Life’s Rhythms

    Coming from a gene pool rich in raging bipolars on both sides of my family has likely caused me to be more aware of my own rhythms–the cycles of highs and lows that often drown out my impulses toward a balanced life.  Yesterday I felt like something was up and I put it on my mental check list to look at my biorhythm chart. I hadn’t done that in several years. Anyway, I didn’t get around to it until this morning.  What I saw scared the bejeebers out of me. Yesterday was a triple critical day. All three rhythms (physical, emotional, intellectual) were crossing the midline.  This sort of convergence only happens once in a blue moon. According to biorhythm theory when crossing the midpoint in a cycle we are more vulnerable to getting ill, crashing emotionally or making errors of judgement.  If I’d have seen that yesterday morning maybe I wouldn’t have gone out of the house. I’m glad that I didn’t; it would have put a thought in my noggin’ that didn’t need to be there. 

    Back about 1975, I bought a book on biorhythms and I charted my own rhythms by hand for over two years. As an experimental psych major I’m a trained skeptic, and as shakey as the empirical evidence is for biorhythms I could see some validity in them. Scientists who study circadian and infradian rhythms say that no phenomena in nature occurs with the unbending regularity that biorhythm theory posits.

    I already had an awareness of cycles in nature from Cycles a book by Edward Dewey that I’d read in 1973.  He had been affiliated with a research group at the University of Pittsburgh that compiled data on hundreds of natural cycles–everything from the growth of trees, to fluctuations in the stock market, and the availability of salmon in the North Atlantic. What they found was that many phenomena followed either an 11 year or 22 year cycle. The significance of those numbers has to do with the coming and going of solar activity, sunspots. In other words, forces way beyond this planet were affecting hundreds of phenomena and decisions here.  This revelation caused me to become interested in astrology, and for a couple years I was deeply into that pseudo-science.

    Up to 1973, when I first read Cycles there had not been a whole lot of research on cycles studying human behavior. However, there had been one long-term study trying to get a handle on bipolars.  It found that each of us has a mood rhythm that is somewhat unique to us. Another study by Ogden Lindsley six decades ago found that hospitalized chronic schizophrenics had regularly recurring “crazy episodes” when their operant behavior (lever pulling) became disorganized.  

    Our own mood rhythm is easily enough studied. One simply rates their predominant mood for the day on a scale of 1 -10 and records it. Do this for at least six months and in all likelihood some pattern will emerge. Keeping this sort of chart is mostly relevant to folks who have bipolar tendencies. Over the years I have advised dozens of clients to keep this sort of data. A few have and its been helpful to them and their physicians. 

    Solomon, nearly three millenia ago, had an awareness of the periodicity in nature and our lives. In Ecclesiastes he writes: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. . .”  Okay, so for some of us old enough we hear the Byrds singing “turn, turn, turn.” And for me life has always been about the turnings up and the turnings down. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

   For me, understanding my own mood rhythm lends me a certain measure of hope. It’s reassuring to know that no matter how bad I feel, that the feeling is temporary and that eventually–usually just a few days– my mood will start to trend upwards. Of course the same is true when one feels terrific; it wont last, and that’s bad news for many people. I’m what’s known as a short-cycler with my mood rhythm being just a few weeks in length. My poor Dad had cycles of three years duration. He had to learn to cope with his depression and mania for many months on end before they turned. Though he was never hospitalized, or even aware of his illness, being bipolar caused him to never leave his small home town and never realize the fruits of a superior intellect.

    According to biorhythm theory we have three basic rhythms: physical (23 days), emotional(28 days), and intellectual (33 days). These cycles start on the day we are born and continue those lengths for the rest of our lives. There was some research done mostly in Japan that appeared to validate those cycles. During the mid-to-late 1970s biorhythms became a hot topic–along with a lot of other New Age foolishness. Even some NFL teams were checking the rhythms of their key players as well as calculating the aggregate biorythms of their opponent for the following sunday in seeking some little edge.

    Biorhythms had their day and then they faded. But with everything digitized today its easy to do a chart; just punch in your birthdate and a graph will appear giving you a heads up for the coming weeks. Like I mentioned, I only do this every year or two when I’m curious about the way I’m feeling. After I became a Jesus-follower the whole fool’s errand of trying to figure everything out, explain everything and control everything became a lot less relevant.

     Jesus is the Lord of the Dance and I’m willing to try as best I can to let Him lead and me follow.


About diospsytrek

I am a licensed mental health counselor in Florida. I am also the author of four books. The books have to do with coping with depression and other mood disorders, and the nexus of psychological problems and spiritual warfare.
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One Response to Life’s Rhythms

  1. Gledwood says:

    I read the original Manic-Depressive Insanity and Paranoia by Emil Kraepelin and in it he charts cycles of symptoms, explaining that they’re not always in sync, hence mixed states and episodes of weird opposites ~ eg I’m just going manic, and yet I spent the past three days mostly asleep!

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