For many years it has been a widely held belief that coffee – or some other highly caffeinated beverage – is the treatment of choice for early morning Personality Disorder (e.m.PD). In fact, the consumption of coffee – and by some reports, copious amounts ingested over extended periods of time – may prove to be palliative therapy at best. That means treating the symptoms, not the condition.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Take, for example, someone in the general population who wakes to find he has succumbed to the common cold. Colds are caused by a virus creating physical and mental havoc in your body. Once you contract this vicious little condition you’re obligated to let it run its rampant little course, and in about a week to ten days you usually feel better (unless it’s not that virus but something totally different). Even if you endure every cold remedy on the shelf of your local pharmacy, it is still going to take about a week to ten days for the common cold virus to declare victory and move on. (FACT: Antibiotics will NOT cure a cold and should not be used all willy-nilly, it just makes things worse down the road.) Meanwhile, to make yourself feel a little better while you’re waiting, you can treat the symptoms that generally accompany your cold – the coughing, sneezing, runny nose…
e.m.PD is a tiny bit like that – the episode has to run its course, and then you feel better. The people around you usually feel better too. Treating e.m.PD is a lot like treating a cold, you’re not treating the condition, you’re treating the symptoms. Enter coffee. That scintillating nectar that soothes the raging beast. That aromatic potion filled with the promise of tranquility. That intoxicating elixir of hope. Although the medicinal effects of coffee are still being debated, many e.m.PD members will swear that they are completely dependent on the drink’s therapeutic properties to get them started on the road to a positive personality adjustment.
For those who aren’t sucking their Java straight from the bean, the mere act of preparing a cup of coffee is almost as important as drinking it – beginning with your favorite cup or mug, or, in a pinch, an acceptable substitute. You catch your breath a little as that first steaming splash hits the bottom of the cup, transforming the cold void into a sea of deep mahogany bliss. You softly exhale, as if the process of breathing is the catalyst causing your brew to rise higher and higher in that magnificent vessel of joy. OK, enough of that.
The act of drinking coffee is actually akin to the universal sign for choking – or any of the other universal signs we’ve grown accustomed to – most people will recognize it and respond accordingly. Sipping a cup of coffee appears to be an indication to others that says, “Look, I need a second here. Let me finish this one sip and then we’ll talk.” I have found that many e.m.PD members use Coffee Therapy in conjunction with Avoidance Therapy to create an environment conducive to working through their personality adjustment phase.
CASE STUDY 580311: Wayne is an office manager from the Boomer generation whose duties require him to be on the clock by eight a.m. Although he exhibits a natural affinity for nocturnal activity, he tends to retire fairly early in the evening, usually around nine – ten at the latest – in order to be sure he’s able to get up and get to work on time. He admits that he usually goes to bed much later on weekends, often staying up until eleven or twelve at night. Here he describes the routine that helps him cope with his early morning workday: ‘I like to wake up around five a.m. because it’s dark and quiet. I like to make myself a cup of steaming hot coffee and sit out on the balcony to drink it. There’s something about having that first cup of coffee out there. The stars and planets are still out and you can see them sparkle on that black background. Sometimes I see shooting stars and meteorites. Sometimes I see other stuff – especially one of those stars that stops moving in mid-air and changes direction really fast. [He laughs] I believe! But to sit there and watch as the darkness starts to fade and the sun starts coming up – the colors are so magnificent. And to see that transition as things you couldn’t see in the dark start to transform and take shape. It’s beautiful. It’s relaxing. Seeing the sun rise just as I’m finishing that first cup of coffee helps me deal with the fact that now I have to go in and get ready for work, and for dealing with the knuckleheads.’
Wayne goes on to explain that he’s not particularly interested in sharing this part of his day with anyone. He thinks of it as the “me time” that allows him to prepare to face the rest of the day, and the people in it. He’ll pour the remaining pot of coffee into a thermos, admitting that he usually has another cup during his commute to work, and may start a third cup when he gets to his desk.
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