Most people say they want less drama in their life. Yet, from the outside looking in, we observe other people repeatedly making life choices that keep strapping them into the roller coaster ride. What does it mean to be addicted to drama?
Although I no longer drink alcohol, I was a heavy drinker for a number of years. At the time, I would have described my drinking like this: The intended consequence was a pleasant alcohol buzz. The unintended consequence was an unpleasant hangover. I thought I valued the buzz enough that I was willing to tolerate the hangover. Maybe that’s true. But there is also another way to see it.
Although I was unaware of it at the time, I was also addicted to the hangover. No matter how long I sailed the alcohol seas every weekend, I’d inevitably wash up on the shore of Monday morning, feeling physically sick and anxious. There was something in me that unconsciously sought this uncomfortable feeling. I didn’t realize it at the time, but some part of me found this state familiar, felt I deserved to feel miserable at the start of every week. In letting go of alcohol, I learned to quit chasing the buzz–but I also learned to quit inflicting unnecessary harm on myself.
Your Internal Critic
Maybe you feel stuck in an unhealthy relationship or soul-sucking job. Maybe you struggle with addiction. At some level, these are all habits, seemingly automatic patterns that play on repeat despite your best efforts to change. Setting aside self-judgment for a moment, carefully consider the negative consequences of these patterns. A passionless marriage. A short fuse. A pounding headache at the end of the work day. Can you remain open to the idea that, at some level, you are seeking these negative consequences?
We all have an internal critic, a kind of voice that provides unkind running commentary on our life choices and experiences. Maybe over time you have learned to turn down the volume on this critical voice. But simply avoiding or minimizing this voice is not the same as authentically working through deeper questions of self-worth. Until you have intentionally recognized and directly addressed this critical voice, it will keep showing up in various aspects of your life. In many ways, the unpleasant consequences of your unwanted habits are the result of your ruthless internal critic. Life holds a mirror. And this mirror reflects everything–both the conscious aspects of your personality as well as the unconscious. So when you find yourself repeatedly struggling with a seemingly external circumstance (like a Monday morning hangover), ask yourself if this might be a reflection of some disowned aspect of yourself. In other words, you can try to avoid or ignore your internal critic, but until you’ve really worked through the negative self-perception that fuels this voice, you may find yourself stuck on repeat.
It’s human nature to keep putting your hand in the fire just so you can enjoy the relief of pulling your hand out of the fire. Yes, you could simplify by just skipping the fire from the get-go. But first you have to come to terms with your unconscious desire to be burned. This is what it means to give up drama.