1.4.2 Fluctuations

In the previous post, you had the opportunity to get acquainted with state of the art ethological notions. You became familiar with such concept as dominance and its framework: the dominance hierarchy. The aim is not to put the whole ethological edifice in question. The objective is rather to clarify what is the cause of the dominance hierarchy phenomenon. To me, the ultimate cause is to be found within the brain.

Source: Wikipedia, Psychoactive drugs
a psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic is a chemical substance that crosses the blood–brain barrier and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function, resulting in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior.

The medication that I take has a direct impact on animal dominance as demonstrated by a previous post. There is no question that the consequences are similar in humans. I stress again that a manic behavior show obvious features of a dominant individual (Sexuality, Struggle for life, Sociability) whereas the severely depressed seems to lose all encounters, the nature of which will be defined in the next posts. Low mood locates you at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy or even exclude you from it. Ups and lows are brain chemistry, and they seem to relate strangely with some kind of mood hierarchy.

I’m fully aware that what I say is extremely tough at first sight. This blog is a scientific one. It is not meant for Sissy. However, don’t be too shocked. The expression of dominance in human behavior does not imply violence. It is much subtler than that and this trait that I will define in next posts is doubtless what makes us what we are. Dominance expression is the landmark of a particular animal species when you think of it. But let’s stick to the seemingly paradoxical assumption that dominance lies within the meanders of the brain. I’m not a neurologist therefore I cannot detail all the brain chemistry (neuro-transmitter, hormones…) which is involved in dominance. What I can do though, because I can observe myself being bipolar, is to synthetically define what science is still not capable of understanding in chemistry detail. To me, dominance is a “volume knob” that drives all the mental and physiological processes of the body. It is a catalyst, an amplifier. A manic episode leads you to the edge of your limits for the catalyst amplify your body and mind like a spark ignite a gasoline cloud. 15 years ago, doctors told my mother that I would never recover. These were the same who did not diagnose my illness properly.

Now that we have set up this volume knob, all we need to do is to manipulate it and then observe the results. The volume is zero, mood is at its theoretical bottommost, I don’t envy you because suicidal tendencies are at their peak, motor functioning is low and your train of thought cannot compete with a slug. The rest of your ever-depleting energy will be used to attempt suicide. Let’s brutally summarize: you are a living dead. Let’s increase the volume. At a certain level, you have a normal life, you feel reasonably like moving (travelling, buying your baguette,), learning, interacting with people and do things. This is the euthymia level. Let’s turn the knob higher. You outperform everybody, you are a workaholic, and you want to have the lead on each and every task you perform. However this remains within the generally accepted social behavior. Even best, you sit on the top of the dominance hierarchy that rewards social performance. At that volume level, this is hypomania. Now let’s pump up the volume, no limits! You are now agitated beyond all social recognition, you feel al-mighty. I’m afraid that you are now a dominant caricature. At that level, this is mania and you will be sent to the nearest psychiatric hospital because you have lost grip with reality.

So, when you’re told that you suffer from bipolar disorder, you have to ask yourself what is the meaning of bipolar. I think bipolar is accurate for the diagnosis because we sway from one mood extreme to another. If we compare with temperature, we fluctuate from -20°C (- 4°F) to +50°C (122 °F). You cannot deny then that everyone including the boring sane people has their own euthymic temperature which is say 20° C (68 °F). Everybody is then distributed along a temperature continuum that classifies us into different mood states. Wait a minute, elation and depression, according to Price reveals the functioning of dominance hierarchy. Could it be that the mood is a measure of our dominance? Mood is low and high. Dominance is also low and high. It can also be manically exaggerated. This will make more sense in the next post.

The bipolar illness that should be better named dominance disorder reveals that volume knob that all of us have inside. My knob can be increased to an unbearable level, triggering a Larsen effect. Your volume, as a sane guy, varies within a socially compatible range. Your neighbors won’t call the police for the noise! I want to stress that my idea is completely in line with the usual scientific representation of the mood fluctuation. However each time you hear mood, don’t forget that dominance is close. So according to the picture below, dominance fluctuates. That’s completely normal. If you thought that measuring 6 feet 10 will gives a dominant status, you’re taking Nature for more stupid than it is. How nature does know that size matters without a dominance hierarchy?


In conclusion, dominance can be considered as an algebraic value the same way as fitness. I must add immediately that the knowledge of this value is extremely difficult. You cannot precisely know it. All that you can distinguish is depression, normal frame of mind (euthymia), hypomania and mania. But what you can distinguish is not what nature can distinguish. It is so gifted to detect skews that will be eligible for natural selection. I would not advocate an organization according to the dominance. First because it is hard to evaluate, second because it makes absolutely no sense at all. We’ll see that in next posts. At some point social organization and dominance hierarchy will have to be compared. Again, dominance is not the magic bullet for natural selection. Don’t forget that it catalyze you. So you are part of the story. If you’re stupid, dominance will make you more stupid. It amplifies, reveals all that is in you. It will not turn an idiot into a PhD. It will turn an idiot into a very dumb. Dominance catalyzes you but only you will come to term with natural selection.


Axel Bauer/cargo de nuit
Mais cette machine dans ma tête
Machine sourde et tempête
Mais cette machine dans ma tête
Leitmotiv, nuit secrète
Tatoue mon âme à mon dégoût

This machine in my head
Deaf machine and storm
This machine in my head
Leitmotiv, secret night
My soul gets tattooed, repulsively

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