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Drama, Drama, Drama

Father pointing finger

Yes, that is right, you define it. Drama means something different to us all. I discovered the deeply personal meaning drama can have while researching the subject for an recent podcast.

I learned so much when I took to the public and asked this question:

“What is your definition of ‘drama’?”

Responses were profound. Some were passionate and intense, some were comical, many times the question prompted personal examples of injustice, pain and conflict. All answers were heartfelt and genuine.

This is a highly personal question, people seemed to most often define drama by what bothers them.

Unless you were born and raised alone in the woods with no human interaction, you have at some point in your life experienced drama.

Webster’s dictionary defines drama as:

  1.  In literature- the portrayal of life or character, to tell a story usually involving conflicts and emotions, typically designed for theatrical performance.
  2.  A movie or television performance. 
  3. A state, situation or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces, i.e. details of “the drama of the past week” or “one is dealing with some family drama”

~ M, a corporate computer programmer, defined drama as “An unnecessary emotional response to a situation. A response that stimulates negative or unwanted excitement and emotions in others”

Conflict and intense emotions are commonly associated with drama.

~ B, a family addiction recovery expert said “Drama is an emotional reaction far in excess of what is truly warranted”

We all know there are various types of drama, some of the most extreme occurs in relation to an addicted Loved One. This type presents with chaos, conflict and crisis. It can induce sadness, shame, anger and terror like nothing else. Support and education for those who have a Loved One struggling with addiction and SUD is critical.

But there can be excess drama in all types of human relationships; drama in the home, on the job, in social settings. Like a lot of people, I experienced drama during a childhood filled with crisis and dysfunction.

 ~ “Any situation that causes my stress and anxiety level to escalate unnecessarily!”  S, Firefighter

Conflict and charged emotions are an occasional part of the experience of life. But crisislevel chaos, as well as unnecessary negativity and dysfunction do not have to be the norm. Recovery and therapy help us heal, cope and develop positive ways of managing situations that were once packed with drama, in order to live a more peaceful existence.

It’s absolutely possible to not have recurring conflict and drama in our lives.

~ “People making a big deal out of nothing” C, designer

There are people who seem to be attracted to drama. Almost as if they like it, can’t seem to live without it, they will always have it. The ones who don’t seem to be motivated by peace but instead get energy from chaos. People who start drama regularly, stir it up, join in when it’s not their business and keep the issues going.

These are not the peace-makers of life. They’re the types you can enjoy knowing and absolutely care about, but I've found it’s not wise to remain close if you are motivated by a calm life.

~ “Someone who naturally overreacts to very little stimulus.” L, CEO

When I found my life in no short supply of drama, I began looking inward to figure out what I had the ability to control, change or resolve. I knew things had to change and felt that changes had to start with me. Certain behaviors, reactions, thought processes and even some people in my life had to go.

This is an as-needed, custom-fit process.

When drama occurs in my life, I know I need to ask myself: What am I attracting? What am I tolerating? What am I contributing? Pondering the answers sheds light on areas I can take steps to improve.

A major solution I found within the CRAFT method, along with continuing to build on the strength I developed in therapy and recovery work, is that I began to completely avoid interacting with negativity, only acknowledging and engaging positive.

This does not diminish the need to have boundaries, consequences or protect and defend yourself when necessary. Nor does it mean to passively allow anyone to use or abuse you. This simply means: Refusing to interact or engage with negative, nasty drama.

Don’t take the bait. Don’t take the hooks. Don’t give dysfunction in return for dysfunction.

Negative drama will keep going even if you have a spreadsheet filled with proof that you are right – you still won’t win. Drama begets more drama. Positive reinforcement, paired with healthy boundaries and a wall up against negative behavior promote peace.

This is not always easy, particularly if we come from a hostile environment. Getting great at not interacting with negativity doesn’t happen overnight.

To be very real about it, if I’m strongly triggered or feeling tired and weak, I’m still susceptible to pettiness and drama. But my intent is to be wiser and healthier. We can drop the ball now and then, that’s just part of being human.

When this happens, I get up, I make amends and I do the next right thing.

~ “Drama is someone who sees the negative, worst case scenario in every situation, who takes all things deeply personal.” C, law enforcement

We might have intense emotions and lose our cool to conflict in a moment of weakness, but we don’t have to live a lifestyle of drama and we can be mindful to not take everything in life personally.

~ “People who complain about a situation they created themselves.” N, homemaker

There is a difference between someone who can be dramatic, versus one who creates, or thrives on, drama. Someone who is reacting with intensity is not the same as someone looking to start drama, join it or prolong it. Similar to the difference between a person who can get jealous within a situation, versus someone who always seems to be jealous of others without appropriate reason.

~ R, from HR said “teenage girls” (interesting that boys were not included, they too can be known for drama!)

Children can be taught to be over-reactive with excess drama. If kids are raised around conflict and witness out of control, emotional reactions as the standard, they will often manage future situations in a similar fashion. If, as the adult, our every reaction is emotionally intense and we have a habit of taking things very personal, hitting the ceiling over perceived slights and insults; the children observing us will learn to manage that way as well.

~H, medical admin says “When I think of drama I think of constant turmoil, of everything always being an ordeal.” 

Not everything is an ordeal that needs to be registered on the Richter scale! Taking a breath before responding, calming down first, taking a few moments to breathe before reacting makes all the difference not only within us, but within the issues at hand.

(Note: regardless of the situation or reasons, no one has a right to scream, curse or name call. If those are your tactics for conflict, you’ve got it wrong. Period.)

~“People freaking out about little things” M, Design

Overreaction, conflict, heated emotional responses and unnecessary problems were repeatedly mentioned when defining drama. These are specific dynamics of peace disruption in our lives. They are dashboard lights directing us to where our work toward functionality needs to be done.

~A, corporate office manager defined drama as “My bitter sister-in-law.”

Emotional drama not handled in healthy ways leads to bitterness and misery.

I personally want to do the work so I don’t grow bitter and become so blinded by that bitterness that I unload it on everyone I encounter. We have all seen that level of misery imbedded in the personality of someone who didn’t deal with emotional issues or injuries in healthy ways. Recovery and therapy help us maneuver through the drama.

These days, the effects of drama, chaos and dysfunction are now far more benign than they ever were, due to the work I’ve done to recover peace in my life. The same things that used to flatten me or launch me through the ceiling have become much less noticeable, more easily shrugged off and I recover from the upset a lot quicker. What used to hurt me and hurl me into anger and despair for weeks, now doesn’t last through the day.

Peace is possible, it’s a process. Therapy, research, education and recovery work are profoundly effective tools for creating a healthy, peaceful life. Recovery and therapy work! Drama doesn’t have to call the shots, peace is possible.


(Listen to our podcast on Drama here)

Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son’s Addiction, in 2016. Her story sheds light on the personal challenges facing the affected parents and family members, and illustrates how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie’s second book, Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache was published in August of 2018. She resides in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys writing, long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and visiting her son in California as often as possible.



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