The depressing effect of too much bliss!
"In stress, several hormonal overrides become operative. The body assumes a crisis situation and will begin to mobilize for a 'fight or flight' response...Several strong hormones become secreted and will remain 'triggered' until the body gets out of its stressful circumstances. These hormones are mainly Endorphins, Cortisone Release Factor, Prolactin, Vasopressin, and Rennin-angiotensin." Page 57, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., Your Body's Many Cries for Water, 2nd ed. Global Health Solutions, 1995.
The term "Endorphin" means endogenous morphine, so named because it affects the body like morphine does. In fact bet-endorphin was found to be 48 times more powerful than morphine and even more addictive. The main role of endorphins is as a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator, with physical, psychological and behavioral effects. Like opiates, endorphins are known for their painkilling, sedatory, anti-anxiety properties and for producing euphoric, trance and dream-like states. Endorphins are involved in a wide range of processes such as: motor coordination, learning, memory, seizure control, sexual behavior and reproduction, thirst and hunger, gastrointestinal function, water and salt balance, temperature control, grooming, tolerance development and physical dependence (addiction).Endorphins can be found in many areas of the body including the pituitary glands, the hippocampus, pineal glands, kidneys, pancreas, GI tract and adrenal glands. So far 20 different types of endorphins have been found for three types of receptors m, k and d. Included in these 20 endogenous opioids are enkephalins and dynorphins, plus alpha- and beta-endorphins. B-endorphin selectively binds m receptors, which is the same one morphine binds to with high affinity. The m receptors are mostly localized to the limbic system and hypothalamus. Co-released with ACTH from the pituitary, b-endorphin is also produced in the medial-basal hypothalamus and widely distributed in the brain.
As neuromodulators endorphins act as "inhibitory middlemen" in many excitatory pathways, including acetylcholine, the catecholamines, serotonin and substance P (pain). (About four-fifths of all neurons in the cortex are excitatory.) Because of their role as potent neurochemical regulators, modulating the activity of other transmitters, endorphins have been studied as causative agents in various psychiatic illnesses such as depression, anxiety, anorexia, stress and other affective mood disorders. It is the biological and biochemical basis to our personality and behavior that determines the success and problems that we have, and our circumstances and experience in turn determines that biochemistry.
The search for the link between endorphins and depression began when it was found that both enkephalin and opioid receptors are located in mood-response areas of the brain. A large debate has emerged within endorphin research over whether depression is caused by an excess, deficiency, or static levels of endorphins, and even that endorphins may not be a factor in depression at all. Considering the disputing testimony it is premature to conclude how the endogenous opioid system is involved in depression. It is thought however that endorphins are likely to modulate the nervous system activity over the long-term rather than moment to moment. Because the normal mechanism of neurotransmitter reuptake for the recycling of endorphins doesn't exist for endorphins, a new precursor must be made each time. Plus their effective lifetime is limited by their enzymatic breakdown; so these factors make endorphin manufacture and use rather expensive for the body.
Logical Assumptions To the Link
Endorphins are released in shock, freeze, fight or flight, trauma, physical pain and in all stress including psychological stress. They serve as an anaelgesic (pain killing), anesthetic and cause dissociation, immobilization and loss of self.
We may not know exactly how endorphins are involved in depression, however we can readily intuit how they might be involved in ennui, detachment, disinterest, dispassion, disregard, dullness, numbness, emotionlessness, lethargy, listlessness, satiety, apathy, contentment, peace and fulfillment.
Depressives often have elevated stress hormone levels in their blood and since endorphins are released along with ACTH in response to any stressor, depressives are likely have "elevated" endorphin levels as well.
Another reason why endorphins are involved in depression is that they serve the role of an inhibitory brake on the excitatory neurotransmitters.
It is apparent that dendrite regrowth and receptor recovery needs to be one of the primary focuses of the exhaustion phase in order to recover our vivid edge, creative potency and avoid the swamp of dull affect.
Imagine being caught in a condition in which pleasure is no longer pleasurable because one is buzzed out of ones tree on a permanent high. This can be the state we find ourselves in at the tail end of a kundalini awakening when endorphin levels are permanently elevated and yet the emotional storms of limbic reconstruction are finished. In this condition pain and suffering no longer really "touch" us, but neither does passion or excitement. The mechanism by which we have steered our life till now is now jammed and the territory has the same bland value everywhere we look.
Usually in life our animal heritage drives us after this or that need or want, and our emotions go up or down depending on the quality of our perceived quality satisfaction level. But when endorphins are permanently gumming up the works we are not particularly driven anywhere, and our value system becomes more abstract and divorced from happenstance and phenomena. It's as though we were permanently bathing in the exquisite turquoise lagoon--we are completely wet. We want to get even more wet so we can feel something, but we can't get more wet than we already are. If we are already in background pleasure and bliss, how can we experience the "pleasures" of life? Our emotional landscape is reduced to a tropical island of perpetual sunny days in which nothing really happens. Bliss can be depressing when nothing touches us, even depression. With a perpetual tropical buzz going on we do not even register that we are depressed.
If everything is blissful then nothing is particularly pleasurable and so to actually experience "pleasure" while in a perpetual pleasurable state we have to become deeply "mindful" of the nuances, flavor and qualities of our experience. We must hone our sensory and perceptive senses to delve into far greater subtleties. With an even emotional playing field we lose both passion, motivation and navigation. It appears that a sustained high level of endorphins causes one's affect to become somewhat "flat."
Endorphins are neuroinhibitors which lower arousal. When we have a low arousal level, the nervous system has a decreased reaction to the sensory input coming in and therefore doesn't react or respond as quickly or as strongly to the input. With a low arousal level find it hard to remain interested and focused, and so we tend to seek out greater stimulation in order to register and respond to it.
In my experience years of high endorphin levels creates a slow decline in passion and we then have to do something extreme that will counteract the eternal buzz, and bring more "excitement" to our nervous system. One thing I have noticed with my steady decline in passion is that I can no longer readily conjure feelings-thoughts-images of inner worlds, future visions and potentials like I used to when my soul felt more alive, though I still have a vivid dream life it too lacks potency and purpose. Even food looses its vivid quality as one of life's simple pleasures and the intensity and sensation of sex and touch is muted...even orgasms are rather flat except on special moon cycles.
During the awakening itself we tend toward a more amplified response to attraction and aversion...and so after being pulled around so obviously here and there for many years we tend to gravitate to the middle and gain distance from external and internal phenomena. In this way equanimity is born from the exaggerated consciousness, sentience and sensation of kundalini. This amplification of being coupled with the background endorphins that make both pleasure and pain less distinct gives us equanimity.
Unless this later stage of awakening is undertaken with eyes wide open the chances are that this ambivalence-chemistry will become a pathological state with symptoms including: detachment, apathy, disinterest, dispassion, disregard, dull affect, emotionlessness, noncommittal, heedlessness, indifference, insensitivity, lassitude, lethargy, listlessness, passivity, stoicism, unconcern, unimpressed, unresponsiveness, lack of dedication and zest. So we could call this condition of the chemical neutering of our libido a pseudo-equanimity. It's a wonder anyone ever gets enlightened, there are all these psuedo states that one has to experience, learn about and transcend through enlightened application first.
Hence the paradox here is that too much bliss creates anhedonia. Anhedonia that is the absence of pleasure or the loss of the ability to experience it. Another less known term is acedia, which is a sense of indifference created by the loss of feeling and a gradual closing down and withdrawal from the world. With anhedonia and acedia we avoid risk and stimulation and cut ourselves off from anything that might trigger or stimulate us. In time we will find the correct language and metaphors for the subtle nuance of this post-awakening lull, to distinguish it from our normal ideas on depression and anhedonia. The post-kundalini slump is not really clinical anhedonia because there is still diffuse pleasure and a permanent background bliss, but there is also the inability to suffer. Life's peaks and valleys have been bulldozed down into the horizontal plane of endless nothingness...and where does one find "meaning" without the value discrimination of passion and emotion?
The kundi-blues is not really depression in the normal sense, it more like a vacuum of meaningful circumstance, a Spiritual Catatonia.
This must be a very common condition of the kundalini exhaustion phase.
And if one "tries" to create meaningful circumstance in the world with
other human beings it often becomes some kind of comical or traumatic
farce. Without meaning of course there is no motivation, and our sense
of meaning is determined by our passion--so when passion goes, so does
meaning in any real sense of the word.
I went through years of apathy and loss of proactive-drive related
to coming down from the extremes of kundalini. As I have said before it
is paradoxical that this condition is related to an excess of
endorphins and a permanent background of bliss. It is as if it were a
biochemical existential malaise that leads to this loss of the sense of
self and brings about a crisis of meaning.. Since there is a loss of
meaning at this time we can assume that the brain areas and
neurochemicals that are hypofunctioning, are those that are involved in
the phenomena of meaning making. When this neurology and hormonal
underfunctioning is returned to normal our sense of meaning and self
Of course a metabolic slump and loss of meaning is not a given after the honeymoon of a kundalini peak, it just depends on things like ones emotional constitution, how one frames the experience and the quality of ones support. Basically to move out of this biochemical existential hole it takes a resensitizing via whatever means that excites you…it could be a change in your environment, a new romantic love, travel, sailing across the ocean and or fasting. To reestablish quality of life it is essential to break out of this adhedonia for if there is little pleasure in things, there is little drive and will to live. While in the middle of it there seems no way out, but there is and eventually things swing around the other way to a new zest and appreciation of life.
In Transpersonal Knowing: Exploring the Horizon of Consciousness by Tobin Hart, Peter L. Nelson, and Kaisa Puhakka say that much of human consciousness is transitioning through a significant epistemic shift: that is our "knowing" is becoming increasingly aware of its own process.
Moving out of the existential vacuum, created by the death of the ego and the extinguishing of the painbody's life, cannot be done using the convention means through which we have lived up till now. Hence we need to reinvent ourselves beyond circumstance and culture, and figure out ways of cultivating change. But before we do that we need to taste the limbos more deeply, to keep doing what we are doing until we hit saturation point. To go directly into the Spiritual Catatonia instead of trying to run away from it.
"And, rather than trying to manipulate your way into increased passion, put some energy into directly facing the very deadness, stuckness, or pain that your desire for more passion is an escape from. Instead of trying to generate passion, make room for it to emerge. If you want to invite even more passion, get more vulnerable, more transparent, more open to all that constitutes you." Robert Augustus Masters.
To get out of the intermediate state of purgatory--the strange limbos "between" heaven and hell--we essentially have to move beyond the life of the mind and body, while putting them to even greater and deeper use. To transcend spiritual catatonia we must learn to create a life of the soul, and for this we need to use the "Imagination." In Facing the World With Soul: The Reimagination of Modern Life, Robert Sardello talks of the making of the world by bringing attention to it and insists on consistently exercising the activity of imagination. With imagination we can avoid being locked into our view of ourselves and society to live out a life of the soul: turned on, enthusiastic, curious and intentionally interested.
myriad forms of dysfunction all derive from the separation between
self-awareness and awareness of the whole...a separation that the
negative aspect of the ego battles to maintain." John Pierrakos
Even the anhedonia (loss of pleasure) associated with the numbness
of endorphins is a stage, through which emerges even greater riches,
transcendental vision and insights. The thing is to recognize, accept
and explore whatever state or condition we find ourselves in and this
helps us move onto the next thing.
"I've learned that real intuition requires skills and attitudes that are more demanding than those of the mind; it demands some concrete object, image or ritual procedure, and it doesn't act in a vacuum. It presents no sure knowledge, but rather offers information that is poetic in nature, and often ambiguous, ambivalent, paradoxical and elusive. Its answers to our problems are neither immediate nor fully conclusive, but rather take time to unfold and may never stand fully revealed." Thomas Moore
The life of the creator or artist is perhaps the hardest to undertake because you have to keep true to yourself, when as a culture we are encouraged to betray our soul for survival. To be a true artist demands that we do what it takes to keep our soul alive. It is also a practice in personal sovereignty and self expression beyond the cultural wave, but through the cultural tide.
Of course the illumination of true art runs off the libido, but if the culture at large is operating at a lower-spectrum libido level due to chronic ongoing stress and sense of hopelessness, then the hormonal juices necessary for genuine art do not flow. As soon as things turn around though, they turn around in the collective psyche and so all the artist will undergo a revolutionary renaissance overnight.
The thing is many of us including me are "waiting" for the renaissance to arrive, hanging out for creative potency and purpose. But that kind of "on-hold" behavior of waiting for Grace to magically arrive is why we are in this imagination-desert in the first place. If we all did the work of calling in grace and illuminating our own lives with the Presence of spirit, then it is this action that will bring on the change we so seek in the collective psyche...and we can all get juiced up together, excited, inspired, divining and Alive. If we fail to light our own creative fire we are complicit in the problem instead of being part of the solution.
I think creative-libido or "creative-potency" are apt terms to describe the sex hormone basis to consciousness. "Potency" correlates with the idea of energy, potential, ability, effectiveness, efficiency, validity, zeal. It is really the zest or will for Life. Here are some synonyms for the fertility aspect of the word potency: abundance, copiousness, fecundity, fruitfulness, luxuriance, plentifulness, pregnancy, productivity, prolific, puberty, readiness, richness and virility.
"Since ACTH release is increased by stress, and ACTH production correlates with increased b-endorphin production, and increased b-endorphin decreases GnRH and then LH, and decreased LH correlates with decreased fertility, stress via increased b-endorphin production contributes to infertility in both men and women." http://www.neurosci.pharm.utoledo.edu/MBC3320/ACTH.htm
The above is one of the main chemical pathways by which stress chemistry can produce a loss of fertile artistic imagination and creative zeal. There are probably many reasons for artistic impotence...even including prolonged stress hormone release contributing to the loss of synapses and dendrites in the prefrontal lobes, hippocampus and hypothalamus. Since art is one of the main "stress relief" mechanisms in culture, this drying up of our creative juices means that we fall into a perpetual feedback loop of lack of imagination, which produces stress which produces lack of imagination etc...and if we do this collectively it is very hard to get genuinely inspired by the inferior "impotent" quality of the spiritual "artifacts" of others in order to break the impotency cycle.
It is clear that perpetual stress and its effects on the body, mind and behavior creates a vicious cycle of perpetual stress. By destroying the neurological hardware for visionary and psychic foresight and illumination, stress neuters our potential for an inspired life and right livelihood. This brain damage produced by stress chemistry is one of the primary reasons for the poverty trap as well. In this way we are then likely to be caught in a trap of perpetual stress because we then have to survive in a servile, subsistence or flatland-conformist way...which is "stressful," thus locking us into an endless recurring feedback loop of stress, impotency and poverty.
Perpetual stress is like a tiger that won't go away but that prowls around us 24X7 even if we are not consciously aware of it, we are always on alert for that tiger. To break out of the quicksand of the stress trap we need to do something different-- what Dr. Richard O'Connor calls an adaptive spiral. That is a progressive path in which the changes we make in how we think, feel, act and treat ourselves all reinforce each other to catalyze lasting change. So instead of being caught up in the stress trap, we can learn to generate an abiding recurrent creative potency cycle instead.
John Pierrakos says that zest for life (Eros, libido) is rekindled through self-revelation as we disclose ever deeper truths about ourselves, we open our body, mind and soul to the divine. He says that everything we need for pleasure and fulfillment resides in the core of our being and as we activate the core we bring out the higher self. Meditation, especially sunlight meditation lights up the crystal chamber, or central hormonal activation center in the brain. Hence it is only logical that meditation should increase creative libido and artistic potency through stimulating and balancing hormonal health.
Since it is stress and danger that often produce great artistic advances, it cannot be simply stress itself that produces a decline in the productivity of the muse...but perhaps it is the unrelenting aspect of it, the fact that we do not undergo the rest and recovery phase of the stress cycle to a significant degree. The ongoing slow ebb of our creative juices with little recharging and regeneration is perhaps the culprit in the demise of imagination in modern man by producing a somewhat permanently creatively neutered society and a perpetual creative-impotency-loop.
I am not referring to the sporadic triggering of stress response cycle, but a permanent stress chemistry feedback cycle that atrophies neurons and organs and perpetuates itself through its debilitating effects on behavior, enjoyment, relationship and circumstance. I think to a certain degree our entire western culture is suffering from chronic ongoing stress--such that we do not even recognize that we are stressed because that is who we are, and we feel things are under control as long as we can keep up with our various addictions (i.e.: negative stress management techniques).
You see relational stressors tend to have more immunosuppressing power than non-relational stressors, so if we have a community, society or culture that is in chronic perpetual stress, then the stressed relationships will reinforce this condition...whereas normally in mammalian collective life relationship is a major source of stress relief. What this means in terms of integral art is that the reduction the sex hormone production, coupled with damage to the hippocampus (memory/symbol) and the hypothalamus (emotional-governance) will mean that ones consciousness is cut-off from the Muse/Eros itself or is operating at a mere fraction of its potential. Coupled with that when the stress hormones cause damage to the prefrontal lobes it means even less communication with the limbic-emotional brain and motor coordination--this interferes with the transfer/translation of the artistic impulse and with the dexterity and ability to execute the art itself. Thus the perpetually stressed brain is not Integral it's "divided" and the only art that can come from this is copied material, symbol juggling, realist, and prefrontal cleverness dressed up as "cool." It is not real art in terms of being relevant to cultural progress...but it is a sign of the deprived state of our contemporary cerebral condition.
Kundalini with its amplified metabolism and nerve activity, and increased oxidation, will tend to down-regulate neural and hormonal receptors and rewire the nervous system. However even if we are in the between-slump, when the hyper-functioning has backed off, but our receptors have not yet regrown, we cannot really consider kundalini as being “brain damaging.” We must see all phases of metamorphosis as necessary allostatic changes in the transformation of our organism and the human collective. The atrophying effects on synapses, dendrites and receptors of prolonged perpetual stress chemistry on the body, coupled with excessive perpetual endorphin production is probably why we tend to loose our psychic powers that were so very vivid and pronounced during the peak. Fasting may be one of the main methods for us to recover our higher capacities.
See www.undoingdepression.com for Dr. O'Connor's work on how to overcome perpetual stress and associated depression. His books:
Undoing Depression by Richard O'Connor (1999) and Undoing Perpetual Stress: The Missing Connection Between Depression, Anxiety and 21st Century Illness (2005).
Robert Sapolsky's book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (2004). is I think the best book to understand the subject of stress-damage.
Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death by Martin E. P. Seligman (1992)
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin Seligman (2002)
For receptor recovery see Ward Dean's articles Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging Chapter 7: Restoring Receptor Sensitivity Parts 1-V at http://vrp.com
Also for receptor recovery see Neuro-Endocrine Theory of Aging in this book, and Choline, Hyperzine in the Supplements List for dendrite regrowth. And Receptor Recovery plus Nerve Regrowth in the Exhaustion Phase protocol.
Serious distress of the GI tract in mid-life occurs from inadequate touch and loving social attention in childhood. Besides pain in the neurons and muscles associated with socializing, a biological unhappiness accumulates in the thyroid, thymus, spleen and liver and this translates into disruption of the entire digestive system. The vagus (parasympathetic) nerve is probably a key factor in this connection between the health of our social communion and the health of our self nuture/nutrition.
Digestive conditions that may become more prominent during the exhaustion phase are Crohn's disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut. These digestive troubles are associated with kundalini for many reasons, but perhaps the main one is the chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system during the peak means that the immune system is inhibited allowing invasive pathogens a chance to establish themselves. Scientists believe that chronic imbalances in the intestinal flora sets off a chain of events that, in the end, damages the intestinal mucosa.
While stress can increase symptoms, stress is not a direct cause of these digestive disorders. It is thought that these intestine-related problems are caused primarily by viral or bacterial infection of the intestine that results in the development of an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system attacks the intestinal lining and secondarily by candida infestation which promotes leaky gut. When inflammation becomes uncontrolled, cytokines released by immune cells in the intestine attract additional immune cells that produce destructive chemicals causing further inflammation. The delicate mucosa of the intestinal lining cannot function properly when inflamed and consequently malabsorption of nutrients occurs, while simultaneously allowing the absorption of toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream. Thus people with inflammatory bowel disease often have malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and infection and parasites.
Those with digestive disorders lack the ability to break down histamine at a normal rate, and since bakers yeast and some cheeses are high in histamine, bread and cheese should generally be avoided. Certain foods like dairy, eggs, nuts, fruit, tomatoes, corn, wheat (or gluten), refined carbohydrates and animal protein/fat should be avoided to help control flare-ups (although this doesn't "cure" the condition). Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee as they cause irritation. The epithelial tissue of the gut relies on vitamins A and C for its integrity and a raw diet high of fruits, sprouts and veggies is high in these vitamins, plus the additional bulk makes stools softer and easier to pass. People with very sensitive intestines may need to temporarily juice their vegetables into raw soups until their GI Tract becomes stronger. Shutting down the digestive system for a few days of fasting gives the body a chance to rest and repair.
Digestive supplements: Probiotics, papaya and bromelain digestive enzymes. Prebiotic soluble fiber supplements (acacia, FOS, inulin) are a promising area of treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. Inulin is also a highly effective prebiotic, stimulating the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut, found in the roots of Dandelion, Wild Yam, Jerusalem artichoke, Chicory, Jicama, Burdock. Soluble fiber supplements are particularly beneficial for Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms: Psyllium, ground flax seed, Methylcellulose, and Polycarbophil. Flax seed or fish oils (Omega 3 Oils) have been known to greatly reduce the inflammatory process. Also take supplemental Vitamin D, zinc, folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron to make up for malabsorption, Greens: Alfalfa, barley greens, liquid chlorophyll, wheat grass juice, kelp powder.
Herbs: Agrimony, Aloe vera, Angelica, Ashwagandha, Borage leaf & oil, Frankincense gum, Cardamon, Cat's claw, Chamomile, Cinnamon leaf oil, Cinnamon, Cranesbill, Devil's club, Elderberry, Garlic, Golden seal, Grapefruit Extract, Green tea, Ginger root, Hyssop, Licorice, Marshmallow, Myrrh gum, Neem, Olive Leaf, Oregano, Peppermint, Sangre De Gado, Slippery elm, St. John's wort, Tumeric, White Oak Bark, Yarrow, Yellow dock, Yucca root. Neem leaf and oil is a powerful antiseptic and parasiticide and will directly address all the aspects of these intestinal disorders...by boosting the immune system and counteracting the virus, bacteria, fungi (candida), inflammation, free radicals and toxins from putrifaction.
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