I’m a very logical person. I’m an intellectual. I was raised that way and I remain that way to this day. Likely, because of that, it’s more obvious to me than many that logic can be used to deal with bipolar emotions. I can separate my logical self from my emotional self. It seems to me that the general person does not do this. However, I consider applying logic to emotion a critical skill in coping with bipolar disorder.
The Emotional Self
We all have an emotional self. It’s the part of us that flashes into emotion (usually) because of an external stimuli. So, for example, someone says something hurtful to us and we experience emotional pain and likely want to reach out and hurt that person back. This is a pretty normal emotional chain.
Of course, in bipolar disorder, this emotion may be a great overreaction to the situation. Or, perhaps even worse, our bipolar emotions are not in response to any external stimuli but simply exist because of the disease.
The Logical or Intellectual Self
On the other hand, there is the logical self. This is the self that moderates our emotional self. Our logical self is able to deal with situations in an intellectual and empirically reasonable way. For example, when someone says something hurtful, we still experience emotional pain, but the logical self may stop us from reaching out and retaliating against the other person.
In bipolar disorder, our logical self can be damaged or overwhelmed by our bipolar disorder. I think this is normal. I think that sometimes our logical self just doesn’t function well (or even at all) because of how strong the disease is. However, many times the logical self is still there if we look hard enough to find it.
Coping with Bipolar Emotions Using the Logical Self
So the coping skill that I use, and that I advocate others use, (with or without bipolar, quite frankly) is to use logic to cope with bipolar emotions. This isn’t necessarily easy, but it is doable and can really help moderate the effects that bipolar emotions can have on your life.
Self-talk is the prime example of logic or intellect trying to defeat bipolar emotions. Self-talk comes in a variety of forms. Traditionally, self-talk runs along the lines of, “I’m good enough and people like me.” In other words, self-talk is designed to defeat negative thoughts. That’s fine, but that’s not really what I’m talking about.
Logical Coping with Bipolar Emotions
I’m talking about something more along these lines. For example, someone hurts my feelings by saying something nasty. I feel emotional pain over it. As is typical with bipolar disorder, I overreact to this nasty comment and start to internalize it. I start to think that the person is right. I am bad. I am unlovable. I will die alone.
My logical self, though, is able to look at that situation and see the logical flaw in my thinking. So no matter how far along the emotional chain my emotional self has gone, I’m still able to stand back and say,
I am overreacting to this situation. What I am feeling is not reasonable. These are bipolar emotions. This person said something nasty and that’s not about me, it’s about them. One nasty comment is no reflection on me, my worth or my lovability, but rather, it reflects on the person who said it.
And this works in pretty much every situation. When you’re feeling depressed, your logical self is able to say, “I know I feel depressed right now. This depression will not last forever. I know this is a symptom of bipolar disorder and not really me.”
I think what’s critical is:
- Acknowledging the very real, and often very painful, bipolar emotion.
- Pointing out that it is a bipolar emotion and likely an overreaction to the situation.
- Reminding yourself that this bipolar emotion is not reasonable and we need to talk ourselves down from the overreaction.
- Reminding yourself that we don’t have to act emotionally even if we’re feeling very emotional. We can choose to act from logic and be reasonable.
Acting from the Logical Self
I’m not saying this is easy, and I’m not saying you will be able to do it 100% of the time. But one of the things that gets bipolar people in trouble so often in their lives is an (upper-case) EMOTIONAL reaction to a situation that deserves an (lower-case) emotional reaction. And I don’t believe we have to blow up that way. I believe we can use our logical selves to deal with even the strongest of bipolar emotions.
And, of course, the more you practice this skill, the easier it will get. I promise it works. I do it every day and it’s one of the reasons I manage to do so many of the things I do. You can do it too.