Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
Why on Earth would anyone want or need drama or chaos? The obvious answer is drama gets attention.
“In a culture where the ‘extreme theme’ has become the norm, people are increasingly seduced into believing that intensity equals being alive. When that happens, the mind becomes wired for drama and the soul is starved of meaningful purpose. This type of life may produce heartpounding excitement, but the absence of this addictive energy can bring about withdrawal, fear, and restlessness that is unbearable,” states the author of Addicted to Chaos: The Journey From Extreme To Serene, Dr. Keith Lee.
We all know the scenario. The person that can create dramatic situations out of nothing. They can rehash an issue that bugged them from two-and-a-half years ago, and get fired up like it happened yesterday and lash out about it. They have claims or social media statuses that are vague and victimized. “I can’t take it anymore!” “Why does this always happen to me?” To which some folks will reply “OH no! What’s going on? You poor thing!” (The the exact response they were fishing for.)
Others will look the other way, because this is the third time in a week they have played their “poor me” card.
The petty personality that seemingly creates drama and decimates people opposing the drama, can be tedious and emotionally draining. Confusion is created, as they are apparently intelligent people but seem immature and sophomoric. What gives?
Low emotional intelligence, often referred to as EI or also called emotional maturity, is sometimes the culprit for those continually enmeshed in dramatic confrontations, situations and encounters. Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
A Montreal study, using the emotional intelligence guidelines, discovered those that are saturated in ongoing drama that pick and look for fights to battle and have victim mentality, have less impulse control, and often react before thinking. Low 'EI' folks also have less resilience than those with higher emotional intelligence. They don’t deal with stress or being challenged well and as a result, take their
frustration out on others. In order to feel better about themselves, some people zero in on others shortcomings, ruthlessly pointing them out and picking on them. Behind many arrogant and antagonistic facades is a fragile self-worth.
“There are multiple underlying causes for their tendency to lash out at others, and our research has highlighted some of them. Argumentative people feel more than just anger or frustration. They experience a lot of complicated, variable emotions, and don’t know how to analyze and regulate them. They are less comfortable with emotions in general, and most importantly, they are less self-aware. This results in an exaggerated response to minor issues… it seems out of the blue or petty to others, but in reality, they are reacting to something very real that is bothering them; they just don’t realize what that really is,” states Dr. Ilona Jerabek, a specialist in the field of psychometric assessments from Montreal.
I have read articles and heard opinions suggesting those often blanketed in drama, or their vocabulary laced with complaints, derogatory judgments or even name calling are in essence calling out their own pain. Much like that kid in school, often in trouble, difficulty maintaining relationships and yelling at people “you are sad and pathetic,” when everyone knows their home life is not good, perhaps there is even past or present trauma involved. The old analogy “when we point the finger at someone else, there are three more fingers pointing back at us” suggests perhaps their words are a projection of their own inner feelings of lack and low self-esteem.
While some people like a good debate, others will make a fuss about the most trivial things, just to cause conflict. Often on the defence, the argumentative seem to have a daily mantra of “I object.” They claim other people are always the source of an argument, not them. They like phrases such as “It’s your fault” and “You are to blame” as they come up with oodles of reasons why you, and not they, are the ones causing all the trouble while overselling to all that they are really calm and happy. “It’s them!”
It seems like an odd choice of lifestyle, but perhaps it’s harder to quit chaos than imagined.
Studies show that drama causes the pituitary gland and hypothalamus to secrete endorphins, which are the pain-suppressing and pleasure inducing compounds, which heroin and other opiates mimic. If it mirrors heroin, the logic would stand that indeed chaos and drama can be addictive.
Like any addiction, you build up a tolerance that continuously requires more to get the same neurochemical affect. When you don’t have it, you create it and a real drama is like hitting the jack pot.
We all need attention, it's human nature. However, extreme attention seekers go to unhealthy lengths that are driven by emotional desperation. When drama is achieved and acquired, for those that are addicted to it and habitually surrounded by it, it feels good. When something feels good or justified, we secrete a hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is the brain’s happy dance drug. And thus the cycle continues. Drama for chaos addict equates to the bell for Pavlov’s dogs, and they begin to salivate.
Addiction counselor Rita Barsky PhD notes that many addicts of drama and chaos grew up within dysfunctional families. Perhaps drama is just their norm?
Whatever the cause, it takes a lot of energy to be around someone like this. Whether you’re the source of wrongdoing or someone else is, it creates difficulty trusting them as well as maintaining healthy self esteem.
Here are some suggestions on how to preserve your sanity when working (or living with) a chaotic, dramatic or argumentative personality:
1. Don’t allow yourself to get swept up in their constant storms. Don’t feed the bears analogy. Feeding the bears, brings them reason to come back around. Recognize that you have the choice to not get engage in the argument or drama de jour.
2. If needed, speak and act with clear boundaries of what you will accept, and what you will not. Chaos addicts often have very weak boundaries. Make sure yours are strong.
3. Coping through compassion. This is their stuff, don’t take it personally. Realizing they use immature defence mechanisms to protect their self-esteem or form comfort through chaos, can make you more understanding and tolerant. Note: this does not excuse poor behavior but gives context.
4. What is your drama meter at? Often we can’t see what others see. If you have drama coming at you from more than one angle (work challenges, health issues, relationship problems, being treated unfairly by a business etc) perhaps you are the common denominator. Counseling can assist.
5. Keep perspective in order to maintain control over own feelings. Keep centered: Yoga, meditation, walk/run, surround yourself with happiness and laughter.
Remember, we are always responsibility for our own happiness and health.