Mental Health and the Brain: Working Group, April 27
April 27th, An Evolving Exploration of Disability
Synopsis and forum for continuing discussion
Thoughts welcomed in the on-line forum below.
Martin Bayer, Laura Cyckowski, Adi Flesher, Sarah Gibbs, Ryan Golden, Paul Grobstein, Julia Lewis, Katie Manning, Brie Stark
SummaryThis week’s discussion centered around a presentation by David Feingold called "The Liberatory Deconstruction of the Bipolar Impaired Self". The presentation reflects David’s own bipolar experiences and draws as well on Serendip visitors’ comments on earlier digital assemblages of David’s to outline a path for dealing not only with bipolar disorder but with "disability" generally. It emphasizes the importance of first acknowledging feelings about what it feels like to be bipolar as well as how society views bipolar disorder. From there, David moves towards self-acceptance and self-advocacy.
Some people were made uncomfortable by feelings of violence associated with Feingold’s images, in their use of red text colors among other things. This generated discussion on the related themes of the relation between artistic intent and audience response, and the place of violent feelings in the mental health/story realm in general.
David's 5 fold model, it was suggested, is very similar to other paradigms in therapy. Gestalt therapy, for example, is similar in that it emphasizes a "paradoxical power of change". Awareness and integration of the self leads to positive change, not unlike Feingold’s model. David's model is also similar to the first 3 noble truths in Buddhism, which can be applied to anyone in distress: 1) pain is not avoidable; one will never be fully satisfied; 2) the problem lies in the story or attitude towards that pain; 3) the solution is to notice and accept the pain, which by itself may lessen it.
There was also extended discussion of the role in bipolar disorder (and "disability" generally) of two sorts of "story." It may not actually be the sharp mood swings that are the problem in people having bipolar characteristics, but rather the stories both individuals and societies tell about them. A person’s feelings about some aspect of themselves was likened to layers of an onion. At the core are a person’s feelings about their own state, followed by thoughts and reflections on that self, and finally society’s attitude towards it. Sharp mood swings may be judged "bad" by either the individual's story teller or society's story (see diagram below), with the two potentially reinforcing one another. An interesting question for further exploration is the role that both individual and social stories may play not only in how one thinks of onself but also in the sharp mood swings themselves.