Friday, July 9, 2021

Drama and Stress

Sometimes life throws things at us that we aren't ready for; that's one of the reasons we prep. Trying to foresee difficulties and avoid them, or at least minimize their impact on our lives, is more important than having the “right” brand of water filter or the perfect knife in your BOB. Drama, the modern word for over-reaction and exaggeration on the part of people, is one of those things we all need to be on the watch for.

Before anyone gets hurt feelings, this is not directed at anyone in particular. I've been dealing with a load of crap from family and co-workers lately that brought this to mind, so I sat and did some serious thinking about it. I've come to the conclusion that I get a lot less drama from the family that I've chosen (tribe) than from the family I was born into. 

We all have someone in our circle of people who is a “drama queen”, the one whose life is always falling apart and has to share it with anyone within earshot. Rather than work on the problem like an adult, they prefer to whine and complain and tend to make everyone around them miserable. Being an older man from a rather stoic part of the country, I have little patience for drama. I'll listen to a friend in turmoil or a stranger in need, but enabling a continuous pity party isn't going to do either of us any good. To me, problems exist to be solved, not carried around and waved about whenever someone wants attention. I'm more than willing to do what I can to help solve problems, but some people are not interested in giving up their source of attention.

One form of drama is over-reaction to and over-sharing of things that happen to us all. One of my young friends is in his teens, and after being dumped by his girlfriend his world was ending. Rather than let him fall into a pool of self-pity, I privately gave him some encouraging words and let him know that he wasn't the first to experience this. After a few days he contacted me to let me know that it helped, and while he was still hurting emotionally, it wasn't the end of the world. The saying “There's noting new under the sun” is pretty close to the truth when it comes to most human interactions. Reading histories and novels written centuries ago will show that people haven't changed all that much. This is why there are so few original movies: all of the good ideas have already been explored and made into movies, sequels, reboots, etc. This is also why so many religious organizations have rules and codes of conduct: patterns of behavior were witnessed throughout the years and the outcomes were always the same, so those behaviors with bad outcomes became “sins” to be avoided.

A second form of drama that is common is rumor and innuendo. I have very little tolerance for rumors in my life; to me, unconfirmed information is merely something that might deserve a follow-up investigation. I don't trust anything that starts with, “I heard” or “Somebody told me”; if you can't put a name to a source, it's a rumor or an attempt to slander someone. Since 90% of statements that start like that are personal attacks that will have zero effect on my life, I disregard them and refuse to pass them on. Why should I care who someone else is sleeping with unless it's my wife? I'm fairly content with my pay (if I wasn't I'd be looking for another job), so why should I care how much someone else is making? Most of our “news” is nothing but rumors, with actual facts getting reported are a fringe benefit. Rumors can damage morale more than even the worst leader regardless of the size of an organization, so watch for those who like to spread them. Those who stir the shit should have to lick the spoon.

The third type of drama is the person who feels a need to be involved in everyone else's lives. Letting others live their lives is not good enough for this type, since they know what is right and proper. Busybodies, those who have to stick their noses into everyone's business, and judgmental idiots of all stripes fit in this category.

You'll never be able to completely remove the drama from your life, but you can minimize its impact.

  • Avoid the drama-makers when possible. Don't give them the chance to drag you into their world.
  • Treat them like the child they're acting like. If you act like a 3 year-old, you'll get treated like a 3 year-old.
  • Don't react at all,  but stay calm. If they get nothing from you, they'll be likely to seek out another target.
  • Make communications simple and fact-based, and don't let them veer off into rumor.
  • Offer calm advice, if any. Hyperbole is one of their tactics, so don't play by their rules.

Drama causes stress in both the initiator and the recipient. None of us need more stress in our lives, so minimizing the amount of drama that you have to deal with is a form of self-preservation.

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