I just celebrated a birthday last week, and one of my resolutions to my newly 30-something self was that I was going to take any means necessary to end the drama in my life. As a person with high levels of anxiety, high blood pressure and occasional black moods, I felt it would be beneficial to my overall health and well-being to give my entire mental and emotional life a good, thorough spring clean. Perhaps it just comes with turning the big 3-0, or maybe it’s just where I am in life, but I’m finding it less and less fulfilling to give attention to dramatics, take part in shitstorms, and function day to day as a high-maintenance individual.
The problem with this is, no matter what I do or where I go, drama seems to follow me. I’m just one of those people, who at any given time, is usually involved in some type of incident, argument, debate, or shitstorm. While there are people out there who most certainly derive a lot of confidence and fulfillment from adversity, who genuinely love to cut their teeth on dramatic situations, I am not one of those people. I hate that I’m always in the midst of some unfolding situation. In fact, I do everything I can to avoid ruffling feathers at all costs. I’m downright timid; a total doormat in most situations, because it is my biggest source of anxiety that someone will become angry at me and drama will ensue.
Despite those feelings, I still inevitably end up in the middle of every single little thing that goes down. I’ve tortured myself for years, trying to figure out why it is that people always drag me into the drama, how I always end up finding myself on this or that side as the sparks fly, bearing the brunt of the negativity when things come to a head. I always end up having to defend myself as if I started it all, when most of the time I was trying my best to stay out of it. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself, wondering why people drag me in when I so clearly want no part, and feeling downright victimized.
I recently had a realization. I’m no innocent bystander, or victim caught unawares. I’m not the meek, neutral party I think I am. I am the go-to drama-martyr. I can always be relied upon to fan the flames of emotional warfare, and time after time, I’ve proven this theory correct.
Believe me, it gave me no joy to realize this about myself. From the inside, it seemed to me that as a kind, agreeable, genial sort of person, that I should be able to stay out of the chaos. From the outside, I am very much the heart of the shitstorm.
I found myself drafting out a list of guidelines in my head, the telltale signs that I have been willingly engaging in drama to fill a deep-seated need in myself. Here’s what I came up with:
– Do your friends always come to you with snark, gossip, or to vent about other friends?
– Are your friends always bringing others’ negative behaviors to your attention, as if it is your responsibility?
– Do your friends come to you when they are in conflict with someone else, or expect you to side with them when they are on the outs with someone?
– Do you find yourself in the middle of, or actively engaged in, a conflict that has nothing to do with you whatsoever?
– Do you find that people point out things that are offensive to you, seemingly in the hopes of making you angry along with them? Do you find yourself seeking out things to find offensive, or speaking out on subjects that don’t directly effect you?
– Do you take up other people’s causes, or try to fight their battles, when they can take care of themselves? Do you feel that you’re a nurturer or caretaker in your friendships?
– Do you ever feel like people are trying to get a rise out of you?
– Do you ever feel like you stand up for people when they wouldn’t do the same for you?
– Do you have a strong desire to make yourself heard, or to argue your case, even when it would be best for everyone that you let it go?
I answered yes to all of the above questions. If you did too, you may be a drama-martyr. I definitely am. While I have an inherent desire to stay as far away from drama as I possibly can, I always find myself inevitably drawn to high emotions and causes of offense.
I am a firm believer that life is all about the exchange of energy. We give it, and we receive it. Positive energy is much more desirable; however, in everyday dealings with people, it is not always as easy to obtain. Many of us settle for receiving negative energy, and we’ll obtain it in myriad ways.
When we become offended, or decide to speak out about something that angers or hurts us, we are giving off energy. Negative energy. Sometimes it is necessary, such as in cases of extreme hurt, when someone has wronged us badly, or in cases of social or political injustice, etc.
My problem is the same as that of other drama-martyrs – we can always be relied upon to give our energy to any negative situation. I am easily provoked. It is easy to get a rise out of me. Just make a fat joke or say something misogynistic. Tell me a story about how one of our mutual friends hurt your feelings. Make me feel inadequate or do something rude. It doesn’t take much to get my ire up. I’ve never developed a particularly thick skin, and so I am easily offended and quick to say so. Even in situations where it’d probably be better that I just let it go, when my saying something won’t accomplish anything positive or do anything to enlighten anyone, I still feel the need to speak.
When we give our energy and attention to negativity, we are fulfilling the base desires of those who want to create drama. We’re fanning the flames of their effort, and creating what they set out to accomplish.
The problem is, it doesn’t hurt anyone but us. The person creating the dramatic situation has gotten the attention they wanted from the whole incident, and they are happy and sated. It is those of us who give our attention and our energy to the drama that end up suffering – be it through continued conflict with our loved ones, or physical signs, such as stress, high blood pressure, depression or anxiety issues. Being a drama-martyr is a dangerous thing.
So how do you stop? It isn’t an easy process you can accomplish in the course of a day. You have to make a conscious effort NOT to engage. It will be hard, because drama-martyrs like me have had years of practice in speaking out. We simply don’t know how to stay silent when we feel affronted. It seems backwards, unnatural, and unhealthy to just be quiet. And in some cases, it is best to defend yourself or point out when someone is wrong. The best way to tell if you’re justified in speaking, or just engaging in drama, is to ask yourself three questions: Am I directly affected by this? Am I truly helping a person I care about by becoming involved, or can they take care of themselves? Can I accomplish something good by speaking up?
If you can’t answer yes to all three questions, then perhaps you should reevaluate your reasons for wanting to engage to begin with. In those times when you absolutely cannot help but say something, try to remember not to resort to petty, immature things like name-calling, threats, or hurtful gossip. Be polite, be firm, and be clear about your feelings. As with anything, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of behavior. You may have friends or loved ones that don’t make it easy for you to stop the cycle of drama. In those cases, distancing yourself may be the only way you can do it. Sometimes you have to remove yourself from the situation for your own good.
As of now, I’ve decided to cancel my membership to the drama club. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely necessary. I’d love to hear your tips on how to stay drama-free in a dramatic world.