Some people manage to wade through life entirely unmitigated by forces of drama, unnecessary upset or emotional upheaval. I don’t know who those people are.
That being said, while many of us like a good intrigue, or some salacious gossip, most of us do not love the drama factory working on overtime. Once upon a time I was a person who would make jokes about putting a sun porch in my drama factory because it was clear I spent most of my time there, so I might as well build a place for people to pull up a chair.
But eventually, I got tired, and I wanted to be able to maintain my friendships and relationships without so much upheaval. Most of our friendships tend to ebb and flow a little bit, but the up-and-down can be really exhausting, even if you love the emotional rollercoaster. So here are some ideas I came up with, if you want to slow or stop production in your drama factory.
1) Turns out, drama mostly does not just happen to you.
I used to insist, “These girls! They are all crazy! All of them! They all find me! And bring their drama!” to which my good friend replied, “Yeah, and you shake your butt at drama and say, ‘nyah nyah, bet you can’t get me.’” And she was correct. There is some reason, if it’s about attention, or if intimacy is scary unless there is a torrent of uncertainty and push-pull happening, which distracts from Big Feelings. Whatever it may be, there is some reason you are shaking your booty at drama and daring it to come get you. To which I say, What Are You Avoiding? And What Would Happen if The Drama Slowed Down? (also, another fun project: not calling people “crazy.”)
2) Figure out what it is that you do when things get drama-rama.
As far as I can figure out, most people cause/get involved in drama because of some whack coping mechanism that they picked up a long time ago that isn’t serving them anymore. Like fr’instance, when I was in middle and high school I got really good at instigating fights between two friends of mine, who would then be angry with each other, but instead of talking to each other about things, they would just tell me all the mad mean stuff they were feeling, and I would relay between the two of them. This mostly just escalated things, but it was a highly not-good way of being in everybody’s business, which is kind of like being good friends and having good times and everybody liking me best, right?
Point is, there’s probably something you’re doing that’s not serving you. Some need probably isn’t getting met, somewhere somehow, and there is some funky thing that you are doing to manage your Needs and Feelings instead of addressing them. Turns out those things don’t go away.
3) Sometimes it’s not drama.
Some people refer to anything as “drama” that they do not want to deal with. This goes for feelings, (theirs and other peoples) abusive relationships, hard feelings, transition, change, whole grains, etc. And that is not the same as unnecessary drama. That is Bad News Bears and should be handled accordingly.
4) Use your words.
And I know this is easier said than done, especially because of things like sexism and white supremacy, where people with a historical weight of oppression are discouraged from taking up space and stating their needs because they’re not entitled to have needs. But your words are one of the most powerful things you have to bring to the world, and your relationships. There are a number of Well-Meaning or Nice people who know much better how to engage with you in ways that work for you if they know how. Avoid Not Nice people whenever you can.
5) Nobody can read your mind.
This goes back to #4. Hinting broadly does not count. I am a well-meaning doofus most days. I cannot read your mind and neither can most people.
6) Boundaries are good.
No is a complete sentence! It turns out! Even if it may mean people think you’re rude/pushy/frigid/self-centered. Folks who have been socialized to appease other people have a really uncomfortable time setting boundaries and maintaining self care. Sometimes it’s a learned survival strategy. Also, here’s the other thing:
7) You are entitled to have boundaries and get your needs met and take up space.
It’s true. Because you’re a person, and therefore you are entitled to those things, even if nobody in your whole life has invited you to take up space or asked you whether it was okay to hug you or asked you what you needed.
8) You cannot control anybody else’s behavior. Ever. At all.
Unfortunately. It is much to the chagrin of everybody everywhere that their friend/partner/co-worker/bus driver just can’t get it right in spite of polite reminders/text messages/tantrums/death glares. Most people are open to influence, but most folks will resist being controlled, and really straight up, stuff is out of your control.
And while there are lots of things you can do to ease your own aggravation, obnoxious people will probably still continue to be obnoxious, and that is hard.
Sometimes, when I am at my wit’s end and I cannot think of anything at all except how bad I want to say cutting things to people, I have one very basic strategy. I imagine what it is like to be that person. In one particular recent case, I imagined what it would be like to walk around every day in a grumpy mood, feeling defensive from the minute I woke up, and snapping at everybody around me. That would suck.
9) PUT IT DOWN. LEAVE IT ALONE. WALK AWAY. RESIST THE URGE TO SEND THE TEXT MESSAGE. USE FACEBOOK FOR GOOD NOT EVIL.
10) Take good care of yourself.
Usually drama is a function of some kind of avoidance of Feelings or Loneliness. You can’t unlearn drama unless you’re figuring out some other way to take care of yourself. Political organizing? Online dating? Gardening? Whatever it is, go find a hobby that you love. Make an active practice of being sweet to yourself. Notice when other people’s behavior pushes your buttons, and before you launch into an anxiety spiral-or in the middle of one-catch yourself. Reel yourself back down to earth and get situated wherever it is that you feel solid.
Good luck darlin.