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October 21, 2014

How to Know If You’re Addicted to Drama

About 10 months ago, I had an a-ha moment. I was out to lunch with a friend of mine, and the two of us were talking about someone we both knew, saying how we didn’t understand them or why they did what they did and what was up with that, etc. And the whole time, on the inside I am feeling kind of icky, but still participating … and then all of a sudden, I just thought, “Why the fuck do I care about this???”

I really haven’t been engaged in drama or gossip for most of my adult life. In fact, I think most people who know me would say I am fairly reserved and not really forthcoming with information, but at the time 10 months ago, I was going through a few months where I was caught up in drama and gossip and negativity. And #idontlikeit.

Since then, it’s been back to self-focus and action, because I know that when I am outside-focused and worrying about what everyone else is doing, not only am I more stressed and it plays on my insecurities, but it’s a distraction from me following my own passion and purpose — which is ultimately what makes me happy and at peace.

But engaging in drama feels kind of good.

I can see how getting caught up in drama and emotion and gossip can be appealing, and even … addicting? It feels good to be ruled by your emotions sometimes. It feels good to “let go” of the carefully crafted reservation and poise that we feel we need to put on constantly. It feels good to gossip and talk about how messed up other people are. Mainly, it can feel good because it takes the onus off us. When we are deferring and deflecting, we don’t have to do the work on ourselves.

I know a lot of people who live in a constant state of drama. I am sure you do, too. People who seemingly have a crisis every single day. You talk to them, and whether the crisis is imaged or real, you ask yourself, “How does this person function like this?” It feels heavy and stressful and like a full-time job to keep up the drama.

But what we miss is that the reality we create is the exact reality we get comfortable in.

And stress feels really … comfortable for many people. Strange, right? But it’s so common.

Are you an Anxious type?

I recently finished the book, ‘Attached’ by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, recommended to me by Jade. It’s all about adult romantic attachment — how we connect to other people in romantic relationships. There are 3 types of attachment styles: Secure, Anxious and Avoidant. They are fairly self-evident given the names, but one thing that stuck out for me was a characteristic of the Anxious type, and that was “normalizes drama in relationships.”

The authors warned Anxious types that since they’re so used to drama that they would have a hard time recognizing a secure and easy relationship when they encountered one. They might think the interaction boring or may even think it’s not really love if there isn’t a ton of emotional baggage constantly.

I can definitely resonate with this. My very first long term relationship was like this–high drama all the time–loving or hating, overly passionate in all ways all the time, constant ups and downs, like you’d image your typical 20-year old romance to be ;) It was constant #nofilter. I wouldn’t change a thing about it because I learned so much, but it was a mess, ha! A great experience I cherish, but nothing like the secure, happy and deep connection of the relationship I want to have now.

The bottom line is that Anxious types tend toward insecurity, so a state of high-emotion is always more comfortable than peace, self-trust and well, security. And as we all know, developing the latter characteristics is difficult and takes introspection, investigating our own BS and taking responsibility for everything that happens. When I am involved in drama and gossip, I am not doing those things. Instead, I’m defending, deflecting, taking things personally and trying to point out fault in others or blame them so I don’t have to examine myself too carefully.

And so being addicted to drama makes sense. It’s like our default state, we don’t have to think too hard or take much ownership. We can just sit back, relax and play defense.

But of course we also don’t get to experience personal fulfillment, happiness and peace. Those experiences take self-relfection and calling ourselves out.

My 3-Step Process for Overcoming An Addiction to Drama:

1) Understand your insecurities and take responsibility for them.

For me, getting caught up in stress and drama happen when I am not fully in my power, when I am feeling insecure, not doing what I need to do for me and being distracted from my passion. And so I know it comes down to calling out my insecurities and getting myself to a better mental place.

This first step is often the hardest because it doesn’t feel good to turn the mirror on ourselves. But how I begin is by simply watching my responses to events, people and circumstances. And I know immediately if I’m acting out of insecurity when I feel the need to defend or deflect. I know I am being insecure when I get that emotional hit to my ego–when my feelings get hurt easily or I am taking things personally.

Here’s an example I’ve used before:

Several years ago, after one of my competitions, I was doing my customary off-season binging (i.e. the result of complete deprivation and 100% discipline for exactly 12 weeks and not a day longer) and was out to dinner with a family member. We sat to eat and I was on my, oh, #2 or #3 roll from the bread basket and this person said, “Gee Jill, looks like you’re really enjoying that bread!”

Well, I immediately fumed! How dare this person — who has no idea the kind of sacrifice I made or has ever exerted the kind of discipline I had — remark on my food choices?! Was he insane?

I replied something about not having had any bread FOR WEEKS and then there sat upset for the rest of the night.

I made the comment personal (well, I guess it kind of was personal), but what I did was make it mean that I was somehow no good, or fat or undisciplined or weak. I used it to affirm all the things I was silently thinking about myself anyway, letting it play on my insecurities.

THIS is the distinction. THIS is the crux. THIS is where the choice lies. We can choose to take anything we want to mean that we suck. Because the comment, “You look like you’re enjoying that bread,” is actually benign. And it was true! I was enjoying it! Lol. So really, making the jump from an objective statement to something I take to heart and then play up the strong emotional hit on my ego is 100% my choice.

I could just have easily laughed off the comment or poked fun at myself and moved on way faster as a result.

Here’s the thing: all humans have insecurities. It’s completely normal. But when we work to become aware of them, we have more tools to dissipate that emotional charge when we feel it. And we don’t need to get involved in drama or make a big emotional scene out of things. My practice is diffusing the drama and taking things at face value.

2) Choose a perspective the serves you.

Often for those constantly caught up in drama and emotion, life can feel like a never-ending struggle. This person treats me disrespectfully, this other person doesn’t get me, my boss is giving me a hard time, my partner doesn’t consider me or appreciate me, why am I am always the one who this bad stuff happens to??? I get that. And whether that all is imagined or actually happening, we know we can never control outcomes, but we can control how we see a situation. We can always choose our perception and we can always choose to see things in a more positive–or at least a more educational–way.

Here’s how I would break down the above scenarios if I wanted to change my perception:

  • “This person treats me disrespectfully”—> I taught this person to treat me this way. If I want it to change, I need to change.
  • “This other person doesn’t get me”—> Is it really their job to “get” me? How about I work on getting myself and then what someone else thinks about me doesn’t register.
  • “My boss is giving me a hard time”—> My boss cares about my potential and even though I don’t agree with his/her way of showing it, I can see that he/she is doing their best, like all of us are.
  • “My partner doesn’t consider me or appreciate me”—> What have I done to show my partner that I consider an appreciate them? And I’m pretty sure that they do consider me and appreciate me, but the ways in which they are showing it is not registering for me, so I will look for those ways and try to see things from their perspective.
  • “Why am I am always the one who this bad stuff happens to???”—> Gee, this sucks. But I guess we all have shit that happens and I guess things could be a lot worse. I am grateful for the lesson in these situations and I realize that at the very least I am building my resiliency. I’m sure I’ll be able to laugh about it later.

All same situations, just different head spaces. I choose the perception that doesn’t make me miserable.

3) Practice a secure way of being in the world.

This is of course the final step — practice. It doesn’t happen overnight and remember, the way we interact in the world is what we are used to, so changing it will be tough. Often our responses are automatic, so taking on a positive and self-aware way of being takes well, work. And that work comes in the form of mindfulness. Besides, it’s easy to blame and complain and point fingers. It’s our default state. The opposite–awareness and choice–takes effort.

My tools for catching myself and turning any situation into a more secure one:

  • Taking what people say at face value and not trying to uncover hidden meanings and ulterior motives
  • Trust that everyone (including me) is doing their best and deserves kindness, understanding and empathy
  • Never having to ask, “WHY does he/she do that??” because I always know the answer: because it’s what he/she does. And even if it’s not what I would do, it’s not my business and each person is entitled to their own journey
  • Understand that things could always be worse, and try to find a bright spot or opportunity for learning in each situation
  • Being aware that everyone has insecurities, they are normal and human and we are all working from them all the time. I don’t need to take everything personally when I understand this
  • Check my ego at the door and realize that what other people think of me is not my business and it’s not my job to convince them of anything either
  • Trust myself to show up authentically in the world and let the chips fall however they may. “I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.” (Kurt Cobain) <—This is the ultimate in security and my personal ongoing practice.

My practice now? Awareness, perspective and self-focus. When I’m engaging in me, and not the business of others, I come fully into my power and am at peace. Because life does not need to be an endless stream of stress and anxiety! :) I know it is so tough, but like everything, it’s a practice of awareness + choice.

Rinse and repeat! Xo, Jill

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