“When you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.” – Eckhart Tolle
One day several years ago, I was fraught with anxiety over with how to handle an uncomfortable personnel situation at work. I had an employee that was borderline explosive and insubordinate. I was a wreck over how to best handle the situation because before I was this employee’s manager, I was her friend.
I found myself wanting to fix the problem by delving deeper into her drama, wanting to know why she felt a certain way, what I had done to contribute to it, and how we could work it out.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for conflict resolution and open communication. However, in this case, my employee was demonstrating signs of intense emotions that had the whirlwind energy of a cyclone.
Her behavior and outbursts were unpredictable and inappropriate for the workplace.
Her complaints, when listened to with close attention and discernment, were emotionally charged from unresolved personal wounds from the past. The drama— the whirlwind frenzy—was playing itself out in our present time employer/employee relationship, but it had nothing to do with me.
I knew I needed to step back from this situation to calm my own reaction and fear. I too was becoming overly emotionally charged because of my own insecurities and unmet needs as a new manager.
I was about to try to resolve her personal pain by bringing in my own whirlwind frenzy of emotions. Not a good idea.
I needed to practice mindfulness and step into a space of neutrality. A space where my drama and baggage had a zero electrical charge. A space where her pain could not feed off of my pain.
Was I successful? No.
However, I did learn a big life lesson that I have been successful with practicing since this encounter: Don’t respond to drama and the drama won’t come back around.
Drama loves more drama. Pain loves more pain. Negativity loves more negativity.
With the practice of mindfulness it is possible to not respond to drama. If drama comes into contact with neutrality, it fizzles.
How is it possible to not respond to drama? The first step is to recognize drama when it is in front of you. It is also critical to recognize if you are bringing the drama.
Here are three ways to recognize signs of drama:
You feel passion.
Passion can be a wonderful experience. It can also fuel dysfunctional behavior and cause you to react without thinking.
Signs that you are feeling passion include feeling a rush of energy pass through your body, a red face, an increased heart rate, butterflies in your stomach, flared nostrils, or shaky hands.
Passion can also show up as emotionally charged thoughts and judgments. These include strong feelings of right or wrong, disbelief, blame, sadness, or a vehement desire for justice.
The words spoken and behavior demonstrated don’t match.
If someone is saying one thing and doing another, this is a sign of drama. Do not be fooled. What you see is exactly what it is.
Be the witness of your experience and observe this discrepancy. If someone is telling you they do not mean to be rude, but proceed to offer a berating or condescending comment, trouble is in front of you.
It feels urgent.
Very few things in life are really urgent. Urgent qualifies as escaping from a burning building or swerving to miss an oncoming vehicle.
Many times drama presents itself in the form of pressure that feels urgent. A false sense of urgency can be imprinted on you from another person’s frenzy of charged emotions. Urgency can also emerge from feelings that you are responsible for someone else’s situation.
If something is not life threatening and you are told it needs to be done right now and you feel a sense of compression or fear, chances are, drama is in front of you.
Once you practice recognizing drama, you are better equipped to not respond to it which in turn, allows drama to dissolve and stop in its tracks.
Try these three practices to not respond to drama:
Observe your body sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
Mindfulness meditation teaches us to be the witness of our experience. It teaches us that we are not our bodies, not our thoughts, and not our emotions. It teaches us to develop a witness consciousness and be the third party observer of our experience.
The more you are able to be the witness of your experience instead of identifying with the experience, the more easily you are able to discern the truth and make better choices.
If you notice your heart rate increasing or your face flushing, let that be your cue to physically step away from the situation. Be present with your sensations and use your breath and mindfulness skills to bring you to a state of physical and emotional homeostasis where your muscles are relaxed and your breath is slow and even.
Once the body, thoughts, and emotions are back to neutral, reapproach the situation with from a grounded and centered place.
Create a sense of spaciousness.
Many times being around drama feels like compression, buzzing, or a whirlwind.
You may notice you holding your breath as lots of people talk at once. You may notice drama feeding off of itself as voice speed, volume, and tone increase.
Create space in these situations by softening your facial muscles, letting the jaw slightly part, gazing downward, and breathing slowly. Pay attention to the abdomen as your breath in and out to bring space to the body.
By bringing space to the body, you bring more space to your thoughts and less opportunity to react. Your spaciousness also serves as an orientation point so the drama around you can loosen its grip. By loosening its grip, there is more opportunity for change.
Sit with the discomfort.
Not responding to drama is a practice. Not responding to drama means silence. It means not asking questions that take you deeper into the scenario. It means not agreeing or disagreeing, either with words or body language. Not responding means neutrality and not lending energy to the person or situation.
This is a challenging practice. It feels uncomfortable.
The most powerful thing you can do to remove drama from your life is sit with the discomfort of not responding.
What you practice strengthens and gets easier with time.
If drama comes into contact with neutrality, it fizzles.
By not lending energy to something you do not want, you immediately create a closer connection to what you do want.
If you want less drama in your life, drop your drama at the door. If you want more peace, be more peace.
And remember…don’t respond to drama and drama won’t come back around.
Peace to everyone and enjoy this practice!
Photo by Neil Conway