When drama overwhelms you

Photo: Burns Library, Boston College Follow via Flickr

You’ve seen it at work and at home. Someone is anxious about something and suddenly you are feeling anxious too. You know this isn’t healthy and that you shouldn’t feel this way which only makes it worse. Now you’re self-judging for not distancing yourself from the drama and begin to doubt your own effectiveness. You start losing sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, running the day’s conversations over in your mind.  

 Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and sucked in by another person’s angst. Drama is created when a person can’t accept the way they feel so they try to externalize it or put that feeling off on others, usually in a highly demonstrative or desperate way. This behavior provides them a temporary yet unsustainable relief from their discomfort. Thus, they continue the drama dance to try to unload their despair.

 I notice I have been feeling anxious and assuming the anxiety of this person. I’ve begun thinking that I won’t be able to accomplish what I need to get done when I know I’m capable. These feelings are a sign for me to pause and get curious.  

 What’s going on with me? I guess I’m feeling that I have some responsibilities that I don’t want but need to take care of. That makes me a little resentful which I know is unproductive to my happiness and effectiveness. I also know that the feeling of resentment is based in judgment and that when we judge others we are really judging ourselves more. I don’t want to create my own drama by externalizing it or putting the discomfort on the people I care about most. So. I’ll turn toward the discomfort, not away like the other person is, and get more curious about it instead.

 So, what am I judging myself about? Hmm. Probably that I won’t get done what needs to be done to a perfect standard and that I will be judged by myself and others as less than who I want to be. Ah-ha!  

 Perfection kills happiness and is the fuel for drama. May I be gentle with myself in this moment. May I release the expectation of perfection. May I break down tasks to an actionable list and celebrate accomplishing them one at a time as opposed to a focus on their completion. May I accept others as they are and not internalize their judgments. May I accept my best as enough. For I am enough. 

 And may I laugh at myself along the way and have fun with what I am learning about myself because this whole process of life is pretty entertaining.

For a tip sheet on how to distance yourself from drama click here.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com