strongly selected for. Equilibrium was reached when the advantage they provided was balanced by the disadvantage of excess of such behavior. These excesses are manifested as mental illness; excesses of stable dominance hierarchy behavior as the chronic illnesses such as anxiety neurosis, schizophrenia, and aggressive personality; and excesses of the behavior associated with changes in the hierarchy as the phasic mental illnesses such as mania and depressive psychosis. The main prediction from the hypothesis is that factors which increase or reduce dominance hierarchy behavior will have malignant or beneficial effects on mental illness. The main factor increasing such behavior is instability in the hierarchy. The behavior is reduced by strict control of the hierarchy from above, or by aggressive involvement with another social group. From general observation on man, it would also appear that alcohol (and other sedative drugs) and emotions akin to that of a religious love are powerful inhibitors. It is hoped that a psychiatric formulation of the hypothesis, which has been advocated in various forms by ethologists for many years, will give a stimulus to research on dominance hierarchy behavior in animals and man.

Here, the relationship between dominance and bipolarity is clearly asserted. It is a 40 years old intuition which has strongly inspired Malatynska and Knapp in their research. The link between state of mood and dominance (in its ethological meaning) build a bridge between psychiatry and ethology. I’m not mad, it is science! Ok, point taken, that’s mad science. But see, I’m not the first one to have established the link. However, this will be the thread of my blog where I will elaborate on the consequences of this link. Price paved the way for a theory which will be built upon evolutionary psychology, psychiatry and ethology. Darwin will call the shots.

Abba / The Winner Takes it All
I don’t wanna talk
About the things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play
The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny
I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules
The gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain.
But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say
Rules must be obeyed
The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all
I don’t wanna talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all……

MGMT / Time to pretend
This is our decision to live fast and die young.
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
Yeah it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?


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