All of you have heard the statements “I’m tired of all the drama” and “he/she is a drama queen”. Drama is a word that is used to invalidate the validity of an emotional experience or of an overly extreme reaction to an experience because the onlooker thinks it is blown out of proportion, unnecessary or uncalled for. Drama is a word that originally meant, “to act”. This is why the word made its debut in the world of performance art or theatre. As it relates to emotional life, drama is a state, situation, or series of events involving intense conflict. Put these two things together and you have the definition of a person who is dramatic. A person who is dramatic is a person who acts as if they are in a state of intense conflict. Why do they act as if they are in a state of extreme conflict? Because they ARE in a state of extreme conflict.
No one overreacts. There has never been a person on earth that has ever overreacted. People react exactly in accordance with the reality that they alone perceiving. And our perspective and realities are not the same. When it comes to the human emotional experience, there is no such thing as drama. There is a perception that a person who is dramatic or who is a drama queen, is either over-reacting or is acting for the sake of attention; much like a performer on stage. If this is the case and they are over-acting for the sake of attention, they are in a state of extreme conflict because deep down, they feel desperate for attention. Deep down, they feel unseen, unheard and un-loved. Deep down, they distrust and dislike themselves and so there is no inner peace. Deep down, they are screaming for other people to save them from themselves. So the question must be asked, are they really overreacting if what they are really doing is playing out their desperation to be saved from themselves and to be seen and heard? Most likely if you invalidate other people’s feelings by telling them that they are being dramatic, you have learned over the course of your life to invalidate your own feelings. You impose this expectation on others as a result of it. Even though you wish you didn’t feel how you really feel, it is time to admit to how you truly feel and not be ashamed of how you really feel. Feeling deep levels of shame for feeling the way you feel is the real reason that you want to deny and invalidate the way you feel. It is also what is causing you to invalidate how other people feel by making the judgment that they are dramatic. If you have a resistance to drama, it is crucial to remind yourself that no one overreacts, including you. You always act in perfect accordance with the reality that you are perceiving; but now let’s go deeper. For the sake of understanding, lets call drama the state of being on an intense roller coaster ride of perpetual conflict. When we can’t seem to break free from drama, it is because we are stuck on the surface of our conflicts. We need to dive deep within ourselves internally to see the true cause of our emotional pain instead of arguing about the surface “triggers” of that pain.
When we want to feel better, we try to change the surface circumstances of our experience. We end the relationship, we move to a different city, we put ourselves on a diet, we sign up to a gym, and we take a medication. But by doing only this (by looking for and taking a physical action to feel better), we can never escape the conflict. It simply resurfaces in the new relationship, in the new city, regardless of our diet change or how much we exercise or what medication we take. We perpetuate drama in our lives if the changes we try to make focus on changing the physical effects of a problem instead of the root cause of that problem. For example, let’s say that I’m overweight. Emotionally, I feel terrible. The fatness I’m experiencing, is an effect of the root cause. It is in essence, a surface symptom of the problem, which is much deeper. If I dive deeper into myself and my pain, I will find that I feel a deep sense of shame and that as a child I could never live up to the demands of other people. I will find that my body tried to protect itself by walling itself off to the demands of others by putting on fat. If I change my perceptions surrounding the demands of others and begin to replace the shame with self-esteem, there will be no need for the fat anymore. Then, I may feel inspired to get a gym membership or eat better, but those changes will be inspired from a shift that was made on a much deeper level. However, if I simply started going to a gym and put myself on a diet from the get go (without being aware of and integrating the blocked emotions of the shame), there would be no end to the internal conflict causing the fatness in myself. There would be no end to the drama in my life. I would be trying to change the physical, surface effect of my problem instead of impacting the causality of the problem. How do we “dive deep” within ourselves? We start by recognizing triggers. A trigger is a reminder of a past trauma. It is called a trigger because like a trigger on a weapon, once it is pulled (shows up in our reality) it sets off an instantaneous and immediate emotional response within the body. We can call this response an “emotional charge”. We witness triggers most often in conjunction with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The return veteran from war jumps under the kitchen table in a state of panic because the “trigger” of Fourth of July fireworks reminds them of the past trauma of fighting for survival in a gunfire shootout in Iraq. But triggers are not solely experienced by people with PTSD. In fact, everyone on earth has triggers. You have triggers regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with PTSD or not. Let’s look at another trigger to understand what we mean. A woman gets into a new relationship. Everything is going great. The relationship is full of promise. Until one day, her partner decided to go see his friends after work at a bar instead of “checking in” with her and prioritizing seeing her in his off time. Upon discovering that he prioritized his friends over her, she feels instantly overwhelmed with feelings of anger and powerlessness. She feels neglected and worthless. She doubts the relationship and lashes out verbally at him. The event itself was a “trigger” for a deep unhealed grief within her. At face value, it would seem that she overreacted. In fact, this is exactly what her partner thinks that she did. Her partner thinks she is a drama queen. And now, he starts doubting the relationship as well. If she was to recognize the extreme emotional charge as evidence of a trigger and use the trigger of the event to dive deeper within herself, she would have discovered that the reaction to the event was a surface symptom of her deeper unresolved and un-integrated grief. If she had used the trigger to dive deep, she would have discovered that she felt neglected and worthless when her father would prioritize everything else over her when she was a child. She would discover that he was disconnected from her and that the disconnection and perceived lack of love that she felt from her father was a deep wound within her. It was in fact the thing that caused her to feel worthless and powerless in the first place. When we experience a trigger, we will instantly feel extreme negative emotion. For example, we feel instantly enraged to the point where we want to smash something or kill someone. Or instantly panicked to the point where we want to hide. Or instantly so overwhelmed with the feeling of powerlessness and sadness that we can’t hold back the tears. Drama, being a state of intense internal conflict, is in essence a reactive projection. It is designed to get the attention from others that we do not yet feel capable of giving ourselves. We can end drama in our lives by using our “triggers” as flags to dive deeper within ourselves to find the root of our emotional reaction. We can use them to dive deep to find our buried, unresolved and un-integrated grief. Once we find the causality of our emotional conflict, we can adjust that. In fact, finding the causality of our conflict changes it. Think of it like digging up a buried corpse. Just ask an archaeologist, similar to exposing a buried corpse to air, exposing your buried grief to the air of awareness, changes it forever. The surface behaviors, appearances and circumstances of our lives will automatically shift as a result of adjusting the causality of our buried emotional pain. This leads to permanent relief and change, instead of temporary relief and temporary change.
I am not saying that we should stop taking any kind of physical action to change external circumstances. What I am saying is that if we take action to change the circumstances surrounding a trigger before we use the trigger to dive deep within ourselves and alter the original cause of that trigger, we are in essence “skipping a step”. The trigger will always hold the same emotional charge and if the trigger holds the same emotional charge, we will continue to feel as if we can’t escape drama in our lives. We can’t stop suffering. When we experience a trigger, we feel an intense emotional charge. An emotional charge might bring up different emotions but those emotions are always perceived as uncomfortable. Step one is to recognize our extreme emotional reactions as “triggers”. And name them as such. Recognizing “I am triggered”, instantly causes us to take a step back emotionally from the event and the reactivity the event is producing within us. It enables us to observe ourselves reacting instead of simply react.
Next, we need to ask ourselves three questions…
- How do I feel? Name the feelings and emotions and sensations within you. Allow yourself to feel the aspects of your experience that you’ve long suppressed.
- When did I last experience this exact same feeling? Let yourself visualize that experience fully so that the emotional state becomes very real
- When did I first experience this same feeling in my life? Let yourself go all the way back, even if it makes no sense whatsoever to you. What images do you see? What feelings? What smells? What sensations are taking place within your body? Why are you feeling what you’re feeling? What is the circumstance?
If nothing comes, be patient with that. Trust the process. Trust that you will receive the exact experience you need at this time. When we are taken back to the memory in which we experienced that original trauma, we are provided with an opportunity to alter the original experience. The adult us can help the child us. We can remedy the situation. We can observe the memory and then mentally alter that memory in a way that feels emotionally positive. This is what they call “inner child work”. For example, if you are taken into a memory where your father left you, imagine the adult you approaching the child you, comforting the child and finding a way to meet the child’s needs. For example, you could become the stable parent for your inner child. Or you could give the child a reliable father figure of their choice. Or you could explain the whole situation objectively to the child and help them to not take the action personally. Altering the memory in this way changes the causation of the trauma. This alteration ensures that all that has transpired as a result of that trauma is altered as well. You are affecting the very blueprint of your emotional life. The circumstances of your life will change on their own as a result of altering the cause of those circumstances, which is always past trauma. This practice allows us to take our attention off of the “messenger” which is the physical event or person that is triggering us. It allows us to step back from the story that is urging us to react so strongly and detach mentally from the trigger. And it allows us to place our attention on how we are feeling so that we can recognize what deep unresolved past wound is unhealed within us and is thus continuing to mirror itself in our lives. We need to start treating drama (otherwise known as intense states of charged negative emotion) as what they are… as triggers asking us to dive deeper.