I had a boss who sought out scandal and picked fights with people like it was her job.
I had a boyfriend who would scream “You never really loved me!” whenever things didn’t go his way.
I lost a personal and business relationship with someone and had my life devolve into the most dramatic episode I’ve ever experienced due to a silly incident that happened at my birthday party.
Whenever a friend was in crisis, I’d always get drawn into it to the point of being intimately involved.
I couldn’t understand why these things were always happening to me. I didn’t want my life to be like this.
Or did I?
Because, on some level, I was choosing all of this. I was addicted to the drama.
We might not like the anxiety, jealousy, anger, and frustration that come along with drama, but it sure is easy to get addicted to the rush.
Luckily recognizing the problem and realizing your part in it is the first step to overcoming it. To taking back your power, rather than letting your life constantly be blown up and down by whatever’s happening around you.
Drama is defined as “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances” – so it isn’t inherently bad.
But when we get hooked on the adrenaline, excitement, and attention that drama brings, we get attached to it and we find ways to manufacture drama – usually by creating or seeking out conflict. When life is flowing easily, we’ll find ways to make it difficult. We’ll see obstacles instead of seeking solutions. We’ll hold back our feelings and create tension in our lives. We’ll put up with treatment from other people that diminishes our self-worth. Pretty soon we’re anxious all of the time.
When we give into the drama our body enters a state of stress. The adrenaline and cortisol it produces changes our circadian rhythm, which can result in insomnia, a disrupted metabolism, weakened immune system, and memory decline. In other words, being a drama addict is pretty much the antithesis of loving yourself.
I would never have thought of myself as a drama queen – I like to avoid conflicts and if I’m not careful, I slide easily into people-pleasing tendencies. But if we’re not being true to ourselves, we create internal conflict. We fuel resentments. We manufacture anxiety. And eventually, something’s going to snap.
Last spring I started to think about all of this really carefully. I had just broken it off with yet another guy who made me feel less than. I couldn’t help asking myself, “Why does this keep happening?” I thought about The Super Dramatic Episode of 2013. About who I chose to date. About how I react to stressful situations. There was only one conclusion I could come to: I was the common denominator. I was a drama queen.
I had recognized the problem and I dedicated myself to figuring out the solution. That day I wrote in my journal, “I’ll still relish excitement and adventure, but I’m committed to living a life free from unnecessary drama. I’m no longer willing to tolerate people who treat me unkindly or who make me feel unworthy. I will speak up about my needs and voice my feelings freely. When I find myself mentally dissolving into future-tripping or manufacturing drama for myself, I will recognize my power to choose a different thought. I’m no longer going to be a drama queen.”
Recovering from a drama addiction is an ongoing process and requires more perseverance than I’d originally anticipated, but by bringing awareness to the situation and committing to change, I’ve made huge strides. Here are my suggestions for going on a drama detox and living a more peaceful existence.
Set clear boundaries.
When we know what behaviour we will and won’t tolerate, it becomes easier to know when we need to stand up for ourselves, speak our truths, and make difficult decisions about who we allow into our lives. I’d recommend spending some quality time with a journal thinking this through. What negative patterns have you recognised in your life? What kinds of conflict tend to create drama in your life? What behaviour have you tolerated in the past even though you knew you deserved better? Brainstorm a list of ways you’ll recognise when your boundaries have been crossed and what you’ll do about it.
Be strict about who you spend your time with.
Like attracts like, so if we spend most of our time with people who crave and manifest drama, we’re bound to end up with more of it in our lives. Sometime we have to make difficult decisions about who we have close relationships with. If you recognise someone as adding more drama than they do value to your life it might be time to think about ending your relationship or limiting the amount of time you spend with them. If this is someone you have to be around, like a co-worker, be very clear about the boundaries you have with them. Limit your interactions to the workplace and keep your conversations focused on the job. This isn’t about being cruel to anyone; just recognising that the people we spend time with play a big part in shaping our lives, so it’s important to choose wisely.
Recognize your triggers.
Sometimes we’re addicted to drama because it feels like the norm in certain areas of our life, either as a result of how we were raised or the beliefs we’ve developed. For many of us, this manifests most strongly in our romantic lives or our relationships to work. If we grew up in a house where our parents were always yelling at one another, we may have unconsciously come to believe that this is what love looks like. As a result, even when we’re in a healthy relationship, we find ways to create drama and make ourselves unhappy with the situation. Luckily we have the option to choose new beliefs. In each of your trigger areas write down a healthier belief that’s infused with self-love. Maybe it’s “Romantic relationships are nurturing, affectionate, and mutually supportive.” When you find yourself creating your reality around an old belief, remind yourself of the new one and act on it instead.
For someone who’s quite outspoken, I have a hard time expressing myself when I know it’s going to make me vulnerable. But by getting clear on my personal boundaries and identifying my triggers, I find it easier to articulate myself instead of staying silent, breeding resentment, and creating future drama. If you recognise the need to speak up with someone in your life, remember: it doesn’t have to be a major conflict. I find it best to let the person know ahead of time so that we can both be prepared for the conversation (and so I don’t weasel out of it). And the more I’ve been open and honest, the easier it’s become. And the more my life looks and feels the way I want it to, because I’m asking for what I need.
Choose a different thought.
So much of the drama we create is based only in our thoughts – not in reality. And our thoughts are our own creations. There’s a powerful line in A Course in Miracles that says, “I can see this differently.” This simple phrase is an important reminder of the power we have to change our own minds. If you find yourself getting caught up in the drama of your thoughts, pause and remember that you can see the situation differently. Tell yourself, “I can see love instead” and then choose a more peaceful, loving thought.
Dramatic situations are going to arise. Conflicts are going to happen. But you don’t have to get caught up in them. Rather than letting your mind run away with you, find a way to pull yourself back to the present moment, rather than getting sucked in. Focus on your breath. Rub a crystal that you’ve got tucked in your pocket. Recite an affirmation. Find something that soothes you and use it to protect yourself.
This hasn’t been a clear, black and white process for me. It’s become very clear to me that romantic relationships and stressful work situations really trigger the drama addict in me. But by consistently applying the strategies above, I’m finding it easier to let go. To speak up. To look at things differently. And that’s a big step forward on my self-love journey.
What about you, do you find yourself getting caught up in drama or making situations more stressful for yourself?
Photographs by Steven Meisel.