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Don’t Respond to Drama and Drama Won’t Come Back Around

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“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, & 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

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About Angela Savitri

Angela Savitri, OTR/L, RYT offers transformation programs for women to be free of chronic stress. She lives in Winston-Salem, NC with her husband and vocally challenged cat. Download her free audio training, “3 Secrets to Self-Care Without Feeling Guilty,” at www.caprihealth.com.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Eva Jean

    I’m really not understanding the outcome of this. You had a real life situation going on here and the right thing to do for your sake and the sake of the dept. you work in was to handle it terminatedly. This person’s behaviror was unacceptable. I don’t see how you resolved it. Did you? Or did I entirely miss this?

  • Allison

    I think that “not responding’ or withdrawing actually can escalate drama. Staying cool and in control is important, but not responding to someone can look like lack of empathy, which usually creates more drama from the person who might be looking for comfort. A cold demeanor is usually not appreciated!

  • Debbie

    Angela this is so true, ”
    If you want less drama in your life, drop your drama at the door. If you want more peace, be more peace.” I have a daughter that likes drama and I have learned to say, “I’m sorry, now what positive is going on in your life?” With this I have her talking about the good things and forgetting the drama. Works every time.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Debbie

  • Lynn

    I don’t think she said she did resolve that situation. I think the message was that if you respond to the drama it will just create more drama. I get the gist of this post and I totally agree. Well to a point. SOME drama is not all bad and does require some attention. But to not react with drama will help fizzle out the already ongoing issues.

    This also works well with bully’s in certain situations. Had a problem with a girl that was bullying my daughter and no matter what we did she would not stop nor would her parents address the issue. So … I told my daughter to look away and ignore her. Boy was that hard. I was right there with her ignoring this little girl and her horrid remarks. We played, had fun with the other kids, laughed and just had a good time and within 15 minutes this kid walked away and hasn’t bothered us since.

    Not all drama can be handled by not reacting to it. But by controlling your emotions and taking a step outside of the situation you are better able to handle any negative drama that flares up.

  • http://evasuzuki.com/ Eva Suzuki

    I really feel for you in your daughter situation, having personal experience with this kind of situation. So glad it resolved.

  • Guest

    I think this article is really profound. My new year’s resolution this year was Drop the Drama. Thanks for the practical tips.

  • Josh – reachyourpower.com

    Breathing is huge! It’s a reminder that YOU are in control and not your circumstances! There is a danger in sitting with the discomfort and taking on the discomfort. With practice in distancing yourself from the situation you can sit with the discomfort, but there may be times when you unknowingly take it on, and that can get difficult!

  • Leigh

    I really liked this post. I find myself in similar situations at work from a management perspective. I have received reports of “eye-rolling” that I decided not to respond to…it seemed a bit high-schoolish to me. In other instances, I choose to manage drama before it gathers more moss…and still other days I decided simply not to fan the fire. I like the part about mindfulness and signs you are experiencing drama;) I could totally relate.

  • Angela Savitri

    Hi @eva_jean:disqus – The ‘resolution’ in the scenario described is an internal shift of awareness. A new way to come into relationship with myself and others. The ‘resolution’ is within.

  • Angela Savitri

    Thank you @ Leigh! Glad you enjoyed it and could relate. The embodiment of mindfulness is a powerful practice. :)

  • Angela Savitri

    Hi Josh! Great distinction between ‘sitting with the discomfort’ and ‘taking on the discomfort.’ Thanks for reading!

  • Angela Savitri

    No problem – a New Year’s practice for sure! :)

  • Angela Savitri

    Thank you Debbie! You are the peace – love it! :)

  • kerry

    brilliant!! I so needed to hear this right now!

  • dduck

    So basically, unless you involve yourself in the drama, you’re causing more of it? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    People who tend to cause/circulate drama are more often looking for attention rather than comfort. It’s OK to listen to someone if they need a pair of ears, but no one should be obligated to empathize, agree or disagree, or take any definitive action or don’t take action. We should be free to withdraw from the temptation of taking part in drama without suffering unnecessary consequences or losing friendships. In fact, that is what I prefer to do, and I’ve never caused drama by doing so. That’s what this article is about – doing so with a cool demeanor (not a cold one). It really sounds like you missed the point of this, try again.

  • Thankful

    Thank you so much for this article.

  • Angela Savitri

    perfect timing – glad it was helpful! :)

  • Angela Savitri

    You are so welcome. Gratitude to you.

  • Connie

    This is just what i needed!! Thank you so much!!

  • growthguided

    “Very few things in life are really urgent.”
    I love how the mind likes to manipulate thought so that we are felt under the gun to react.

    Do you find that the subsides the more you practice detaching from anything besides the present moment?

  • http://www.worldclasslasik.com/manhattan-lasik-center-must-ask-questions Right Lasik Procedure

    Thanks a lot for the motivation

  • Angela Savitri

    You are welcome – glad you enjoyed it!

  • Angela Savitri

    absolutely! In my personal life, I have died to hope. I fully embrace my human emotions of joy while they last because I know they won’t last forever and that is no big deal. :)

    I also have become a better observer of my own internal sensations to know when something is falsely urgent and make it a practice to re-orient myself to the present. Sometimes I have to physically remove myself to sort out ‘what is real’ and sometimes I can do it while it is happening. It all depends on the situation.

    What about you?

  • Angela Savitri

    You are welcome!

  • http://BlissedOutBelle.com/ Shawna K: BlissedOutBelle.com

    This article hits the nail on the head; drama does perpetuate more drama! Often times people make the mistake of thinking that facing drama head on will solve the problem, but it only creates more frustration and resent. And I do agree the key to avoid drama is to be mindful of when you’re being sucked into situations by others. Personally, I’ve learned to stay clear of individuals that always seem to be fault-finders, speak negatively, or can never be satisfied. Misery loves company, and there will be people who will love for you to join them in their boat of misery. Like the law of attraction states, Like attracts Like, so be conscious of who you’re BEING, because you will draw those circumstances to you.

  • joanne

    The boiling pot is necessary for many to feel like life is exciting. Dysfunction is not exciting. Gossip is a shard of this. Buddha teaches not to gossip ~ ignore those that do. It feeds that fire.

  • ny art chick

    Wow thank you for this article! A long time ago I had a falling out with a friend who treated me very badly. For years I have had guilt about whether it was the right thing to walk away from the friendship. I thought, maybe I should have tried to reason with her, to work it out, but the more I tried, the more it felt like quicksand into the drama. Finally I had to just walk away and let her think whatever terrible things she wanted. I stopped the drama by not reacting anymore. I wish there could have been a resolution where we could have worked out the friendship, but I see it was not worth it. She would have been a constant source of worry and drama in my life, and it’s better off without her. I wish her love and light and happiness in her own corner of the earth! lol!

  • Dale Morris

    Hi Angela,
    I’ll pick up the thread – I have also found that stepping back from a heated situation does wonders for the mind. Even to the point of purposely doing something else mindfully while letting go of initial emotions.

    One thing I would like to add is that it seems there is this “trend” to avoid “drama”. As I see it presently, life is drama – it just depends on how we react to “it”. Nothing is neither good nor bad but that the mind makes it so.

    Unnecessary drama for us may be necessary for someone else who is experiencing it. Dunno.

    Thanks for your post. Namaste

  • Angela Savitri

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Angela Savitri

    ‘Unnecessary drama for us may be necessary for someone else who is experiencing it.’ Wow – absolutely.

    We are always in relationship.

  • Heather

    This may be the single greatest blog post in history.

  • Laura Probert

    This was the first time I have read an association between passion and drama. Interesting…making me think a little more.