Psalm 22 and the Bipolar story

Psalm 22 is famous; and as John Motson might have said, ‘very much a psalm of two halves’.

It’s also a commentary on the condition sometimes known as ‘bipolar’.

It’s famous because Jesus quotes the opening line in his scream from the cross:

‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’

It is a cry that continues in the psalm, as self-loathing reigns: ‘I am no longer a man; I am a worm’

The writer feels himself despised by others; he despises himself. And no help is at hand.

‘Trouble is near and there is no one to help…my strength is gone, gone like water spilt on the ground. My heart is melted like wax.’

There is no hope, none at all….and then suddenly, there is.

In the second half of the psalm, the writer is apparently a quite different person, full of cheer, and now confident in God.

‘He does not neglect the poor or ignore their suffering…he answers when they call for help!’

And as he continues:

‘In the full assembly I will praise you! The poor will eat as much as they want! The Lord is King and he rules the nations!’

There’s no hope! There is hope! There’s no hope! There is hope!

We’ve all witnessed the emotional see-saw the writer describes, whether in ourselves or others; significant mood swings, back and forth. From manic to depressed; from depressed to manic.

In desolation, we are pressed down onto the coiled springs of opposites, which, when ready, will propel us across to delight and glory. And then back again.

And if this is all we know, we are in trouble.

If there’s no consciousness to hold and mediate these different moods, the personality is thrown back and forth, helpless, from one coiled spring to another, from one mood to another; from a low to a high, from a high to a low.

Yet if we can develop consciousness of these springs at work, of the transactions taking place inside us, it keeps the springs from coiling too tightly and throwing us too far.

Consciousness doesn’t identify with the experience. She feels it – whether despair or delight – but does not identify. For this is old self stuff, not true self.

She is like a parent holding a child, sometimes screaming, sometimes gurgling with happiness.

‘There’s nothing to be done!’

‘It’s going to be OK!’

‘There’s nothing to be done!’

And so forth. Consciousness looks after both.

As consciousness grows inside us; as we parent ourselves more kindly, and with more awareness, the springs of opposites coil less tightly and we find a steadier, more truthful, way.

We are not thrown as once we were.

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