I don’t do drama any more.
I don’t like what it does to me; I don’t like the way I feel around it.
But mostly, I don’t want to be a drama addict anymore.
I’m laying in bed, pillow over my ears, knuckles pressed into my mouth, eyes scrunched tight, trying to shut out the drama that’s going on downstairs.
My father is shouting, and I know it takes a lot to make him do that. She is screaming, throwing crockery, and now something heavier. It sounds like a kitchen chair.
They are arguing about me. I am the cause of this drama.
She wants me gone. My presence is an unwelcome reminder, and drives her to fury.
I am not hers.
He is torn. I am an unwelcome reminder for him, too. Of a love he had and lost. The love who should have lived instead of me.
He wants me gone, too.
I am his, but I am not the one he wants. The one he wants died as I was born.
And so, this drama is about me. Without me there would be no drama.
Thus, I have become a drama addict.
Do you have any idea how complicated drama is for me?
Like all addicts, I have a love-hate relationship with my substance—in this case, other people’s emotions. The more drama the better.
Drama has been a release for me.
It frightens me, sure. It vibrates through my whole being—each shout, each scream, each crash, each yelp of pain. I want to be anywhere but here.
At the same time, more frightening still, I discover that I want to be here, in the thick of it—hanging on each word, relishing the battle wounds, hugging every tiny hurt and bitter word close.
I’m actually enjoying this. I’m feeding off it. It’s my own rage and hate personified. And I’m both terrified and exhilarated by that.
I’m every hurtful word; I’m the cries of pain; I’m every smashed plate; I’m that chair breaking to pieces against the wall.
I’m all of that, and then some. And I’m drawn to this drama because it’s acting out my own internal drama, for which I have no other release.
The child I was grew into the adult I became who couldn’t get enough drama. Who would go out of her way to create it, just to feel the danger of being alive right at the edge.
Nearly 60 years have gone by since then. Now I am a psychotherapist, and I no longer do drama.
I know now how dangerous it can be.
See, some of us use drama to empty ourselves of our own feelings and then relive them vicariously through others. We don’t know we’re doing it, and we’re not doing it on purpose. However, we have a secret addiction.
We’ve learned to create a high by feeding off others’ drama. We need to feel wrung out and exhausted by the emotion of another’s pain, and so we live out our own dramas over and over again.
We all know these people; we may even be wondering if we might be one of them.
They’re the people who want us to spill it all out. They hunger for emotion in the raw. They want the pain, the venom, the ugliness and the trauma. They want us sobbing. They’ll keep pushing, keep probing, keep prying, keep fanning the flames. They can never have enough of our drama.
We don’t always recognise them straight away. They can appear amazingly tuned in and sympathetic. We feel like we’ve found someone who really understands—who’ll go anywhere with us.
And that feels so good, such a relief. And it is, for a while.
Until we realise that’s all this person wants to hear. They want drama. They want misery. Tell them something good, or share your hopes and dreams with them, and they will quickly sow seeds of doubt, spoiling.
Then, when it’s almost too late, because we’re in so deep, we get a sudden flash of awareness and realise that this person is feeding off us. They don’t want our joy; they want our pain. The more drama the better.
The trouble with being addicted to drama is once we get used to the high that comes from living vicariously through other people’s emotions, we can find that ordinary life—everyday reality—doesn’t do it for us.
When we’re addicted to drama, we’re dependent on looking at the world through a certain pair of glasses. These glasses show us ugliness, hate, deception and betrayal. We’ve come to believe that’s what living feels like.
But actually, it’s a con, this belief that to feel alive is to feel the turmoil of others’ suffering. It simply isn’t true.
And it certainly isn’t living.
Of course there’s pain. Of course there’s suffering. Of course there’s hate and ugliness.
But there’s also beauty. Beauty—and the ability to see beauty—is the antidote that breaks our addiction to drama.
Try it. Look for it. Seek it out. Taste it. Savour it.
It’s a different kind of being alive. We know it when we feel it. Our whole body relaxes into it and breathes a sigh of relief.
We can see exactly the same event—the same situation, the same reality—through eyes that are looking for drama or eyes that are looking for beauty.
When we look through eyes aligned with who we really are, we feel ourselves relax and expand with the sheer relief of remembering.
What are we remembering?
We’re remembering the beauty we came from and the love that we are.
We’re remembering that compassion feels so right because it’s who we truly are.
We’re remembering that we are love—magnificent and unconditional—and that love feeds off no one. Love is sufficient—always enough—and the choice of beauty over drama is a choice for love.
That feeling that we feel in that beautiful moment of remembering is the feeling of coming home.
Author: Janny Juddly
Editor: Toby Israel