The Drama Fast

(Originally published as a newsletter for The Dragontree Holistic Day Spa)

Part of The DragonTree’s mission statement is, “To seed our community with centered, peaceful, and healthy people.”  We can only do so much to assist our clients during their visits here, so homework is an important supplement.  For those who wish to more actively pursue this goal, one of the most challenging and life changing assignments is a “drama fast.”  The details are below, and I suggest you try it for single day to begin.

Our social programming, through family, community, and media, teaches us some useful things – such as how to relate to other people and be productive in the world – and some not so useful things – such as how to generate and propagate drama.  The world tells us in many ways that there is something to be gained by dramatizing our life circumstances.  Consequently, the idea of a life without the drama might sound boring or even inhuman.  In most cases, though, the drama is a factor that degrades our experiences.  The simple facts of our lives become, through the addition of our drama, polarized so that we or someone else is judged negatively.  Perhaps more detrimental than the negative judgement factor is the way our dramas disempower us by causing us to surrender our power of choice.

The greatest, most fundamental choice humans get is our point of view about life.  Our lives, no matter how great or tragic by society’s standards, are ultimately only ours to judge.  If you’ve ever met a person who is simply imperturbable, who is able to stay hopeful and positive no matter what, you’ve known someone who fully embraces their power of choice.

For any given situation, we can choose a wide range of viewpoints.  The situation does not dictate our response.  Our viewpoints can be distilled to three basic categories: 1. A point of view which acknowledges the facts and remains completely neutral  2. A point of view which degrades our or others’ experience of the situation (e.g., by adding burden, shame, victimization, guilt, anger, etc.)  3. A point of view which enhances the situation for oneself and/or others.  The purpose of a drama fast is to promote the choice of viewpoints which fall into categories one and three.  We all have the ability to be light about everything that happens in our lives.

Taking a fast from drama is about responsibility – owning the way you shape your own experience of life and the effect you have on others.  We usually don’t consciously intend to degrade our experiences, but the urge to be dramatic is sometimes so insidious we don’t notice it.  It frequently arises when things don’t go the way we want them to.  Our disappointment may lead us to focus on the sense of injustice we feel rather than on resolving the situation.  During a drama fast, try to catch yourself falling in this hole and focus your attention instead on finding a new solution.  Though it may not seem possible, the simplest solution of all is to just let it go.  Letting go of an upset isn’t always a matter of saying, “I’m letting this go,” and then you’re done with it.  You must be committed to letting it go.  If you notice you’ve picked up the upset again, just purposefully let it go again without analyzing it.

Drama is often used to identify unfavorable things about others to either help us feel superior by comparison, or to distract others from noticing our own flaws.  (Interestingly, the rare individuals I’ve met who avoid this practice always strike me as having true strength and confidence.)  When fasting from drama, we abstain from this kind of talk and also try not to support others to speak this way.

What can you do when conversing with someone who is revving up the drama?  Your task is to enhance the situation compassionately.  There is a good chance that if you do not play along with the other person’s drama, they will feel you don’t care or don’t understand.  For you to participate in the drama doesn’t serve anyone though.  Let yourself see and connect with the part of this person that wants to generate drama.  Can you perceive, without any judgement, their deep need for approval, control, and security?  This person, like all of us, has been hurt and has become misguided.  They see drama as a potential resource for getting these needs met.  In actuality, the minor satisfaction we get from sharing in some drama never even touches these needs.  If you can steer the conversation to a topic or viewpoint that doesn’t degrade anyone, doesn’t focus on people’s mistakes, and doesn’t sensationalize anything, you remind them (and yourself) of our profound ability to shape our experiences through our point of view.  This is empowering to everyone involved.