July was not the best month for me. I went on holiday which was fun, but also fraught with tension from my family. I also had to end a long-time friendship. Then, just last week my blog exploded because of my post about living in Austin. This was great in terms of exposure, but not so great in terms of drama. How do you defend yourself against 500 strangers?
That’s easy. You don’t.
My Austin piece mad some folks angry. Big shock. People called me “rich bitch”. They called me entitled. They called me a privileged asshole, and told me to get the fuck out of their town. A few readers asked me what it was like to “get to live in Europe”. It all pissed me off. I mean, I might be an asshole, but I am definitely not any of those other things.
I read the comments and all I wanted to do was defend myself. I wanted the truth to be known! But, isn’t that just feeding the ego? What would it change if these 500 strangers had the truth? Would they suddenly find my opinions about Austin palatable if they knew the truth about me? Um, no. I just wanted to make myself feel better. I felt like I was being picked on. But instead of defending myself, I didn’t respond to the drama. And it was really, really hard.
Whether it is family drama, or work drama, or even FaceBook drama, you can choose not to participate. You always have a choice. When you choose not to respond to drama the drama will just die out. When you react it just adds fuel to the fire. Negativity breeds negativity. Drama breeds drama.
But how is it possible not to respond? How do I choose to be silent when all I want to do is scream? What if what they say isn’t true? The first step is to recognize the drama for what it is – DRAMA. It isn’t about you, or being right. Drama is an external force that can easily sweep you away to a dark place. Don’t let it.
- Get it out – So, there is drama. You had a fight with your BFF, or husband, or co-worker and now you are all fired up. Instead of calling everyone you know and telling them about what happened, try something else. Anything else! The worst thing you can do is spread the drama to more people. More people makes it worse. Now there are even more people (who have noting to do with the actual incident) involved. And you invited them! This shouldn’t happen. Instead, write a letter to that person that says everything you want to say and then rip it up. Get it out. Rip it up. Leave it in the past. Go to the gym and push yourself harder than usual. Get your anger out. Do whatever you have to in order to regain perspective and control. Don’t let the ego be in charge.
- Observe discrepancy – If someone says they don’t mean to be rude and then they call you a jerk – that’s a discrepancy. When a person says one thing and does another – that is discrepancy. Don’t be fooled. All of this is just more drama. Don’t participate. When a persons words and actions are not congruous, that is a sure sign of drama. You don’t need to point it out to the person or tell them they are being two faced. All you have to do is observe. When you notice that a person is a drama creator you can use that information to make better choices for yourself. If they ask you out to lunch, keep it in mind when you decide if you want to go.
- Remember it isn’t urgent – Very few things in life are actually urgent. An urgent situation is a building burning down, or a flood, or leaving the stove on and then going on holiday. We tend to make everyday situations into urgent situations thus giving them more importance and causing more stress than necessary. Many times drama presents itself in the form of pressure that feels urgent. (I need to send this email now! or I have to go to the store right now!) A false sense of urgency can be caught as easily as the common cold. All it takes is another person’s frenzy of charged emotions. Whatever the situation is, I bet it isn’t urgent. If something is not actually life threatening, then rest with it. Don’t make any decisions in the heat of the drama.
- Be Mindful – Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment. It means knowing we are not our thoughts, or our body, but rather an impartial third party who serves as a witness of our life. If we look at situations this way – through a lens of mindfulness – we can begin to make better choices. The more we are able to witness our life rather than identify with the experiences, the more we will be able to walk away from drama. When you identify with the experience, you make it personal. When you make something personal, you invite the ego to take over.
- Practice – Walking away from drama takes practice. Sitting quiet when you want to scream takes practice. Silence is one of the most difficult and useful things to master. Neutrality takes practice. It feels uncomfortable and foreign. It feels almost wrong not to take a side, or state a position. But, the most powerful thing you can do for yourself, and to get rid of drama in your life is to practice being quiet, uncomfortable and neutral. Sounds fun, right? Well, compare it to feeling angry, slighted, unheard, resentful, or frustrated. When drama is faced with neutrality it fades. By not giving your energy to the drama, you are free to give it to something else. Giving attention to negativity or drama is like watering a dead plant – all it accomplishes is wasting your time and making you frustrated.
July might have tried to kick my ass, but it failed. There was a lot of drama swirling around me but in the end I prevailed. I didn’t let the bastards get me down, and I didn’t participate in the drama. It was tough, but I feel alright. I feel good even! If you want peace in your life, then you should BE peace. If you want joy, be joy.
You get the picture. Here is a song that I use to remind me that I always, always have a choice in how I respond to drama.