Coffee with Demons: Radical Acceptance
“Don't battle your demons, befriend them," A facebook ad declared one day as I was scrolling through. What does that mean, to befriend your demons? I wondered.
I pictured having coffee with some particularly threatening characters: devious, malicious, underhanded and frightening to behold. Who really want to have lattes with demons? Aren’t we better off attempting to banish them, rather than welcoming them to the table?
When one confronts and conquers a dragon there is treasure to be had. That is, facing obstacles and fears can lead to great rewards. Perhaps this is what it means to befriend your demons. Demons, too, may have lessons to teach, truths to uncover. Different metaphors, same meaning?
What about the demons of mental illness? Can you befriend them? What about Bipolar Disorder for example?
When someone experiences mania or hypomania they feel on top of the world. Everything is awesome! They have an abundance of energy, positivity and great ideas… Who wouldn't want to be friends with this demon? This demon is fun - a natural high. Although, it is not without potential consequences: overdrawn spending accounts, rash decisions, infidelity… and, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down.
The down is a devastating plummet through indescribable blackness - nothing to grab a hold of, no light in sight. Despair and anxiety churn and overwhelm. Unwelcome suicidal thoughts may intrude.
So I am skeptical. Can Bipolar offer any treasure? Hell no, I think.
Recently I also came across an article on Psychology Today: "Radical Acceptance: Sometimes Problems Can't be Solved" (Hall, 2012). It occurs to me that perhaps befriending demons is about making peace, making friends with the things that haunt you, torment you, even devastate you. Maybe it's about acceptance - radical acceptance. That is, not fighting against what is, but rather accepting and observing it without judgment. Does acceptance mean surrender? Giving in, giving up? No!!
Along with acceptance, comes taking care of one’s self: recognizing the need for ongoing psychiatric care and the importance of healthy lifestyle habits. In addition, acceptance without judgement induces compassion for one's self and others. Perhaps then, it is a very good idea to befriend one's demons, asking, “Bipolar, do you want a latte?”
Hall, K. (2012) "Radical Acceptance: Sometimes Problems Can't Be Solved." https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201207/radical-acceptance