So I’ve been talking quite a bit lately about being highly sensitive, and keeping personal drama from ruining your creative productivity. I have promised advice, and now it’s time to deliver.
My tagline for this blog used to be “Making crazy work for me since 1972.” The truth is, I didn’t make the crazy work for me for a long time. Instead, I let crazy drag me around behind it like a spastic Labrador Retriever whose leash had somehow gotten wrapped around my waist.
(Aside: If you are a spindly 14 year old girl, do not wrap your spastic Labrador’s leash around your waist in an attempt to keep him from running into the lake. He is a muscular water dog whose every instinct is screaming “GO INTO THE WATER NOW NOW NOW!!!!!!” This will not end well. But I digress…)
I’m not a psychologist or a counselor. I am a person with a history of letting personal drama derail my creative goals, who is now a successful creative professional. The only way I can share how to stop letting personal drama run your life is to share what worked for me. Which is not going to fit in one blog post, so you’ll have to bear with me.
I’ll be the first to admit, my life is not completely drama-free now. If it were, I’d be bored out of my gourd. But there’s a difference between the normal joys and sorrows of life, and being a Drama Queen. I spent a big chunk of my life being the latter. It was certainly quite exciting, but it kept me from achieving my dreams. Trust me; achieving your creative dreams is so much better.
Around the time I turned thirty, give or take a couple years, I knew I needed to get off the Tilt-a-Whirl of Personal Drama. Like a literal carnival ride, it can be fun in your teens and twenties, but as you get older, it gets increasingly nauseating.
So how do you get off the tilt-a-whirl? How do you get rid of the personal drama that’s sapping your creative energies and overstimulating your highly sensitive brain into crash mode?
The bar-none, number one best way to eliminate drama personal drama is to stop seeking it out.
I know what you may be thinking. “I’m not seeking out drama. It finds me! It’s not my fault that [insert ridiculous melodramatic situation here] happens to me constantly.”
Except that’s probably not true.
Granted, truly unwanted, unexpected things can happen to anyone. But if your life has a Seriously Dramatic Event as predictably and frequently as a Shonda Rimes prime time series, guess what? You have found the enemy, and she is you. Are you sure you would have finished that novel/album/painting/startup launch by now, if not for the unbelievable succession of awe-inspiring personal cataclysms? Then the odds that you are not continually putting yourself in the probable path of an outbreak of Industrial-Grade Crazy are basically nil.
I’m going to give you a minute to absorb that.
If you’re like me, you won’t absorb it right now. It will take time. The good news is, when you’re truly done with it, you will find that you have an unerring radar for situations and people who are a Crazy Train waiting to happen. You will wonder why you didn’t use this miraculous Spidey sense to avoid these people and situations before.
The simple answer is, you were using it. You were just using it as a homing beacon.
The first step is realizing you’re setting yourself up. Then you have to work on breaking the habit of engaging in drama. One big way that I broke the habit was learning to recognize an invitation to the Drama Triangle. Once you learn to see the invitation, you’re better able to turn it down.
We’ll talk about that later. For now, if you think that you might be a Drama Queen and not just incredibly unlucky, I’d ask you to do a little exercise. Make a timeline of your life from your teens to now. Break it into three month sections. Mark down all the times that some crazy situation completely sent things off the rails. Look for repeating patterns. Then just ponder the possibility that maybe some of those situations might have been avoidable.
I did something similar at my turning point. I had to mark my level of satisfaction with life on a 1 – 5 scale. It looked like an electrocardiogram. There was a perfectly uniform pattern; a dive every six months to a year with some “crisis” followed by an adrenaline-fueled spike. It was too regular, too predictable, to be accidental. Either I was somehow instigating drama, or my guardian angel took PHENOMENALLY regular vacations.
Accepting the unlikelihood of the latter was the beginning of my turning point towards sanity. More to come.