The Addiction of Drama

By Greg Baer M.D.

July 13, 2016

“You will not believe what just happened to me!”
“My boss is so terrible, I don’t think I can stand it for another minute.”
“My husband is impossible. He never listens to anything I say.”
“My children are driving me crazy. All day I listen to them argue and whine and ask questions.”
“I have a million things to do today! How could I possibly get it all done?”

We have all said things like this, and we hear them every day from others, so commonly that we don’t think anything of them. They’ve become normal, but they are all forms of victimhood that cross the line into a condition I call emotional drama.

I define drama as adding hyper-inflated emotion—fear, anger, withdrawal, victimhood—to any simple situation or interaction. Above are only a few common examples, and I reiterate that this is so common that we fail to even see it.

Other examples:

  • Exaggeration. If something is painful, we simply make it “very” painful.
  • Horribilization. If an inconvenience or discomfort is small, we make it worse. How often do you hear someone say they had a “small” cold? Almost never. Instead, they missed work or an appointment because they had a “bad” cold. Drama.
  • Injustice. Something doesn’t just go contrary to plan. No, it’s “so unfair.”
  • “Poor me.” If I portray my situation as sufficiently painful or pathetic, I’m the lead actor in my own drama.

Drama isolates us from people, focuses everything on us (selfishness), blinds us to reasonable choices, and worse. And yet we all know people—more than we realize—who appear to thrive on drama. So why do they do it? What do they get from it?

  • Attention. Walk into any room of people and cut your wrists—physically or emotionally. Drama, and instantly you have the attention of everyone there.
  • Power. When you dramatize, you control the reactions of other people. Watch someone tell a story dramatically and observe how everyone else is controlled by their behavior.
  • Lack of responsibility. If I dramatize my pain, who will ask me if I took the wet clothes out of the washing machine? Nobody, because drama takes center stage, and responsibility takes a back seat.
  • A feeling of being alive. So many of us have no real sense of purpose, so life becomes meaningless—just one unending series of empty tasks and activities. Drama serves to create an energy that simulates being alive.

These “rewards” of drama are so enticing that drama quickly becomes an overpowering addiction that is very hard for many people to give up. They create drama out of nothing, just for the rewards, even though they’re all superficial and short-lived.

Let’s look at a few examples of drama, and how it would look not to create drama.

Drama #1
“I really wish I could have come to your party, but I was so sick. Coughing, fever, could barely breathe. The doctor said it was almost pneumonia.”

Non-drama #1
“Sorry I missed your party. I wasn’t feeling good.”

Drama #2
“My boyfriend just left me. For absolutely no reason. And he told me by TEXT! Can you believe that? How could somebody be that cold? So what am I supposed to do now? How do I figure out what happened? What will people say?” And, of course, you call everyone you know to relay this drama.

Non-drama #2
You don’t say anything at all, except perhaps to a few close friends, and even then it’s short and simple: “My boyfriend and I are not together anymore. I think I’ve learned some things that will help me next time.”

Drama #3
“My boss makes life impossible. Constant demands, and then halfway through my doing what she wants, she changes her mind, so I have to change everything I was doing. How am I supposed to work under that kind of stress?”

Non-drama #3
“I love my job. They pay me for what I do, and it’s challenging.”

Drama #4
“I hate to bother you with this. I know you’re really busy.”

Non-drama #4
“Would you be willing to (do whatever)?”

Drama #5
You discover that your husband has been having an affair. He swears it’s all over now and wants to forget it ever happened and continue with the marriage. You tell people, “This is so humiliating. I’ve been betrayed, and now everyone knows. They’ve probably known long before I found out, and they’ve been laughing at me behind my back. I feel stupid, and ugly, and fat, and worthless. I wish I was dead.”

Non-drama #5
“My husband had an affair. Apparently I missed a thousand signs along the way that our relationship was not what I thought. I want to learn what I didn’t know before, so I can have a great relationship—either with him or someone else.”

There is no doubt that drama can be exciting, but that amplified emotion is NOTHING compared with the transformative peace and joy that come from being unconditionally loved. Moreover, until we eliminate the drama from our lives, we can’t feel the healing power of Real Love.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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