RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

hydro phyte, modified 3 Months ago.

Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 6 Join Date: 1/11/21 Recent Posts
Hi all! Before I start I will say this is a little rambly and has maybe too much context, if you do read, then thanks in advance! My guess is that maybe this was A&P, or just bipolar madness. There is also a question about anxiety in here.

First some context. I have been interested in meditation for 15 years but have rarely actually meditated usually I will start and practice breath meditation for a couple of weeks(basically what is recommended in TMI(would say I am usually TMI stage 3/4)) then stop completely. This happens every year or two. I also have a history of mental health issues. I have severe anxiety and likely bipolar disorder. Before this experience I had only had one manic episode and there was a possibility it was induced by cannabis consumption. Because of this I was not on any anti-psychotics when the soon to be discussed events occurred. I do not currently take cannabis.

I had been depressed for ~1.5 years and was starting to finally feel well. I was reading a lot of different types of books(some cybernetics stuff, systems theory, and some stuff with a lot of paradoxes, plus a wide variety of other types of technical literature). I had a lot of mental energy at this point, and was doing a lot of conventional psychological change stuff. I was looking to redo a lot of my identities at this time. Anyway I was open to change. I was not meditating and had not meditated for probably 3-5 months.

So the first odd thing that happened was when I was sitting at the kitchen table and thinking(something I do a lot of) about how I communicate with my wife, and was wondering how I could express that I was irritated at her, and that also I didn’t feel like I should be irritated and that I didn’t want to bother her with my emotions but didn’t really have the control to not do so. I was perplexed with how to start talking as I found I always had to say, “I feel angry with you” at some point which always makes me feel more angry, and usually illicit a negative response from her. I wanted to express my whole feeling about the situation in a compact way and avoid actually saying “I feel angry.” I realized that if I could express the entire temporal chain of emotions(anger, regret, shame) in an instant I could sort of be at peace and avoid the unpleasantness.

Here is another slight digression. I am a very rigid thinker and prior to what was about to happen I could not conceive of a statement being both true and false at the same time. I would endlessly try to figure out if I should do something going back and forth with supporting and opposing information. All of a sudden while trying to tell my wife about how I was feeling angry/not angry I realized that I could both be angry and not angry with my wife. That is I was capable of holding contradictory opinions. One question I have is do normal people have difficulty with self contradiction? Was I abnormal or normal before realizing this?

So when I realized that I could express a contradiction in an instant, I had this weird sensation of seeing this reddish round light or something decrease in size and vanish into my brain or something. Then I got really calm, like way more calm then I have ever been. It was scary how calm I got. I sat down at the computer and wrote some contradictions like I am simultaneously good and bad(which seem trivial now), and then the peace just increased more. I was scary. I was afraid that I might simply just stop thinking because there was no need to consider correctness of statements any more. I felt like the amount of energy in my head decreased rapidly.

I did feel some pressure in my head. This lasted a couple of days, then I had difficulty falling asleep one night, and to try to get to sleep(remember I am hypo manic at this stage), I decided to pay attention to my breath in my nose. It was super super clear. More so then anything I have ever experienced. Then the peacefulness in my mind seemed to flow down into my body and I experienced bliss for the rest of the night. I awoke a few times I was paying attention to the breath when I woke up, and there was a like a white ball of light, with darkness around it. Additionally I was pretty blissed out.  Next day I was completely relaxed and the most rested I have felt in a very long time.

Then a while later things got chaotic, and I decided to go back on anti-psychotics to prevent anything really nasty from happening. Had some more typical bipolar like experiences. Anti-psychotics mellowed me out, but didn’t send me into a depression. I did have various unpleasant experiences.

Now wrapping up. 1.5 months later still very mellow. I can stop worrying much easier(actually I don’t worry much). It is taking me a while to intellectually understand that I can actually feel angry with someone and then decide that I am logically not upset at them, and that this is normal. Also I now see that a lot of things that seem contradictory are only so if time is not taken into account. Many paradoxes are solved by unfolding them in time.

So now questions!

1: Do other people have difficulty with statements like a car is both a car and not a car? Can those be parsed and make sense or is it gibberish(I am now aware of the tetralemma which I didn’t know about before).

2: Anybody ever have anxiety greatly reduced by realizing they can stop a self dialectic by just agreeing that both positions are true, and letting it rest? I tried discussing this with my therapist but it was like I was speaking some alien language, they didn’t seem to understand.

3: Any commentary on the “weird” experience is welcome, but I am not super concerned about them, the anxiety reduction is the most interesting part for me.

One last context point, I have disliked “I” for a very long time, and generally refer(and have done so for many years) to myself as I/we interchangeably (still they are frustrating moving reference points), as in a plurality of selves. Probably not relevant, but who knows.

I am currently meditating everyday and feel it may be possible to actually consistently practice for longer then two weeksemoticon

Thanks for reading, and any possible response in advance!
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Hello, hydro phyte, and thank you for your beautiful, generous, lucid, authentic post. It is not too long or rambly at all, it is a courageous and lovely gift of context and an amazing compression of your long journey so far. You opened up your mind and heart, and took a leap, and that is just so damn cool. I sometimes think of the DharmaOverground, DhO, as an oasis at a spiritual crossroads, where a lot of paths and roads cross, many traditions and practices. People show up along theravadan paths, or Tibetan, or advaita, pilgrims from every point of the compass. And every once in a while somebody sort of stumbles in from the desert, all grizzled and dirty and dry, from a direction nobody ever showed up from before, because they went overland, and half their camels died on the way, and it's a miracle they survived on their own, and all you can do is marvel, at their spirit and grit, to have come so far alone. Your account has that ring to me, of someone who has worked long and hard and largely picked his own way across the wilderness. So have a drink on me, first of all, and welcome to DhO. I think you will find some kindred spirits here. We all staggered in here one way or another, lol.

Your spontaneous epiphany by way of a logical leap is amazing. There are a lot of people here better equipped to talk logic and meta-logics here, and I won't dwell on it here, but the fact that you have the kind of mind that could experience the "coincidentia oppositorum," the unity of opposites as an ecstatic revelation is . . . just so damn cool, i guess, lol. I just love it.

You said, "My guess is that maybe this was A&P, or just bipolar madness." It actually does sound like an A&P event to me, with all due humility and prudence. I am bipolar myself and know the vast gray areas involved, and the dangers. You seem to have a well developed self-knowledge and awareness of the pitfalls of the depressive end and the manic end, and your behavior throughout the episide was sane and very prudent, so it seems like too much to just shrug it off as mania. You went to a lot of trouble to NOT let it become mania. And to paraphrase the tailor's line from Fiddler on the Roof, Even a bipolar guy is entitled to some happiness! This strikes me as a rich grace, and a blessing, a life-changing event, the kind that sets on us on our paths, and keeps us going. 

I'm not actually tackling any of your specific questions, lol. You've got plenty of grist here for the intellectual and meditative mill, and I know you'll get some rich responses. To me, the important thing is you found your way into a whole new place, with fresh energy, and a new angle on everything. The crucial line in your post to me is 
I am currently meditating everyday and feel it may be possible to actually consistently practice for longer then two weeksemoticon
I am a great believer in the power of steady, consistent practice for longer than two weeks, lol. DhO's foundation as a community is rooted in the ground of practice. It's the thing that everyone at the oasis shares. So welcome to the party, my friend.
hydro phyte, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 6 Join Date: 1/11/21 Recent Posts
Hi Tim Farrington. Thank you for your kind, insightful, and welcoming post! I have been a denizen of many forums and this is the best welcome I have received, thank you.

My second impulse(after mirroring your gracious introduction) is to describe more of myself. I am word drunk a lot of the time, and greatly enjoy spewing large volumes of text. Having calmed myself(with the previous description of my then state) I will say that you were quite accurate in your estimation of my path to this place. I am not on any particular path but the one that I find. I am 36 and finding some semblance of peace for the first time. I cannot back trace my path, but my policy is to learn something from everything(and about everything), mostly through reading. I make it a habit to not stay on one topic(or source) for a very long time as then the mind tends to fall into predictable patterns. So if there was time I would study and learn something about everything there is to know. I tend to mislearn things, that is introduce error(unintentional error is enough so far) into the learning process, so as to allow for the chance to learn something new. It is easy to do this when one never checks ones solution with others. Besides my family I spend most of my time quite contently alone. To describe myself very compactly I am a general problem solver, currently trying to transform myself into something more peaceful and sustainable. My recent experiences have dissolved some of my skepticism towards various spiritual paths and I am investigating what appears a very rich domain of practice and knowledge. I am very well aware that the most useful things one can learn require diligent practice(skills require practice).

I would describe my logical epiphany as learning to see that (true and false = true). This is apparently some sort of logical sin though(anything can be derived from it). The fact that I was unable to even consider this possibility is the main reason I think the experience was so profound for me. Prior to this everything had to be either true or false, and since I was generally a contrarian I would respond false to almost every true assertion, and true to almost every false assertion. This process is stressful apparently, and having the ability to stop contradicting everything is quite nice(also everyone I interact with seems to like the change).

With regard to bipolar/A&P I am trying to take the advice that individual experiences are not what matters(no matter how profound they appear) on many spiritual paths. Basically trying not to get hung up on it. But it was definitely a life changing event and has provided a large amount of motivation for me to seek out new places to walk, and the motivation to keep going. Learning to balance bipolar with medication, and meditation seems like it will take some practice.

I would like to thank you again for the warm introduction to this community. I have not been a participant in any forum for quite some time, but this looks like an interesting place. I am definitely going to spend some time digging through the wiki, and post history. I am mostly solitary, but trying to change that a little at the moment.
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
hydro phyte:
Anybody ever have anxiety greatly reduced by realizing they can stop a self dialectic by just agreeing that both positions are true, and letting it rest?
...
One last context point, I have disliked “I” for a very long time, and generally refer(and have done so for many years) to myself as I/we interchangeably (still they are frustrating moving reference points), as in a plurality of selves. Probably not relevant, but who knows.

I wonder if you could apply the same logic to "I" and "not I" ...
hydro phyte, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 6 Join Date: 1/11/21 Recent Posts
I can apply it to my like and dislike for "I", which then leads to ambivalence towards the word/use of the word. I just did and now I am less angry at itemoticon Not sure if you meant more then this.  
Andrew S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 62 Join Date: 11/2/17 Recent Posts
I've read that in some developmental psychology models, they say that being able to hold contradictory points simultaneously, like in the way that you describe, is considered a developmental milestone. So what you're talking about is probably very common for some people to understand, and for others to not understand, depending on their life.
hydro phyte, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 6 Join Date: 1/11/21 Recent Posts
I looked at some developmental psychology models. I saw the distinction between being able to consider that there are two different opinions on a matter at all (as in the ability to know that two opinions could exist on the opinion by different people). Also looking development at older age but haven't run across anything yet.

I would see it like this. Say I wanted some ice cream. At a young age perhaps me wanting it would tend to make me think that my parents also wanted me to have it. So one development would be understanding that my parents would not have the same belief as me. Later I would learn that I could have two beliefs. That I could want to buy ice cream, and then that it was not such a good idea. Understanding that a single person can have two opposing views then would be another way of understanding things. Where I was is that I understood that one person could have two perspectives, but I believed that only one was the correct belief. From this I would then engage in a long argument with myself about whether I should buy the ice cream or not.

The next step for me was to see that it is not possible to decide which opinion is better in many circumstances. Maybe it was impossible to tell if buying the ice cream was better. I rarely buy it so buying it once is likely not to hurt me in the long wrong, and I did some behavior that I wanted to reward myself for. Yet still it is not healthy, and buying it once opens up opportunity to buying it more often. There is no perfect solution both have drawbacks. The inability to decide would be what I would say the difficulty I had was. I would go on for maybe 30 minutes on this topic. So having the ability to stop was the important point.

As it unfolds the process is like this. I want to eat ice cream, then I feel a happy sensation at the thought of the taste of the sugar, then I feel pain and think I should not as it will add to my weight, and I feel more pain. This circle continues and it is painful. What I found is that the sentence I both want and don't want to eat ice cream, sort of halted the process. Or I neither want to eat nor not eat ice cream. Then for me for some reason this works and I stop thinking about it. It is very strange that just saying some words would stop an out of control thought process.

Moving further some see that using language or reasoning we can induce different emotional/mental states. Then the use of language is no longer to determine truth (which is what I was doing), but to modify our experience. And as a tool it could be honed to this use instead. The greek skeptics did something like this and tried to attain a balanced tranquil state of ataraxia through finding the opposite (this is my limited understanding). what I did is more like something that I think is called trivialism which simply states that everything is true. I saw while looking at wikipedia that the term Coincidentia oppositorum is from De Docta ignorantia  which are some books I have been considering reading as they appear related to this type of thought. I am just starting to understand related areas, there appear to be areas of Buddhist thought which run in a similar manner. I am interested in finding accessible sources tuned to western mind if anyone has recommendations.
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I've had experiences of using logic to back myself into insights. Seems to be a thread in Buddhism. Check out stuff on Catuskoti (Tetralemma, 4-valued logic).

Kaccayanagotta Sutta

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

Vacchagotta Sutta

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, "Now then, Master Gotama, is the cosmos eternal?"
"That has not been declared by me, Vaccha: 'The cosmos is eternal.'"
"Well then, Master Gotama, is the cosmos not eternal?"
"Vaccha, that too has not been declared by me: 'The cosmos is not eternal.'"

Nagarjuna is also good on this (Mulamadhyamakakarika).

This paper is a logical analysis (A Russellian Analysis of The Buddhist Catuskoti by Nicholaos Jones).
hydro phyte, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 6 Join Date: 1/11/21 Recent Posts
Thank you for the links! I am looking them over. Reading the quoted texts I see that there is something about the self which I don't get. It is pointing at something for which I do not have the experiences to comprehend it. Thanks again for links.
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Thinking about it a bit more, binary logic seems to be inherently dualistic, so anything you can do to thwart that logic could be helpful to still the mind (or at least cause ambiguity) and thereby induce nondual experiences.

It's kind of interesting that the two crowning achievement of mathematical logic - godel's incompleteness theorem and the undecidability of the continuum hypothesis - are both about the limits of logic. And Wittgenstein too in his way was all about the limits of language and logic. Rambling here, but maybe they are all just fingers pointing at the moon.
hydro phyte, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Reduced anxiety after odd experiences

Posts: 6 Join Date: 1/11/21 Recent Posts
Binary logic does seem very dualistic, and it is embedded deeply in our way of thinking. One has to have looked to even know about multi-valued logics.

It is my belief that most methods of thought through language do not reflect the reality of experience very well at all. As pointed out by Wittgenstein people tend to get confused using language, and get caught in traps. The paths to awakening (or whatever term you choose) seem to side step any such considerations which makes them appealing. At the same time though one could imagine a reduction in surface suffering from removing a lot of linguistic confusion. Not being stuck using (or misusing) binary logic may be one of these ways.

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