The post below was written and published on iameinstein.com about eight years ago during the first iteration of the site, prior to me becoming a free will skeptic. A couple points to note to decrease the chances of someone being offended by what is written below:
While the thinking expressed below doesn’t resonate with me like it did when these words first emerged in consciousness, people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder who refer to themselves as “bipolar” is an expression that is still a pet peeve of mine. I think the act of self-labeling oneself with a noun that defines you as a mentally ill person is a stigmatizing one.
“I’m currently behaving in a way where it’s fair to categorize me as someone who presently has bipolar disorder.
I prefer the latter two options over the first one because, I think everyone is “bipolar.” Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t have ups and downs in life? I haven’t. The question isn’t are you bipolar, rather, it’s do you presently have bipolar disorder? In other words, are you presently exhibiting symptoms that indicate that you have bipolar disorder?
Identifying as “bipolar” seems to indicate that you are and will forever be someone who is behaving in ways where the diagnosis: bipolar disorder, accurately describes your behavior.
The final statement option listed above obviously indicates that the speaker’s behavior, which currently falls within the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, may change and not fit into the diagnostic criteria for the disorder in the future.
While I can’t stand by this post as a whole (i.e., I would not write this piece exactly as is today) parts of it still ring true for me.
The following question was posed to me by a friend to whom I gave a book about a so-called bipolar person. After reading it my friend asked me:
What difference might it make if everyone simultaneously began referring to “bipolars” as assholes?
I think the word “bipolars” is just as arbitrary as “assholes” – don’t you agree?
Everyone has two emotional poles, think about it.
Every human being I have ever met has ups and downs… two poles… bipolar. As many aptly say, I think the problem is not in being bipolar, the problem lies in a pattern of going to extremes, on one or both of these poles, to a point where there is upset or pain and suffering, or some other undesired result.
The problem is not in having two poles. Rather, it is in repeatedly going to the extremes of the poles, to the point where you or those around you suffer. Hence we have the term: bipolar disorder. This makes sense, no?
But then, along comes this slang usage, which doesn’t make literal sense at least.
“Hi my name is Joe, and I’m bipolar.”
I get what I think Joe means, but he’s not even using the defining word of the phrase: disorder. Let’s say Joe means he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Is he thinking and behaving in disorderly ways. What’s going on in his life? What is the pain and suffering that he has caused by thinking and acting in ways, that maybe, could be characterized as him acting like a ‘big, fat, man-child? Assuming Joe is an adult of course.
I think many would make the case that it is highly likely that regardless of gender that if you are this bipolar, as they say that you very well maybe behaving like an asshole. You know the saying, if it looks like one, smells like one….?
What would happen if people simply did not just say:
…and instead, had the habit of carefully explaining, step by step, the pattern of thinking and behavior that has caused them to be tagged with the label: bipolar disorder?
I’m thinking easily five, if not all ten out of any ten, bipolars could be described just as accurately and validly as assholes. I think this is possible. How possible? Well, don’t get me started on how EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE… time…space… “they” 😉 were just the beginning man. I was thinking about EVERYTHING really… including, and maybe especially language.
And this is why I have come back… to talk about relativity again, but in a different way. I’m back to talk about all this language around a particular subset of human thought and behavior as defined by a relatively very small group of people known as the American Psychiatric Association. Can you say DSM?
This is why I am back. To remind the minds of science and society in general about the relative nature of language and the implications in the so-called science that claims to be out to help people have better lives. I have a lot to say, and I will take my time in doing so. But for now, back to this bipolar-asshole question—I suggest, gather your own data. Think and form your own opinions, ideas, thoughts and hypotheses.
Maybe I’ll suggest that my friend read some more honest stories written by people who describe themselves, or are described by other people as bipolar. Maybe this “asshole hypothesis” will hold up. One could assert that when you are reading these bipolar books by bipolars, you are reading the work of an asshole, or at least, one who has been an asshole in the past.
Wait a minute… isn’t that pretty much everyone? Sure… but I guess bipolars are the real assholes—the chronically assholish then. Does that work?
I think many ‘chronic assholes,’ if you will, know they are assholes, to themselves and others, and don’t care how you label them, in fact, that is probably part of being an asshole. Knowing you are totally an asshole… but completely ignoring the label of asshole, placed on you by some brilliant, learned mind of science and medicine.
Whatever you call them, according to many people, these assholes, and I mean the patients 😉 very well may be text book case bipolars. They are then ‘mentally ill,’ some would go as far as to say that they have a disease.
Who knows, maybe this makes them or even you, feel better. Maybe they say to themselves, there’s a medical reason that we’re assholes. It’s not our fault per se. And some might suggest that all they have to do is buy and swallow certain special tablets daily, for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. And they can drastically reduce the chances of continuing to be assholes in the future. Now does that make sense?
I’m not as clear on this one.
I understand why and how society ends up creating pills to solve the ills associated with the human mind and body. I get that. What confounds me at times, is the reluctance of people to even consider that they’re less than stellar, ordinary decision making performance could be the entire cause of their so-called problem. Not some hard to define and apparently impossible to pinpoint disease of the brain.
I’ll give you a different hypothesis, I suggest that:
Many of the so-called illnesses of the mind, may be a product of nothing other than being a human being, and an expression of how well someone is doing at learning how to deal with their particular flavor of the same human condition that we all share.
What difference might it make, if we change bipolar to asshole? At first, I thought it was a ridiculous idea with little practical value in serious contemplating, but the more I think about it… the more I see the upside-down genius in it. My answer is that I think it might make a big difference.
Changing the words people use, is how you change the world, people.
Asshole is certainly not the word I would choose here, but I think that might make quite a difference, but who the hell am I.
If I had actually been in my grave when I heard the news I might have rolled over when TIME Magazine named me the person of the century without changing the title of their publication. (duh!) Think about it… I really wonder how much of a difference, I, this supposed genius of geniuses really even made.
How many people even get that time and space (most likely) don’t exist like they probably think they do. How few get that in the ways that I am credited with pointing out. And at the end of the day does it really matter, if they do or not?
Did I, Albert Einstein even matter. Don’t get me started on that one either.
You people would not believe, just how like you I am. Genius? Sure I am, just like you. And when you’re willing to admit your genius to the world people might turn your name into a word too. Better yet, they might make a movie about you.
You probably know this friend I’m speaking of… I think some refer to him as an idiot. While others see the genius of innocence and naiveté. His name is Gump, Forrest Gump actually. You can check in on him over at I am Forrest Gump, dot com.
I’ll be here thinking. In invite you keep thinking too.
I am Einstein, but please call me Al.
And I apologize if my new voice puts you off.