Dancing with the Devil
Posted by: Stephen Rigby at 11:19, July 6 2018.

Dancing with the devil is to engage in a dangerous, potentially immoral behaviour – something that may cause you or others physical or emotional harm or to associate with people who indulge in such behaviour.  To mistakenly “dance with the devil” or associate with the “wrong” people, we think of as a flaw of the young but we all have a tendency to either give people the benefit of the doubt or entrap ourselves with obligation or misguided loyalty – particularly if we have known that person for a while.  In the 1999 horror thriller 8mm one of the characters warned, "When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn't change — you do." 

How Trusting Are You?

I have been fortunate (some might say unfortunate) in my life to have met some pretty interesting people – some good, some bad.  Unfortunately, it is not always easy to know whether a person one meets is a good person or a bad person (whether they can be trusted or not).  The tendency is to assume, if the person appears genuine, that they are genuine – if the person is kind, considerate, or friendly towards you, then you assume that they are kind, considerate and friendly.  I have lived in places (like Northern Ireland in the 70’s) and worked in jobs (like the police force) where one could not automatically take people on face value but generally, within reason, that is a good policy to follow because most people one meets are decent people.

People Are Not Always As They Seem

As a police officer I had to associate with some of the worst elements of society on a daily basis.  To do my job and stay safe, I had to learn the obvious lesson that people are not always what they seem.  “He seemed like such a decent person” sounds rather foolish when one is being stitched up in A&E.  Whether someone acts “good” or “bad” often depends on context.  Joe (not his real name) might have acted friendly and decent if I met him in the street or even if I was serving an arrest warrant but I would not want to bump into him if he was masked, carrying a sawn-off shotgun and robbing a bank (let’s call that one of his hobbies)!

Even the worst elements of society can appear good and decent – even bad people are not bad all the time.  Whether you evaluate someone as being “good” or “bad” depends on which character traits you believe are the most dominant. 

When Does One Really Know Someone?

If one meets someone whose behaviour is immediately unacceptable, it is easier to avoid that person in the future than if their bad side is not revealed until after one has entered some form of relationship with them.  When someone is in a bad relationship, there appears to be a tipping point between seeing one’s partner as a good person or seeing them as a bad person.  This tipping point is typically seen in cases of abuse inflicted on a spouse or partner.  It used to be called “wife” beating but can equally be abuse by a woman against a man, woman against a woman or man against a man.  It is not unusual for an abused person to remain with their abuser for years.  The abused may leave but then return multiple times after a promise that things will change.  They return because they believe the advantages of being with their partner as outweighing the disadvantages (good points outweighing bad points).  Not until that tipping point where the bad outweighs the good will they leave for good.

“Trapped” In An Abusive Relationship

Abuse of all kinds (physical and emotional) is not confined to the parents in a family but can be parent against child, child against parent or sibling against sibling.  If one is subjected to such abuse, one might ask oneself if there is an acceptable level of that abuse, should you accept it, address it in some way or should you walk away?  Unfortunately, how quickly someone reaches the tipping point is often influenced by what they feel they “should” do or what is the “right” thing to do.  For example: one “should” respect the promises made when one got married or looking after one’s parents when they get old is the “right” thing to do.

Challenging Beliefs That May Be Misplaced

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was developed to improve the process of therapy.  In NLP this thinking is challenged – you may ask yourself “who said that is the right thing to do?”, or “what would happen if you did something different?”  The best decisions are always made when the situation and all options available are fully understood. 

Staying in a relationship where one is treated badly or feel obliged to bend to the will of someone whose moral code is less robust than your own can also be termed “dancing with the devil”. 

So are you dancing with the devil?  Is there someone in your life, a friend, a parent, a spouse or partner who consistently treats you with disrespect, is violent towards you (either physically or emotionally) or constantly try to control or coerce you? A good way of looking at such a relationship is to make an evaluation of what you get from the relationship (or hope to get) and weigh that against the emotional or physical cost of continuing that relationship.  You may find that you are closer to that emotional tipping point than you realise.