When I was a teenager, maybe 14 years old, one of my sisters and I were having a heated argument — my solution was to throw a brush at her, which resulted in her tooth going through her lip. I think I tried to convince her not to tell my mom, but in truth I have no memory of what happened afterwards.
My childhood home was like a never-ending storm. The storms would pass for short periods, but the sun didn’t shine all that often. Our household was a crippling emotional mess. It was a state of constant dysregulation, battles that lacked tenderness and probably looked like a Jerry Springer show to the outside world.
I knew drama, it was my go-to. Conflict and I were well connected, and we had an intimacy that took over any relationship. I carried that with me for a long time. When you grow up in fragile environments you become very skillful at detecting others who are problematic and carry similar patterns of behaving. When you grow up in instability, it becomes your superpower. You’ll walk into a room looking for it because you’re tuned to struggle and want to make sure you know where it is at all times.
It’s the symptom of growing up with inconsistency and without your emotional needs being met.
Through years of healing work, I’ve healed that part of me. It’s been a hard journey, but worth the effort. It’s not that I avoid drama entirely, it’s that I’m clear about my boundaries and what I want to invite into my life.
The benefit of growing up with so much strife is that I’m comfortable with difficult conversations. I can go into them looking for solutions and resolutions instead of wanting to add more aggression.
Yet, much of our society is built on drama. We LOVE a good argument, and we’ve become interested in divisiveness, ‘cancel culture’, and silencing those with different ideas. We’re attached to the adrenaline conflict inflicts.
One of the most successful TV industries is ‘reality TV,’ a genre that involves drama and conflict. Whether it’s a show designed around dating, selling, or competing, many of these shows are incredibly successful. Culturally we LOVE watching others suffer and struggle. We participate by watching, and we contribute to the drama by donating our precious time and Mindspace to it.
Drama is our system’s way of saying “I’m not OK.” It evolves from feelings of dissatisfaction and unease. Perhaps we’re unhappy at home, but instead of admitting that to ourselves, we take that agitation and move it outwards. Maybe we’re unhappy in our marriage, but instead of contending with that, we look for problems in other relationships. We blow these relationships up or make dramatic life changes to feel like we have some semblance of control instead of acknowledging what we’re actually feeling.
It can also be that we’re holding onto beliefs about ourselves that are unkind and troublesome. When we don’t know what to do with these feelings we may focus them outward to diffuse our own discomfort.
There are many reasons why people are attracted to drama, but there are others who avoid it at all costs, who navigate difficult conversations or opt out of decision making so that they don’t have to take responsibility. They may avoid drama but end up creating it for others. It’s very manipulative behaviour.
It may look as if the situation in front of you is creating suffering, but rather it’s — your resistance to your truth that does it.
Conflict is a way to feel alive, a way to initiate reaction in our system. To make us feel. The questions most of us don’t ask are, “Why are we attracted to it? What does it give us? Why are we drawn to it?”
My optimistic side believes that if we’d just pay more attention to those things within us, we’d be that much closer to creating peace in our worlds (at home and globally).