From The Department Of “Can’t Win For Losing”

When I visit my shrink, I’m always crying.  But its not what you think.  I can cry at the drop of a hat.  Its a hallmark of my respect for her that she never asks me what’s wrong.  Nothing is wrong.  I’m happy all the time.  I’ll be having tears of joy coursing down my face most of the time.  I almost drown in my beard.  I think its because I’m so happy to be alive.


But, I wonder sometimes am I bipolar or not?  In that regard, I found this research report interesting.


In a new article to be published in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychologist June Gruber of Yale University considers how positive emotion may become negative in bipolar disorder.


Gruber points out that positive emotions are problematic for people with bipolar disorder even when they’re not experiencing mania. [emphasis added] Gruber has studied people whose bipolar disorder is in remission and found that they still experience more positive emotions than people who have never had bipolar disorder. More positive emotions may not sound like a bad thing, but there are times when these positive emotions aren’t appropriate.


Like laughing at a funeral.  Which I’ve done.  Or being paralyzed with shame last weekend.  Or, as I have been saying, I can burst into tears when I’m playing Klondike solitaire. 


“In our work, those with bipolar disorder continue to report greater positive emotions whether it’s a positive film, very sad film clip of a child crying over his father’s death, and even disgusting films involving someone digging through feces” Gruber she says.


Well, maybe that’s too much for me, but I get the point.  Too much of a good thing is a bad thing by itself.


In more recent work Gruber and her colleagues have found they still feel good even if a close romantic partner tells them something sad face to face, they still feel good. “It’s rose-colored glasses gone too far.”


Individual differences, of course, make generalizations difficult.  And the study has a small “n”.  Still, she continues,


Psychologists should also consider that there are downsides of positive emotions even for people who don’t have bipolar disorder, “Although positive emotions are generally good for us, when they take extreme forms or when they’re experienced in the wrong context, the benefits of positive emotion begin to unravel,” she says. The goal: “experience it in moderation, in the right place and time.”


A good choice.  And, in my 67 years I’ve been lucky. But am I’m skirting disaster?  For me, tomorrow its always a chance.





8 thoughts on “From The Department Of “Can’t Win For Losing”

  1. This is interesting. It seems to boil down to an overall problem with experiencing emotions in moderation, whether they are negative or positive. We seem to notice the negative more than the positive in all things, so that might be why this information is somewhat new and relatively unknown. No one really questions the good feelings. Thanks for sharing this info.

    1. I just composing a post to another blogging friend, and i thought it might be relevant to your post. so i;m copying to you. hope you don’t mind.

      i was thinking how to respond. and it took me several days because we’ve been co-responding [sic] and your question deserved a well thought out answer.

      I was writing to james [claims] about my wife, and i wrote,

      “i often wondered why she’s stuck with me. my shrink says that she stays with me because i “heal her depressive core”. i understand that. but it “feels” like love.

      i don’t know what “men” think. everyone’s reaction is different. i show you what works for me and that’s all i know. i get shameful. it hurts. i block the hurt…it all happens so, so fast! if i have the presence of mind to leave the room, quickly, before the verbal onslaughts get too severe, i’m okay. she’s steaming. if she goes after me, all hell breaks loose. but i used to go after her.

      nowadays, i cry, actually cry, “please stay away from me, i’m out of control”. i sleep for a couple of hours. she forgives me almost always. but we stay away from each other until we can stand each others presence.

      it hurts. it R-E-A-L-L-Y hurts. but we have a lot invested in each other. not like a business proposition. i’m invested in her well-being. she’s invested in my well-being.

      maybe that is THE answer. that’s all i know for now.

      keep in touch.

    2. Hence, a lot of people with bipolar disorder (especially bipolar II), often get a misdiagnosis of depression. Who actually complains of bipolar euphoric mania / hypomania? In fact, I’ve mistaken my dysphoric hypomania until this point as a severe onset of a depressive episode. I didn’t realize that there were two sides to mania!

  2. I’ve always told people that there are two hallmark symptoms that set bipolar disorder apart from other mood disorders. Reactivity and irritability – probably often one in the same. This research, for me, is groundbreaking. It adds solid evidence to a theory I’ve had about the nature of bipolar disorder. I’ve theorized that bipolar disorder makes a person “more human than human”. People with bipolar disorder don’t just live, we experience. Most things are extremely provocative, in both negative and positive ways.

    And that’s it! Our emotions centers are always flashing like Christmas lights. There is no “off switch”. It’s there. It’s receptive and ready. And here we are in a society that looks down on anything that is less than stoic. Hence, “disorder” is attached. I can see why it is deemed so, because it causes a dysfunction for the person the Dx is attached to. But, if we lived in a different world, would it? World it be revered instead?

    1. And here we are in a society that looks down on anything that is less than stoic.

      exactly. this semester, i’m doing some research about ‘neuro-plasticity’. mindfulness. a lot of the finding, Dabrowski, et. al, link creativity, depression, stroke rehab, it all depends on what we feel about ourselves. its simplistic, i know. i’ll keep u informed.

      1. That is fantastic! Do keep me informed! Now that I have the new Blackberry, I can finally stay in touch and get back on the horse with replies. It’s nice to be out of my bubble!

  3. I’m going to jump in here as BP II and say that it would definitely account for me. Anytime I see something bad happen to a kid on TV, like they lose a parent or something, I cry. I cry my eyes out. It just happened last week.

    I’ve been doing some research in prolactin’s function in the brain. Prolactin inhibits dopamine. This is especially important in women, because prolactin levels are higher in woman, and are controlled by estrogen and progesterone levels. Too little estrogen and progesterone and too much prolactin can cause mood swings. Think of postpartum women and postpartum depression. Women with mood disorder are at the greatest risk of developing postpartum depression / psychosis. This is why. Or, think of the phenomenon of people crying after sex. Same reason. Unless there is a release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, then prolactin can run wild!

    I say let your freak flag fly. I have odd emotional responses. It depends on the state that I’m in. Depression turns a joke into a personal attack. Hypomania turns certain situations into hilarious ones.

    And I wanted to ask; Is there really such a thing as “in remission” for folks with BP?

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