Are you addicted to chaos and drama?
Do you know any drama addicts? Someone who is forever going on and on, and ON about how badly she is being treated at work, or by a bitchy colleague or an old friend? The endless he-said-she-said-I-said sagas? I am sure you do. Or, be honest now, is the drama addict in your life actually...you?
Here’s the thing I find about drama addicts. All the stories are about how much they hate the situation they are in or how badly they are treated or misunderstood. But, interestingly they still keep returning to that situation: staying in that job; still seeing that unsupportive friend. They rarely, if ever, have actually spoken up and said “Do you know what, this situation here is not working for me, I need it to stop”.
I had an old colleague like this. I could offer her solutions and ways to tackle the issue as much as I liked which she would solemnly promise to consider, but then the next time we’d meet it was like deja vu. We would have almost exactly the same conversation again over the same thing! Nothing ever changed. It was drama after drama, each one only minutely different from the one before. So frustrating. It can be tiring (and boring) hanging with drama addicts.
I’ve been the drama addict myself. I cringe particularly when I remember how I went through a big work crisis many years back by totally putting myself in the role of victim with endless storytelling — honestly an embarrassing amount. All that sympathy felt very gratifying and it fed the hole inside temporarily. Until it didn’t. And I realised that other people’s sympathy could never replace my own processing of anger and the targeted action of getting a new job. That was what I actually needed to do to feel whole again, rather than distracting myself with endless renditions of my “poor me” story.
Drama addicts actually like having the problem. They use the continual story telling to try to elicit an emotional response in the listener, attention, pity, sympathy. And it does work, the first half a dozen times. We are good friends so that’s what we do. We empathise. And empathise. And empathise.
But when nothing changes it’s frustrating for the listener. What I see is that drama addicts seem hell-bent on creating emotion around them, rather than actually processing their own. If they put as much time and energy into truly working through their own emotional reality rather than spinning endless dramatic stories they would be so much better off. Being self-cast in the role of victim allows the drama addict to take centre-stage, sure, but ultimately it’s a boring, disempowering role because nothing changes.
The amazing screenwriter Nora Ephron, who wrote Silkwood, When Harry met Sally and many other greats said this most perfectly:
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
Spot on Nora. We have a golden opportunity to recast ourselves as the heroine (or hero) of our own story. And tell the story just once more, to ourselves, and ask the following questions:
- How does this situation make me feel? (Not what emotions am I trying to elicit in others that make me feel better).
- What emotions do I have about this? Am I angry? Sad? Scared? Name that feeling. Allow yourself to feel it and own it in your body. If you are sad, cry; if you are angry, go for a run or punch a cushion. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. That’s why they are called feelings — we feel them in our body. Let the emotion move through you. This will start to release it.
- What do I need to do or say resolve this situation? What needs to be different? What do I want to accept — and what am I going to take responsibility to change?
- How do I intend to respect this new resolve? What am I prepared to do to keep it in place? Change job? Drop that friendship? Stop seeing my ex-partner at parties? Change social circles?
- Do it. Drama is soluble in doing. Make the change. Stand your ground. Do whatever it is you need to do to reduce the drama in the situation so you can move on and enjoy a coffee with a friend and talk about the great stuff in your life, or what you are enjoying or looking forward to.
Dropping the drama and picking up doing means a dramatic shift — one where you claim being the heroine of your own life. It’s an altogether more powerful place to be.