Drama – We all want less of it in our lives, but more of it in our movies. Why is that?
Let’s look at what the word literally means:
1.) A composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue or pantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage; a play.
2.) Any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results.
These are the two most common uses of the word ‘drama’, but often when we use it in the context of relationships we mean something that is a combination of the two.
When I say “Fred is being dramatic” I probably don’t want to describe his efforts in the latest school play. I might mean that he’s having intense emotions, but it’s more than that. There’s a piece of it that’s related to how he interacts with other people. Here’s my working definition for what drama means in the relational context.
Completely unofficial definition according to http://johnnynoto.com
1.) Acting in a way that I judge to be over-the-top.
2.) Expressing feelings in a non-responsible manner (e.g., Passive aggressively, expressing with intent to hurt someone)
Notice that our labeling something as drama requires us to make a personal judgment. Calling something dramatic is not a statement of fact unless you are discussing a literary genre – it’s a judgment, which means it has every bit as much to do with you as it does with the person you’re describing. What does that mean more directly? If you’re calling someone’s actions toward you dramatic you’re risking acting the same way by not expressing your feelings more responsibly (e.g., “When you talk behind my back I feel angry and hurt”)
Something else to keep in mind: Having feelings is not wrong. Expressing feelings in a vivid or even conflicting way is not wrong. What makes it ‘wrong’ is when it is done in an irresponsible, disrespectful way and used to tear someone down rather than build them up. Sometimes responsibly expressing your anger at another person can be the most loving way to interact with them – as long as it is done with the intent of holding them to a higher vision.
When I worked as a high school counselor “drama” was a buzz word that could not be avoided. Every time we asked what was stressful about school students would list drama at the top of their lists. I once had a conversation with a 15-year-old girl about how dramatic the 14-year-olds were at her school – “They just don’t get it!” she finally exclaimed with a sigh of upset.
Although it’s a humorous and ironic anecdote, I think it’s a situation we all find ourselves in. Under that girl’s statement was a strong desire to work things out and a hunger for relationship with others. Although not everyone can identify with a high school aged girl, everyone can identify with a desire to be in relationship with others.
Which brings me to my final point on the subject: Drama takes people out of relationship with one another. Being irresponsible with my feelings (withholding, being passive aggressive, attacking others) makes authentic connection impossible and unworkable. I’ve learned that I may want to act out or withhold in a situation for my own satisfaction or safety, but often taking the extra step to be mutual and inclusive with others bears the greater reward.
Where is there drama in your own life? What fuels it and what purpose does it serve? Is there a potential for a deeper and more real connection behind it?
Check out my follow-up post in which I describe the Drama Triangle, a powerful tool used to identify the roles we play in relationship (often without awareness) and how to reach more authentic interaction and communication!