Recently, a colleague shared with me how she had found herself in a situation where ‘a lot of drama’ was playing out in a business relationship. Her question was about how she can gracefully and peacefully ‘exit’ this situation. I remember what mediation instructors used to say in training … that even really good, kind and the best of people can and do get caught up in conflict or in a drama they don’t know how to get out of. They don’t know how it ‘got to this point’ and they feel embarrassed to seek help of any kind.
I frequently have people share how a particular relationship triggers them in ways that they just don’t know what is going on and soon they find themselves reacting to the other person’s comments or engage in behaviour, they themselves find ‘icky’ and intolerable.
To assume ‘that will never be me’ may be a grave mistake on our part. Getting caught in the drama of relationship dynamics happens to the best of us. Without realizing it, we have sent that email with words we can’t take back or we have said something that has landed in between ourselves and another that we simply can’t pretend weren’t said. Or we find ourselves playing out the drama because we don’t know what else to do. We simply may not have the boundaries or tools to step out of the drama and stop it. I also believe we use the word ‘drama’ because we don’t really know what is going on.
In my view, I understand this kind of ‘drama’ occurs when participants within the relationship dynamic do not take responsibility for how they feel or what they think. Participants end up ‘throwing around’ their shame, guilt and anger or lashing out in hurt or blame causing a wave of disrespect, disregard or failure to truly listen. People feel ‘hit’ by this anger and in this emotional chaos of energy, words are slung about. All communication speeds up and quickens in reactions, our shame being fueled. A true recipe for disaster and deep hurt – even with those we love the most.
So what can we do when drama shows up?
- Breathe. And breathe again. Breathe into your kidneys (practise doing this when you are not stressed, so it can be a reflex-like response in a necessary moment). This will begin to calm your heart rate and regulate your stress flight instinct, so you can think more resourcefully.
- SLOW DOWN THE CONVERSATION! As I mentioned, ‘drama’ is fast and mindless. So slow down the conversation. Put in breaks such as a 24-delay in responding to emails or simply say in a conversation, ‘I will need 24 hours to think about what you just said and get back to you.’ Or, ‘let me go outside and put my feet on the ground and get centred, so I can show up here feeling good about how I am doing that.’
- Answer this question: What is the boundary of respect that is needed here? When we become reactive and step into a drama dynamic, often our sense of shame (sense of inadequacy, failure or not being good enough or worthy) become fueled. When shame is present, respect is absent. Be present to your feelings, including shame. Perhaps tap on specific points if you know how to do that (ie. EFT, TFT, Midline Therapy, or some other way that you bring down the emotional arousal level). Shame feels ‘icky’ to face and we fear being ‘exposed’ when shame takes over. It’s often the best time to ask for help from a trusted other, because it’s precisely the time when our subconscious will try to convince and our ‘shame voice’ threaten us that if we ask for help we will be exposed and even less acceptable than before.
- Evaluate your own trigger. What does this dynamic awaken in you which feeds your shadow relationship pattern? Even if you assess you have contributed only 5% to the drama, you have contributed that much and so that is the part that remains your responsibility. Often our own core wound, such as we feel our incompetence or lack of worth has been exposed somehow. Learn to detach from this trigger and know its patterns so you can catch it early when it becomes activated. Have someone help you develop more responsive relationship patterns, especially in conflict.
- Identify what you really need and value. Clarify what you really want to have happen and what the relationship really means to you. Perhaps you need to exit the relationship because it is draining your energy. Perhaps you each need to clarify what values and core needs are being disrespected so it becomes clear what you need or want to have happen instead of the ‘drama’. Don’t shortchange this step. Take the time to deeply listen to what you need and then the other person. When people come back to the same issue again and again, even ‘after it’s been discussed’, it signifies that a core need or value is still not validated, and people are still not feeling listened to. David Ausberger says that deep listening is really an experience of true love. Establish boundaries that reflect your core values and true needs so that your relationships have improved patterns of connection than ‘drama’.
These are only a few ways to address ‘relationship drama’ when it shows up. I encourage you to write down what relationships are ‘drama-driven’ for you and see if you can start to identify where the lack of respect is playing out, on both sides!
Strategies to help you find new peaceful ways to stop this drama pattern in your life:
- Register for my upcoming 2-day workshop – The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Healthy & Joyful Living, June 1-2, 2018. See workshop description on my website or contact me for more information.
- Contact me about Individual Soul Coaching for peaceful living.