How to Stop Getting Caught in Drama That Isn’t Yours

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“Our best decisions are often what we choose not to get involved in.”

–Doug Cooper

Do you ever feel like it’s just one thing after another with some people? Is there always a big issue that seems impossible to solve? Does it somehow get resolved only to result in some other dramatic event down the road? There was a time in my life when I constantly felt like I was being pulled into others’ drama. I wasn’t exactly sure how to not get involved without seeming aloof or uncaring. And the more I tried to help, it seemed like the bigger the issues got the next time around. I often wondered, “Is this ever going to end?” and “How could I not be there for this person that is upset?”

Why are some people so dramatic?

People can get comfortable with just about anything, even if it’s something that’s “supposed” to be uncomfortable, like drama. People live within the drama because it’s what they know. Just like in a soap opera, drama can be predictable, serving as a great distraction from the lives of the people involved.

I was never personally dramatic, and knowing this, I always blamed others for bringing their drama and issues into my life. Because of my calm and rational nature, I was the person that people came to for advice or support in dealing with a daily drama. However, the reason I was able to remain calm in the midst of tornados is because I had grown accustomed to such chaotic weather conditions. If I wasn’t living in other people’s drama, running to the rescue, being the calm one, then who was I? If I wasn’t the composed and collected one that everyone came to with their problems, then what was my worth?

Eventually I had to face the truth: If I didn’t get caught up in other people’s drama, I would have to face my own life. Being the rational one amidst storms of drama was part of my core identity. It made me feel good about myself, giving me a false sense of superiority.

I came to discover that if I could get through the tornado, I’d come out the other side, able to focus on my own life. But what would that actually look like? For a long time, I was able to avoid all my own negative feelings by getting wrapped up in other people’s experiences. Just like using drugs, gambling, or overworking, being involved in drama is a form of avoidance and distraction. We are good at convincing ourselves that we’ve got it all together and it’s the outside world that needs to be repaired.

We are so scared to live our own truth that we shove ourselves into other people’s issues. To be honest, I never saw it as drama. Instead I thought that I was merely making myself available to help other people fix their issues. After a while, though, I realized that the people who always came to me with drama would never stop, especially because I was making such an effort to help them feel better. I came to the realization that by getting involved in their drama, I was introducing drama into my own life. The saying, “If you entertain foolishness, you’ll become one of the fools” sums the experience up perfectly.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar pattern, it’s important that you not let it stop you from living your life and having the relationships you want with your friends and family. You deserve healthy relationships that include a balance of give and take.

4 Tips on How Not to Get Involved in Drama

Take a step back – Getting involved in drama is usually a knee-jerk reaction, especially when you have been involved in it for a while. This is an emotional reaction instead of a thoughtful response to a situation. When we are reactive, we are driven by our emotions, and we take action without considering alternatives or consequences. You can start practicing responding rationally rather than reacting by taking a step back and thinking for a minute. This will allow you to be more mindful and come up with a meaningful response based on logic.

Pay attention to your body –If you pay attention when you are making an impulsive decision, you’ll notice that you feel the urge in your body. It becomes a physical symptom. Take a moment to pay attention to the physical urge you get to take action. Do you feel it in the pit of your stomach? In your chest? Where is it showing up?

Connect body and mind – Sometimes we can feel something without having made sense of it in our minds. Once we create a bridge to connect our body and mind we can start to understand and bring awareness to our emotions. Listen to what your emotions want you to do and try to figure out why. Our impulses, or decisions made solely based on emotions, usually lead us in the wrong direction. However, once we establish a mind-body connection we become capable of making better decisions.

Think about what other options you have – The next time you feel inclined to get caught up in someone’s drama, ask yourself what else can you be doing instead of getting involved. Think of the positive things that will happen if you act in a more constructive matter. If you keep getting involved the same way over and over again, nothing will change.

To break the pattern of drama, it’s important to first shift your perspective and pay attention to what you’ll be gaining by not getting involved. Because of it’s seductive nature, drama is easy to get wrapped up in if you don’t make a solid commitment to change. Just like a tornado it has a strong pull, and once you’re in it, it will swirl you around and spit you out. So, develop a plan of action. Know that whether or not you get involved, situations have a way of working themselves out. If you meddle, it may just make things worse.

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Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier

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Showing 2 comments
  • Janet

    I really needed to hear this at this moment in my life. I have drama with my siblings. Everyone, including my mother, comes to me to vent and to seek guidance. However, any guidance given is rarely followed which usually ends up being exactly what was expected. I was hoping there would be more advice on how to not feel guilty or seen as uncaring when I not react and not get involved. This is where I’m at right now… wanting to have distance for peace of mind and then feeling guilty for not being more involved.

    Thanks so much for your blog!

    • Dr. Ilene

      Hi! Thank you for your comment. I totally understand where you are coming from. I always felt guilty too if I thought I seemed uncaring. The trick is to remain present without feeling the need to fix anything. You do care and don’t want to totally disconnect but when family, like your mother, goes to you for guidance it is helpful to keep in mind that their problems, drama, and issues aren’t yours to solve for them. So if someone comes to you to vent you can be there for them, but then put it back on them to solve their problems. Like you said they will rarely follow your guidance. They just want someone to pass their anxiety onto, and it doesn’t make you a bad person to give it back to them by saying something like, “That sounds like a dilemma, what do you plan on doing about it?” I hope this is helpful and actually I talk all about this in my new book coming out in October “When It’s Never About You.” So stay in touch!