We are discussing energy zappers. What are they? Habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they often do very little to enhance our sense of well-being! Mostly,they deplete us! Today, we are going to discuss Energy Zapper Two: Drama. To be honest with you, I thought this was going to be an easy zapper to write about. However, as I have been thinking about it all week, I realized that like a brilliant cut diamond, drama is multi-faceted. At first glance, its attraction is obvious. However, there is much more to it than meets the eye! As we get started, let’s take a look at a few common connotations of drama as we narrow down a definition that suits our purposes.
First, drama has always been and continues to be source of entertainment! Whether it is our favorite TV shows, movies, music, theatre, books, sports, news and so on, we love not only the art of performance but the creative narratives and imaginative expressions within them. And whether we are drawn to them or not, reality shows have capitalized on manufactured drama, creating a cultural phenomenon!
Secondly, drama has a clinical connotation. Diagnostically, it is referred to as Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). Although most of us can be histrionic on occasion, as is true with the other Personality Disorders, an individual with HPD exhibits a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking beginning in early adulthood and the behavior is apparent in different settings. Although there are numerous criteria that describe a histrionic personality, individuals with HPD are overly lively, dramatic, enthusiastic and unusually open about personal issues – all in an effort to draw attention to themselves. What also distinguishes HPD from extroverted or out-going persons is that if they are not the center of attention, they will typically do or say something dramatic to return the focus of attention on themselves. Although qualities of HPD may be attractive at first, they tend to wear thin or become difficult for others to manage over time. Without minimizing the relationship difficulties of HPD individuals, it is important to note that personality disorders develop as a result of childhood experiences as a means of coping with one’s environments.
And thirdly, drama is often used in describing and/or stereotyping the dynamics of a given familial unit, cultural system, or ethnicity where there are elevated and animated levels of interaction. These dramatic features are typically associated with other characteristics such as loudness, laughter, love, and loyalty to one’s heritage or lineage. Some of our most popular TV shows and movies are based on dramatic norms within a culture, and we find enjoyment in them!
As we tackle Energy Zapper Two; Drama, I would like to offer this definition: A pattern of relational behavior characterized by exaggerating and catastrophizing information for the purposes of drawing attention to oneself and creating disequilibrium among others.
What separates this kind of drama from healthy, lively, animated storytelling or relational exchange is not only the individual’s pattern of untruthfulness and the worsening of facts, but it is also the individual’s motives for creating turmoil or disturbance within an existing peaceful unit. Perhaps right now, as you think about this definition, one or more friends, relatives, or work associates will come to mind. And, you might be saying to yourself, “Ughh that person always causes so much drama.”
At first glance or exposure to drama, we are attracted to it. Seeing it, hearing it, and even participating in it feels good – at least in the moment. That heightened sense of interest, and urge to want to know more pulls us in. And then, because of those elevated sensory emotions along with those sensational details, we eagerly anticipate and desire more.
The tricky part of drama is knowing whether what pulls us in and excites us is energizing in healthy ways or if it is really depleting our being. And perhaps, it is both. As we look at 3 Tips for Staying Recharged, you will have to be the judge.
Tip One: Be aware of drama of all kinds
As we’ve already discovered, drama is all around us. It’s a part of our culture! It’s in our families, our romances, in our places of work, and all over the social networking sites! It is everywhere. So, be aware of its ubiquity by keeping your drama antenna up. Then, go on to Tip Two.
Tip Two: Know yourself
As you become more aware of the drama around you, begin to identify it as being either healthy or unhealthy for you – not anyone else, just you. What do I mean? Let me give you an example. My sister and I have a little saying about how each of us responds to drama. She’s like a duck – everything pretty much just rolls off her back. If she is in a situation or relationship that involves drama, she handles it with respect and reason. Afterwards, she can walk away and leave it behind her.
On the other hand, I’m like a sponge – when I am around drama, I absorb all the negativity and toxicity of it. I feel like I have to wring myself out in order to feel well again! Another example is a friend of mine who shared with me that she is sort of in-between. She said, “After I’ve been around drama, I feel like I’ve been wrapped in a smelly old blanket. I just have to shake it off! And then, I’m fine!” So, know yourself. Whether you are a duck, sponge, or in-between, keep a pulse on your being and then move on to Tip Three.
Tip Three:Decide on your degree of exposure or level of participation!
Although there are some exceptions, most of time we can control our level of participation in drama or our exposure to drama. It’s up to us to make healthy decisions for ourselves.
Keep these two boundaries in mind:
Boundaries regarding exposure. I often say, the degree of exposure to someone or consumption of something is a predictor of the degree of consequence – either positive or negative. Do what is healthy for you! You decide how much or how little you want to spend time with someone or do something that you know will involve drama. And you know how it will affect you!Take care of yourself. Set solid boundaries around your degree of exposure to and consumption of drama and implement them.
Boundaries regarding participation. Drama can be happening all around you and you can choose not to participate. Of course there are the obvious choices of leaving the room, or walking away from the situation, or turning off your electronic devices, etc. Or, you can implement two communication tools – reflect and redirect. By calmly reflecting back a drama-infused comment in a rational manner (so the individual knows he/she was heard) and then redirecting the conversation to a different topic usually will curtail drama, at least for the moment. Try it out. If it works, great! If the drama continues, implement stronger boundaries such as excusing yourself from the conversation or exiting the situation. You are not being rude; you are taking care of yourself.
In closing, there is no denying that much like the brilliant cut diamond, drama – at the very least -entices us! As you work on Staying Recharged, ask yourself: Does drama connect with my being causing my spirit to sparkle and shine? Or does drama consume my energy contributing to the suffocation of my serene existence?
Whatever you decide, know yourself and honor your health.
Publishers Notes: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”