Drama Addict

Disco balls.

Why do I keep getting drawn into other people’s drama and conflict when I’m working on inner peace and tranquility? 

Are you a drama addict?

Some of you will immediately recognize this in yourselves, and some will say, “No, that’s not me.” Let’s take a closer look.

What is drama, other than a story? We all love a really good story, it’s hardwired into our human system. This is so interwoven into the way we perceive the world and ourselves that it’s really hard to even notice it, to watch it in action. This little engine is almost always revving away, just waiting for a narrative to jump into, to get involved in. It’s so versatile and subtle, too.

Let’s look at the mechanics a bit.

The first thing that happens is excitement.

Your system: emotional, mental and physical—experiences a sudden jolt of excitation. You get “turned on.”

This is part of the normal human system, and it has a basic purpose: to arouse you to action when it’s either to your great benefit or more importantly, to keep you safe and alive, when you might be in danger. It’s an arousal system that is linked to your basic drives of survival and procreation.

This is on a different level than the fight or flight mechanism, though it’s not too dissimilar. But in fight or flight, your system makes a snap assessment. In the case of our addiction to getting involved in stories, there is a lot of thought involved. One of the hallmarks of this tendency is to flesh out a very detailed, rich, and emotionally powerful narrative, sometimes out of very little or no material. You give meaning to things and justify those meanings with emotionally vivid story lines.

Know any drama addicts?

Someone close to you is having some kind of issue, some vexing or difficult or painful situation. When they share it with you, how do you react? Do you stay centered in your own awareness? Or does your mental/emotional/physical system get revved up, whereupon you jump into their situation, adding to their narrative, getting involved? Note that you can aid, advise and comfort a person without getting personally involved or invested in their story.

Even as you feel so badly for them, and wish they didn’t have to experience this difficulty, there is a part of you that is excited by it, a part of you that enjoys it, the way people watch sad or tragic movies for entertainment. You go over the story line, add to it here and there, share it with others by talking about it when there is no reason to do so, even to the point of gossiping about it, even though you probably don’t even see it as gossip.

It’s very subtle. You get excited. You get involved. You get pulled off center and enter into the narrative. You add to the narrative like some kind of role playing game, and then you spread it by telling and retelling it to others. All while believing this to be someone else’s drama, not yours.

Conflict

Not everyone gets excited by conflict, but some people do. And often those people are not the aggressive types. It’s kind of surprising. Many people who are actually horrified by conflict and confrontation—and are more passive aggressive—are the ones that harbor a powerful attraction to conflict.

You will usually find them getting greedily involved in other people’s conflicts and confrontations, as they tend to live a little vicariously this way.

Conflict happens. Confrontation happens. But they can be clean, meaning they arise and get worked out or just get spent. Or they can be part of some ongoing drama, the story getting reworked and revised and re-enacted and enriched.

Sometimes these conflict addicts will actually nurture the conflicts of other people. So you’ll see two people who might have had a confrontation, and then they are ready to let it go. It’s spent. If there is a conflict addict somewhere in the mix, that person, though not directly involved in the conflict in any way, will try to keep the conflict alive and active. And these are often the most “peaceful” people who assiduously avoid having direct confrontations with people.

These are just a couple of examples. As I said, it’s so subtle, and often easier to recognize in others than in oneself. These two examples are dramas that are external, but this complex also involves the addiction to inner drama. In other words, when there’s nothing good on TV (outer drama), you can just spin your own without any help.

People can only tolerate so much peace, contentedness and neutrality. People can only tolerate so much of being alone in their space, in the own experience. The question is not simply how do I become more peaceful, but how do I increase my tolerance for inner calm and solitude.

So while you’re learning this, that and the other technique to calm the mind, or whatever, you must realize that unless you increase your tolerance for it, you will either create or involve yourself in drama just to escape that peaceful center. And this drama addiction depletes your natural energy reserves, in the same way that the adrenals get depleted with a constant diet of stimulants.

This robs you of the natural energy you need in order to truly upgrade from the basic, programmed, reactive and unconscious kit we came in with to one that has more clarity, expanded awareness and resilience. It is, in essence, a sabotage routine.

Do you recognize this? How do you see it playing out, either within or in others.

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