You Don’t Have Time for Soap Operas, So Fire Your Dramatist.

Several years ago, my friend and I were chatting by the baby pool, lamenting how difficult it was to find good babysitters. Her favorite had just moved out of state; my favorite had just gone off to college.

“I had a sweet girl come sit for us a few times,” my friend said, “and my kids liked her, but there was too much drama in her life. Some people just attract it, you know? I don’t want to hire a drama magnet to spend time with my kids.”

Huh, I thought. I’d never thought about it like that before. Her theory stuck with me, and I began using it to screen my babysitters. (And my kids’ friends, too, now that they’re a little older. But that’s another story.)

When I recently read Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, I was surprised to see him say the very same thing. Nevermind that Pressfield was talking about the writerly life, and my friend was talking about babysitters: it’s the same concept.

Pressfield writes, “We get ourselves into trouble because it’s a cheap way to get attention. Creating soap opera in our lives is a symptom of resistance. Why put in years of work designing a new software interface when you can get just as much attention by bringing home a boyfriend with a prison record?”

If we don’t have the guts to commit ourselves to long-term growth, health and integrity, we can always go for the cheap thrills of a soap opera instead. And many people do.

But I don’t want drama magnets (or makers) around my kids, and really, I don’t need self-dramatists around me, either. Because in Pressfield’s words, a stirring soap opera means one thing:  “Nobody gets a darn thing done.”

I’ve got too much work to do to invite drama into my life, and I’m pretty sure you do, too.

Do you have unwanted drama in your life? How do you deal with it?

Recommended Reading:

Don’t Be a Drama Queen, and Other Lessons in Friendship from Anne of Green Gables. The persistent popularity of this post tells me that tons of people have unwanted drama in their lives.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately, and A New Reading Resource. This post contains blurb on The War of Art and the concept of resistance.

The Modern Accomplished Woman…Has Positive Relationships. This post from the “redefining the accomplished woman” series discusses the importance of meaningful relationships in our lives.

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24 comments

  1. Even though I’m normally a pretty even-keeled person, I suffer from PMDD–which means my hormones take away my ability to be totally in control of myself and rational for 5-8 days out of every month. I walk around looking for a fight, ready to blow up at any minute. Rationally, I know that’s insane. But my subconscious clearly craves the drama and attention.

    Because we use FAM, my husband is keenly aware of the vagaries of my cycle. We came to an agreement that he would talk to me like a normal human being, even when my hormones are wrecked. I can’t start a fight with him because he won’t let me. His self-control and love keep the drama out of our lives.

    • Katie says:

      That is awesome that you and your husband could come together on that and he can help you out. I had those moments biased on my cycle too and my (then boyfriend) husband and I had to work out a deal like that too.

    • Anne says:

      Alison, I love the agreement you’ve reached with your husband, and your self-awareness for dealing with your PMDD. My friends who suffer from this tell me it’s a nightmare to deal with every month–thanks for sharing how you’re managing this in your family.

    • 'Becca says:

      Alison, I have struggled with premenstrual mood problems too since becoming a mother. Last summer I started taking Vitamin B6, and it has really helped a lot! It also helps to reduce pregnancy nausea if you get pregnant again.

    • Allison says:

      Alison, I had an epiphany when I read your comment. I couldn’t stop thinking “This. Is. Me.” I had never heard of PMDD. I just thought I had terrible PMS.

      I’m so glad I stumbled onto your comment. I feel so similar to what you describe. For a week every month I’m a heartless, cruel monster, ready to pounce on anything. If my husband says something that isn’t what I want to hear I get viciously angry or immediately burst into uncontrollable tears. I’m super clingy and want cuddles all the time. I pick fights late night when we’re both exhausted.

      Apparently there are ways to treat PMDD to reduce the severity of the mood swings (yay for quick internet research) including better diet, exercise, and Vitamin B6 supplements. I will definitely be discussing this the next time I see my doctor… and I might even ask about SSRI antidepressants. As much as I don’t like the idea of them, it would be worth it to never become that horrible monster-me again.

  2. I use to have a lot of drama in my life, thanks to my extended family. My family stirs the pot like nobody’s business. All through HS and college, I’d get phone calls from this family member to discuss that family member, then a call from that other family member to discuss that other family member. Drove me insane. Then, right after I got married, I put my foot down and refused to take all the drama. Now, no one in my family calls to talk about other people, which means I have no more drama, but I also have no clue what’s going on. But that’s not half bad, if you ask me. 😉

    • Anne says:

      Sarah, I love this story! Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you’ve found a way to keep some of the drama out of your own life.

  3. Julie says:

    Boy did this strike a chord with me! Like Sara, I have family members (inlaws) who constantly drum up drama. It’s mind blowing to me and just interacting with them makes my heart start to pound wondering what they’re going to say/ do/ get upset about. I struggle with the balance of forgiveness & keeping them a part of our lives VERSUS saving my sanity. After 6 years of marriage, I’m choosing my sanity! Thank you for posting this. Someday I’ll blog about it, but for now, I’m keeping my inlaw drama out of my online life… since they read my blog and that would just fuel the fire!

    • Anne says:

      Julie, I’m sorry this has been such an issue for you and your family. If you ever post about it, please send me a link!

  4. DFrazzled says:

    As a woman in the workforce, I must say there are plenty of these people at the office, too. I used to spend a lot of time feeling sorry for their plights, not realizing they were addicted to the attention. Now I just say, “that’s too bad,” and get back to my work.

    I’m also trying to steer clear of plain old whiners!

  5. Linda says:

    I had never thought of this when my girls needed a sitter, but we always found solid, reliable sitters. I enjoyed the theme of this post. Thought provoking.

  6. Tim says:

    “Do you have unwanted drama in your life? How do you deal with it?” Good question, Anne!

    When young, I was moody. That took too much energy, and I’m happy I grew out of it. One thing that I used to think back then was that no one knew how I felt or what I was going through – which was true, of course. Now when I am around dramatists I try to remember that I don’t really know what’s going on in their lives either. Grace in the face of someone’s drama ain’t easy, but in the long run I’ve discovered it’s easier than answering drama with drama.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  7. Catchy title! I really start to reassess a relationship if I see a pattern of drama & or constant issues. I have a friend that I grew up with that has had constant drama in her life, and we’re still friends, but just not as close as we once were. It’s very tiring.

  8. I do my best to stay away from dramatists, but it’s not always completely possible when they’re related. It helps a lot though when you don’t live nearby.

    One of my big frustrations with people who always have so much drama in their lives is when I get called mean or unfeeling because I don’t get worked up into a frenzy over their issues. So much of the time they bring it on themselves, or they just do the same stuff overandoverandover, and it’s very hard for me to be super sympathetic. Yeah, it stinks you’re having to go through that, but you 100% brought it on yourself so forgive me for not gushing with condolences.

    Or maybe I just am mean & unfeeling. 🙂

  9. Stephanie says:

    That is so true. Just the other day I was explaining to my husband why I had been seeing less of one of the school mums lately. I said “She just seems to attract drama, and I don’t really want people like that in my life”. So I’ve been gradually and deliberately phasing her out of my life, in a nice way, if you get what I mean!
    Such an interesting post!

  10. Lisa says:

    Sadly, I have had to pull back from a beloved in law because her drama, and misperceptions of everything, would leave me shaking every time I hung up the phone, or left her company.

    I must admit, I needed help to do this…and now that the grief of changing the relationship is under control, I suddenly have time to do all those things I could never get to, and energy that no other health measure could seem to give me. I really feel that drama is a big distraction from the good things that are provided to us in life.

  11. Cassandra says:

    Um, I’m the current drama queen. Don’t you need at least one in your comments? Here’s why I am a drama queen: I hate drama. My downfall is that I haven’t mastered the art of squelching drama without more drama. I’m very outspoken, so when I sense someone is acting unjustly, unfairly, taking advantage etc….I usually say something. People don’t like to face their stuff, or be confronted, so it’s usually drama. Here’s the thing, I do it lovingly and graciously. I’m also a really nice person. That creates drama as well, because people will take advantage of that, and when it is pointed out that here is how much I will give; drama.
    I have found that people who have mastered the art of not dealing with drama will not put themselves out as much under conditions where I will. (Wisdom on their part, but not necessarily always forward motion.)
    I’m not a whiner. Does that distinction help? Sometimes, I think the two get mixed up. I tell stories about how crazy life is, but it’s always in a tone of humor that people can be so crazy.
    And finally, apologies for the length of this…I have a condition which makes me very sensitive. Not in a get my feelings hurt kind of way, but in an I get over-stimulated and need a quiet moment to myself kind of way. Since I am also gregarious and fun, people don’t want to allow me those moments of quiet to regroup. I have learned to avoid drama, I have to curb my time with most people, especially extraverts who do not respect the differences in the way people take in situations.
    By the way…I found this blog today and absolutely love it! Can’t wait to read more. Thank you!

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