shockedI’m not being dramatic! You’re being dramatic!

Drama is my present favourite word for all of the “problems” people bring to my office. My connotation is not “negative.” Rather, it is a comment on one’s life focus. Thus, perhaps the opposite of “drama” is “reality.”

People whose lives are one drama after another are often described as Drama Queens.

  • We have one friend who, when in drama queen mode, actually runs from room to room, arms akimbo, flapping and flailing, voice strident, and everything is described in superlatives.
  • My mom used to do drama queen by quivering her lip and endlessly explaining how she was “so sick, the sickest person on the planet.” And no one, no one! was treating her right.
  • One of my male clients does drama by crossing his arms across his chest, sliding lower on the couch, lowering the tone of his voice, and squinting his eyes as he lectures using a menacing tone of voice.
  • As for me, my personal favourite “drama queen” tack is to go to “poor abused little boy, hard done by.” I get, at the same time, whiny and indignant. I got this way through practice – through my interaction with my upbringing. I am an only child, and a long awaited one to boot. (My parents were 39 and 35 when I was born.) I was doted upon and was given anything I asked for. Imagine my surprise when I grew up, went off to University and was treated as normal as opposed to special. I reacted by learning to rant, rave and blame (sounds like a law firm…) In short, I act like a 6-year-old mid-tantrum.
wayneA client drew this in the late 90s, catching my raised eyebrow perfectly

If you were watching my face right now, you’d see my right eyebrow is pulled up (my “irony” look) and you’d see a small rueful smile on my face. I just sighed. The key to being a drama queen, and doing it successfully, is recognition, ownership and non-judgement.

My sigh says it all. I would dearly love to assure you that I’ll never pull the “little kid, hard done by” act, ever again. I can’t assure you of that, because I am me, and I will do drama queen again. What I can do is get really good at noticing the drama I’m creating for myself, own it, get through the drama queen act quickly and efficiently and even give Dar a minute or two of warning that I intend to go there.

I’m rueful because I know I’m not alone in wanting such silliness to simply go away. In fact, that’s what many people think therapy is for. As we noted above, though, nothing we do or are ever goes away. I can’t eliminate what I don’t like about myself. I can control, to a great extent, how I express it.

In a sense, drama queen behaviour has a lot in common with acting. You hear actors talking about “stepping into role,” and “Method Actors” will, for example, gain or lose weight and otherwise modify their bodies to match the character. An actor steps into the character, yet without losing sight of the stark reality: no matter how well they play the role, they are not the role. Acting is called acting because it’s all an act.

We think it’s harder to make the distinction in our personal lives, at the level of our internal theatre. It’s not. All that’s required is presence.

To consciously enter into the drama takes force of will and a devotion to being present.

The presence part helps us to determine several things, not the least of which is, “What am I trying to accomplish here?”
In the year I put in as a hospital chaplain, I saw lots of strange behaviour. Parents would get emotionally drawn in to the drama (it was a Children’s Hospital) and that’s completely natural.

What was weird was that they’d often take their dramas out on the doctors and nurses. Now, yes, the medical staff is trained not to “bite” on such displays, but they too are human, and the more arrogant, angry and blaming the parents were, the more the care and compassion exhibited toward their kid diminished. I would take the parents aside, to a quiet room (what a joke!) and encourage them to vent at me, at the couch, at the wall. Then they could go and talk with the staff.

Drama in and of itself isn’t bad. Drama aimed at someone else almost always gets us precisely the opposite of what we want.

I know. You’re thinking, “But… but… why can’t people cut me some slack? I’m emotionally wrought up, and they should just overlook it!” Now, get your little lip to tremble, and look pitiful. Great.

They won’t do it because “Drama Queen mode” is annoying, not endearing. Or they will do it, and try to “make you” feel guilty. Or they’ll do it and create their own “martyr” drama. (There’s nothing worse than trying to live with a martyr.)

Ram Dass once suggested that he had spent his life working on “nobody special training.”

The antidote to drama is precisely this. I may have internal dramas and I may even choose to enact one or two, but they are nothing special, nor am I. If I can include my drama in my self definition, without judgment, my dramas will, quite quickly, become less dramatic.

And by suspending judgment, I can simply be who I am, in the moment. I can be sad when sad, happy when happy, horny when horny, bored when bored.

It’s like “Hmm. I notice I am boring myself. Do I want to fix it or just be bored?” Not much drama there. As opposed to, “Oh! Shit! I’m soooooo bored. I must be the most bored person on the planet. I’m surrounded by boring losers so no wonder I’m bored! Why don’t they get off their asses and be exciting??? Woe is me!!”
Same boredom, different drama.

You pick, you choose.

The Phoenix Centre for Creative Living - © 2019-2020