Zen Habits: Don’t Respond to Drama

drama_queen1“When you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.” – Eckhart Tolle

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 


3 thoughts on “Zen Habits: Don’t Respond to Drama

  1. Great post! Good for you!! I’ve had to practice the same restraints many many many times before, at every stage of my life thus far. I was hoping that after a certain age people would drop the BS, but nooooo. Kudos to you and stay strong!

  2. I agree with you 1000% regarding Austin, it is hands-down the worst place I have ever lived and I’ll debate anyone on that, I know the effeminate hipsters here love drama so if they wanna hear the ugly truth I am more than happy to give it to them. Best of luck to you, I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.

  3. I loved your blog about Austin and agree with you on every point you made. I’ve only been there once and I felt like I was in a third world country. ‘Mediocre’ is a very appropriate word. I kissed the ground when I touched back down in Los Angeles. I do not understand why they try so hard to defend their little town from criticism. I grew up on an island that is wrought with prejudice and criticism because of corruption and biases and I could care less what people think or have to say about the island or it’s people. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Doesn’t affect me or my life whatsoever. But people in Austin really care what others think, they take it very personally. How come people who are so ‘happy’ and ‘laid back’ care so much what others think? It’s like you said in your blog, the town is plagued with contradictions.

    And to the person above who mentioned ‘hipsters,’ like really? Hipster has the word ‘hip’ in it. These aren’t hipsters, they are modern day Huckleberry Finn’s. What is ‘hip’ about swimming in a still body of rain water they refer to as a swimming ‘hole?’ It’s just gross. Any body of water referred to as a ‘hole’ is probably nauseatingly dirty and putrid. Only a redneck or a 12 year old would be down for that. And eating artery clogging BBQ and listening to two step country music…ugh…I mean please. Don’t insult those of us who actually ARE hip.

    I think that the average Austinite’s extreme sensitivity towards criticism has to do with the fact that their town is often met with a very personal, forward, attacking type of criticism. I think Austin lends itself to this type of criticism because there is this huge misleading hype out there about this city being so ‘great’ and a “must see” and people like you and I go there with a certain expectation only to be painfully disappointed. And it is very irritating given the time and money we wasted there because of this false hype. It’s like getting all stoked about a pair of rare, one of a kind, designer shoes you ordered online and instead getting a box of rocks. And we feel it is our duty to warn others like us to ignore the hype and spread the word of what really to expect. And that is exactly what you did. No harm in that.

    A friend of mine from LA explained this phenomenon pretty well. People from small towns in the Midwest and the middle of the country, who are very impressionable, are the ones giving Austin this hype. They have never seen an ocean and so they love those swimming ‘holes,’ They no longer have to get Sunday brunch at the Flying J truck stop, the only restaurant in their home town. In Austin they have more options. Perhaps they travelled from farms and prairies to Austin, which compared to where they are from, is very ‘avant garde.’ Yeah, when that’s what you grew up with, I am sure Austin seems like the Emerald City. But when you are coming from San Francisco or New York CIty, therefore you are a lot more worldly, stepping into Austin is just a bold reminder of why the middle of the country is often coined, the ‘armpit’ of America. And Austin is no exception. But in recent years, they got a little bit of exposure and they are riding this hype’s coattail. Like you said, most of the people there are from Texas or surrounding states and haven’t ventured out much. So to them, Austin is the end all be all of culture and fun. And in that little niche, that probably is as good as ‘culture’ is going to get. But its deceptive and misleading to the rest of us.

    What is so great about Austin? I personally have zero clue. But it works for Austinites so all the more power to them. To each their own. I have no problem with Austin being on the map. But I do have an issue with the fake hype. To me, Austin is a dump. If they can’t handle getting a reality check from people like us, then they should quit tooting their own horn.

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