No. Drama. Ever. Period.
“You can’t save others from themselves because those who make a perpetual muddle of their lives don’t appreciate your interfering with the drama they’ve created. They want your poor-sweet-baby sympathy, but they don’t want to change.” (Sue Grafton)
A while back I realized that a lot of my relationships reminded me of junior high. On Monday we'd be fused and codependent and attached at the hip. We'd send texts throughout the day like passing notes in class. By Wednesday we'd be clubbing each other over the head with a heap of emotional baggage, suspicious half-thoughts, and unfounded accusations. By Friday we'd have some overblown come-to-Jesus sit-down that would lead to some short-term reconciliation.
These friendships were like some sort of toxic Hydra situation. I'd eliminate one, and it would regenerate immediately. I was baffled at my string of bad luck with friendships. It reminded me of the girls I used to date in high school and college....
And that's when it dawned on me.
I was the common denominator.
I was drawn to drama like a moth to a flame. I was addicted to it. Chaos was my normal, and when it wasn't present, I panicked. I wasn't comfortable without someone with whom to fight. I said I hated drama, but I kept coming back like the junkie that I was. To be honest, it was just easier to blame the world; that allowed me to complain without ever having to change.
You may not be a drama king like I was, but most of us have had our fair share of relational histrionics. Maybe your best friend has as many tragedies as their are days of the week. Maybe you're the person everyone always calls with their problems. Maybe you unwittingly turn mole hills into mountains.
Whatever the case, if you'd like to have just a wee bit fewer histrionic episodes, read on. I've come up with a list of ways to minimize drama in your life.
First, own your part. If drama is a regular feature in multiple areas of your life, guess what? You're the common denominator. Be honest with yourself. You might be generating (or at least perpetuating) it. Now, the truth is that no one does anything more than once or twice unless there's a payoff in there somewhere. So, ask yourself: what's in this for you? Are you looking for attention? Do you think this is an adventure? Did you grow up with drama, so this feels normal to you? If you want attention, can you just say that to the other person out loud? "Look, I need some attention right now, and if I don't get it I might cause a scene." Or if you're looking for adventure, maybe go on a real adventure. Like go out and find something adventurous to do -- something that might change the world for the better.
Second, get out of your head. A lot of drama happens in our own heads -- usually because we're too close to the situation to realize it's not nearly as bad as it seems. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with things, take a step back and ask yourself if this is going to matter a year from now. If not, it's probably not worth worrying about. What you're feeling isn't permanent. This too shall pass. Gaining a little perspective may help you focus on what you actually can control -- what you can actually do today to create a better tomorrow.
Third, refuse to wade into another person's drama. What if you were known as someone who didn't participate? Maybe that person who repeatedly comes looking for someone to bail her out of the catastrophe du jour would take her stuff to someone else. If she persists in bringing it to you, give yourself a window of time when you'll listen. Once that timer goes off, walk away. You might be surprised at how quickly she soothes herself when there's no one around to validate her complaints.
Fourth, get new friends. I know this sounds harsh, but sometimes you just have to say, "Life is too short to deal with all this drama." I'm not saying you have to sever the relationship with those folks, but you can go find some people with good energy. Heck, spend time with yourself -- that's preferable to spending time with someone who is constantly stirring the pot. Who leaves you feeling stressed more often than not? Minimize your time with them. At the very least you can recognize the triggers. When the conversation veers towards her ex, steer it somewhere else.
Fifth, be open and honest with other people. If you have an issue with someone, go talk to them instead of talking about them. Gossip breeds drama. When you muster up the gumption to say what you mean (and mean what you say), it may be more difficult short-term but it saves a lot of drama in the long run. If you really want to go to the next level, let people know that they can be honest with you. When we feel like we have to walk on eggshells, we hold things in -- but that's like trying to hold a beachball under water. It will eventually come out -- if not in words then in actions.
Sixth, be careful what you call drama. Sometimes people have legitimate problems and legitimately need your help. Everyone needs grace -- including you. Practice the golden rule. Love people a little more than you think you can. Listen more. Speak less. This will give you the bandwidth to think and respond instead of reacting. Be a friend. Be present. Be in the moment. Then remember that you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, so let the drama go when you walk away. Don't turn it over in your head later. Stay in the moment -- especially when the dramatic moment has passed.
Finally, learn whatever lesson you're supposed to learn. Accept it for what it is. Learn from it. Get on with life. Move forward. Don't get bogged down. Sometimes we get stuck and feel like we're powerless to remove ourselves from the mire. But when you feel overwhelmed, this is your opportunity to learn how to deal with hard times better than you ever have before.
You can always find dozens of small fires burning in your vicinity. Stop giving in to the impulse to put all of them out. When you learn not to fan them, they may actually light the path forward.
Photo Credit: LifeLike Creations