Doesn’t every group of friends have at least one person that’s somewhat prone to drama? The one who always provides the juicy stories and experiences the weirdest, you-can’t-make-that-stuff-up type of situations involving other people, who regularly gets caught up in sitcom-worthy experiences? You know, the type of experiences that make you want to scream into the void but also make for some pretty awesome entertainment at the dinner table? Well, look no further – I am that person.
And I write this with a tiny bit of pride (knowing that I’ve contributed more than my fair share of entertainment to my people) and a whole bunch of mixed feelings. While I enjoy brightening my friends’ lives with my stories – there’s been many good ones! – I’m aware that they’re not exactly the outcome one should wish for.
While I’m no longer the epicentre of most of the drama in my life, I sure still know how to attract it. And, if it doesn’t find me all by itself, I definitely know how to innocently stir up some drama with people that are susceptible to it.
Where does this inclination towards drama come from, you wonder? This, for one, is no mystery to me. I probably mentioned it before, but I grew up in a high drama environment: most (even seemingly minor) disagreements ended in some kind of drama. Emotional overwhelm or outbursts were met with drama. To me, drama is home. I know what it feels like, I learned how to surf the drama waves. It’s unsettling, but it feels familiar, comfortable, even thrilling at times. Whenever conflict arises, I get ready for drama. I brace myself for rejection and insults and always expect to end up on my own – just me against the world. And I’m sure this expectation has turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy at least once or twice in the past.
I’ve worked hard on breaking free of this pattern and I can say that I succeed about half the time. I’ve become a lot more resistant to family drama because it’s been a lot easier to not engage since I moved out of my parents’ house: I can now choose when I have the capacity to immerse myself in the potential drama territory. Whenever I lack the energy to resist engaging in drama, I just stay away.
I can’t say I’m entirely free of the occasional drama craving. Yes, you read that right: sometimes I have an actual desire for drama. This happens for several reasons (I probably haven’t figured all of them out yet), two of which are boredom and distraction from self. I think the number one reason for my drama needs is the desire to distract myself from my own struggles while simultaneously wanting to feel better about myself – which can be a beneficial side-effect, given my expertise in the interpersonal drama field. Drama however usually brings about way more detrimental consequences than it does beneficial ones. There’s a very high price to pay for the small rush of dopamine I get from the drama.
Interestingly, whenever I do end up getting hurt – which usually happens – in the middle of the drama I (sought out and/or) surrendered into, I feel the pain and it’s both terrible and comforting.
I assume that it feels that way to me because it aligns with what I (still) sometimes believe about myself, despite all my efforts and better knowledge. I deserve being treated poorly. I deserve the pain.
I’m aware that nothing good will ever come from drama and that without exception at least one of the involved gets hurt, me sometimes being the one causing pain rather than the one who gets hurt. Also, each time I get swept up in drama, I come out of it with additional baggage that I’ll need to painstakingly deconstruct and process sometime in the future and that will certainly haunt me until I do so. Seeking drama is a form of self-sabotage. I know that I should disengage as soon as drama comes knocking on my door. I should just walk away from it, know and hold on to my worth and not interact with anyone that wants to stir things up drama-style. And I actually do! Far more often than I used to, anyway. I no longer give in to drama every time.
Sometimes I turn the other way without batting an eye. Sometimes I walk away from it only to return to it voluntarily because I thought I could let it go but then couldn’t. Sometimes I blow a fuse at the mere hint of drama, diving in headfirst. It’s a process, to say the least.
The majority of my current relationships are drama-free. Some of them so much so that I’m a little freaked out because I don’t know how to deal with the lack (absence would be the more appropriate word here) of drama. I find myself bracing for impact a lot of times, only to discover that nothing worth mentioning ends up happening. I squirm around certain subjects or chicken out of saying the things I want to say because I’m afraid of the repercussions when there’s in fact no need to be. I feel inhibited by the memories of the reactions some of my past (well-meaning) actions and words were met with.
I like to think of drama as a kind of addiction that I have to slowly but progressively phase out of my life. I don’t think I can go cold turkey because as I mentioned above, the presence of drama in my life is somewhat grounding and an occasional source of comfort – not something I can simply unsubscribe from.
And so, I’ll just keep tiptoeing my way to a drama-free(-ish) life, skipping one drama-infused interaction at a time, learning to trust that drama doesn’t necessarily belong in relationships and, most importantly, teaching my nervous system that the absence of drama is a good thing.
* (Hopefully Not!)