One of the fastest ways to exit the creative energetic life “Flow” is to get caught up in a drama. You know drama – he or she did “so and so” to me and I’m upset. So upset in fact, that I rally my forces to protect, defend, and possibly even counter-attack.
I don’t mean to minimize the pain and sorrow we feel when we find ourselves stuck in a dramatic situation. It can be emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, even devastating. But, if you are on a contemplative path, you’ve probably noticed that the decisions made in reaction to a difficult situation, are usually NOT appropriate or helpful. In fact, they tend to be like gasoline to a flame, fueling the drama to even greater heights. I call this a raging “drama trauma”.
I think it is really important to not be resistant to drama – period, because dramas are inherent to being a human being – they are going to happen. Some people are going to be rude, greedy, manipulative, insensitive, and most of us are going to occasionally get sick, and we’re definitely all going to die.
So, the questions remain. If you can’t avoid them, how do you best handle a drama when it is unfolding before you? Is it best to walk away, or react and feed the flames? Which response, if any is taking the middle path of acting wisely for the betterment of all involved?
Years ago, after starting my awareness mindfulness practices, I began noticing how my mind was constantly looking for evidence of being a “victim”. I was getting charged by and literally feeding off of victim-hood. I was calling friends and family to tell everyone how hurt or angry I was because I was done wrong by a “bad guy”. I often got myself worked up into peaked states of incredulous fury. Then I acted out these negative emotions by either: being passive aggressive with the person(s) I was upset with, or by abandoning them, or by unleashing my fury on those involved, causing an ugly show-down with the low-down(s). All of these patterns were incredibly painful. Luckily, my addiction to drama was not totally out of control.
Once I saw this “addiction to drama” pattern, I went the opposite extreme. I basically avoided “drama” like the plague. In fact, I was so resistant to dramas that I became complacent, distant, and rude to people, anytime I thought they were having a hard time. If I thought someone was trying to suck me into his or her drama, I usually communicated my judgment of their situation before vacating the premises like a bat out of hell. If someone did me wrong, I often swept it under the rug, choosing to avoid the sticky situation! Or I did the next best thing – I changed the details in my mind to make everyone and everything seem “better” than they were. Delusional, huh?
Finally, I saw that I my resistance to drama actually created more dramas in the long run, because oftentimes, not addressing the white elephant in the room caused big, open, stinky sores to develop. I realized that acting from a place of resistance, by either avoiding a situation, or turning it into something nice by spraying it with sweet-smelling perfume to obscure the stink, was just as unhealthy as feeding the negative situation and making it worse.
Last week, I found myself in a negative, difficult situation, wherein a woman was angrily confronting me with inaccurate accusations. The more I tried to respond to her, the angrier she got. It turned into one of those big, bad, uglies. Although I left the situation really upset, I was relieved that I was able to keep my cool and maintain enough control to not raise my voice or tell this woman which colorful bus to get off of. After the incident, my body was shaking and my mind was screaming. During this post “fight or flight” reaction, my mind wanted me to call her, give her a piece of my mind, along with the other people involved in my drama. Not a good idea, because this would have been feeding the drama.
Instead, I chose to do my mindfulness practice, wherein time and time again during that day, I would stop to breathe, and bring my mindful awareness to my bodily sensations, and palpitating heart. I let my heart ache with fluctuating states of sadness, hurt, and anger. I did not take any action, until I calmed down. After I calmed down and before I took action, I looked honestly at how my actions may have contributed to the misunderstanding. When I did act, I did so with a calm intention to promote understanding and healing. As a result, I responded with wisdom, clarity, compassion, and fairness to me and all the parties involved. As a result, the situation not only cleared up, but improved in many ways.
Sometimes, the appropriate response IS to walk away from a negative situation. Other situations require that we take action to quell the damage and facilitate whatever healing can happen. It reminds me of the lyrics to a Kenny Rogers song:
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.
In either case, I have found that the key to handling a difficult situation, is to:
- Honor how I am doing at this moment,
- Practice mindful awareness,
- Create the space for calmness and innate inner wisdom to arise,
- & Follow through with the most appropriate and compassionate response.
I have been treating difficult situations and dramas synonymously. But, I do actually see a distinction between a difficult situation and a drama, in that difficult situations happen. But, we turn a difficult situation into a drama by reacting without wisdom.
When we employ wisdom to direct our responses to difficult situations, we are actually in the “flow”, for wisdom arises in the “flow”.
I would love to hear about your relationship to difficult situations, dramas, flow, etc.