Healthy relationships can be the foundation of a fulfilling life experience.
There is a certain amount of drama that makes life more exciting, unexpected, and fun. We may win a small sum at the casino, bump into an old flame, negotiate a risky business deal, or study for a big exam. Those are examples of agreeable drama. There are also the less desirable kinds of drama such as big blowout fights over nothing important, losing your temper because your spouse is watching the TV too loud, erupting into tears over not having someone call back, or melting down on the way out because you hate your outfit. The behavior that accompanies this type of drama is not good for anyone; not us or the person onto which we are projecting the drama. Somewhere along the way, things got wired wrong with respect to appropriate responses to our feelings.
Some may ask, “Isn’t it healthy to feel your feelings?” The answer is “Yes,” but there is a caveat. When we over-indulge, our feelings can be as bad as not feeling at all. This is the drama. The scenario usually plays out along these lines: You feel hurt, angry, lonely, rejected, offended, or some type of personal reaction. You decide to respond to it at a level 10 even if the situation may only require a level 2. Yes, it is important to feel your feelings but not to be too extreme. The salient point is that we have control over how we react. It is a choice. Choose to react… just not disproportionately to the situation at hand.
In Melody Beattie’s book, The New Codependency, she talks about thinking of our emotions as a fishing metaphor; the mantra she uses is “catch and release”. This is a very freeing concept to those of us who feel overwhelmed, controlled, or bulldozed by our emotions. Melody reminds us that we do not have to be devastated by our feelings, that we can feel them and let them go, or catch and release. Drama will ensue when we resist the pain and instead react either impulsively or driven by painful assumptions.
When faced with drama, have an action plan prepared so that when the triggers hit, you are armed and ready.
- Keep a journal or a file on your computer where you “dump” your initial reaction, and once the storm passes, check in again to see if there is more that still needs to be addressed.
- Go for a walk as a way to let off steam and reboot.
- Take a bath or shower to revitalize yourself and calm down.
- Make some tea before you decide to engage.
The more steps you put between you and the potential drama, the less chance it will have as great an impact on you. Remind yourself you are able to handle any obstacle that comes your way. No matter what it is, it’s a safe bet that you have handled worse. In case you are doubting, we have good reminders of real life drama to keep us humble like natural disasters and the devastation of war. As one of the Lama’s at Ratna Ling retreat center has said, “… only death is a tragedy, everything else is an inconvenience”.