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home : features : columns June 28, 2016

2/7/2012 1:01:00 PM
Addiction to drama

Marta Adelsman

Wouldn’t you know that, after I had chosen the topic for this column, I would become entangled in my own drama? Since I had lots to do today, I asked my husband to walk our dog, Bella. He also had much to accomplish, so he declined my request. I resentfully grabbed Bella’s leash and left the house in an angry huff.

I definitely had a martyr complex going on. The ego’s pride manifested in a “poor me” attitude. This theme, and that of “someone’s got to do it,” run throughout my life. I liken this dramatic fixation to an addiction.

When you have thoughts that lead to emotional intensity (fear, anger, jealousy, guilt, etc.), your body releases chemicals into your bloodstream. As with substances like alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, these chemicals are addictive. Drama can be called an addiction when, like dependence on substances or sex or exercise, it’s nearly impossible to control the behaviors that define it. The behaviors can solidify into roles, as in the “Martyr” role I played today.

The ego plays many dramatic roles. You may recognize those that I suggest here in others or in yourself.

The “Commander in Chief” role insists on being right. It becomes easily angered as it makes others wrong, and it likes to have the last word in the arguments that it creates. The “Victim” holds grudges, and its emotional fixation often shows up as resentment. The “Rescuer” role keeps others weak by maintaining a persona of strength. This covers up personal insecurity, an “I don’t count as much as others” mentality, and even self-loathing. The “Drama Queen” (or King) fixation creates dramatic upheaval around situations, circumstances, or others’ behavior. It depends on the resulting chaos and confusion to secure its role and to keep itself in place.

I’m grateful that the kind of theater I entered into today doesn’t happen very often any more. However, some remnants of addiction obviously still remain. I could feel the sick pleasure the ego clung to in the emotional experience. I could also feel the resistance to extricating myself from the stage show. Prolonged resistance to moving beyond the drama often leaves relationships in tatters.

To step out of the cycle of dependence on that rush of emotion, stop any self-judgment about it. Then you can become conscious of how the mind entices you to hurt yourself by engaging in the emotion-driven behaviors and the thoughts that feed them. You now have the freedom of choice to take responsibility for the roles you play in your stage show.

The best way I know to take responsibility is to tell on the ego. Expose it by openly speaking how it has lured you into a role. When I tell Steve that I acted out of my old tendency to make myself a martyr, I take responsibility for my actions. I also decrease the ego’s hold on my emotional state.

Excuse me while I go find my husband!

Watch for an announcement about Dr. Marta’s next “Freedom from the Drama Cycle” class. To be added to her newsletter e-mail list, write drmartacoach@gmail.com.

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