I used to have this problem with this restaurant behind me. When I would attempt to ask for their help to resolve the issue, they would either ignore me or react with screaming and yelling. It was a resolvable issue and I often wondered why they didn’t just resolve it sooner. Why all the drama?
I do think that some people enjoy the drama of conflict. They get off on it. They like the adrenaline, the cortisol, the rage, and the energy that it brings. Even the indignity of the perceived slights must fill some type of need.
Drama in the Neighborhood
As an example, my friend Amanda regales me with constant hilarious stories of the drama in her neighborhood. People there are often angry and hatin’ on each other. “So and so didn’t ask so and so to the party, and she was caught hiding in the bushes watching us from the windows.” The stories are better than Real Housewives shows. And it isn’t just the women doing this stuff.
In Amanda’s gated, middle-class suburban community all kinds of drama happens. There are many social smudges and conflicts. People have even been caught looking up old mug shots of the residents and anonymously nailing the mugshot pictures to trees. At one point, a drunk husband of a friend Amanda was fighting with did wheelies in Amanda’s front yard and laid on the horn in the middle of the night as a rageful rebuke against an imagined happening.
These people are well into their 40s! It’s an affluent community too. Let’s see, wheelies and mug shots in a posh neighborhood, not a reality TV camera in sight. So, what are they getting from all of this drama? I’ll go with what’s called “secondary gain.”
What is the secondary gain?
Secondary gains are the upsides that people get from a behavior, even an unwanted behavior. For example, the upside to feeling victimized might be a self-imposed excuse to overeat or abuse alcohol. There are many secondary gains we get from any situation. Being aware of them, is very important if you want to make positive changes.
Back to the drama. So what are the neighbors getting from this? Maybe …
1. A distraction from focusing on their own lives.
Trying to deal with your stuff and make yourself happy, challenged and engaged in his world can be difficult. If you have something or someone to be mad at, it can help you to disengage with looking at yourself deeply. Have you finished that project you wanted to complete? Are you struggling with a loss you haven’t dealt with? How about malingering feelings of resentment about _____? Drama can channel energy away from what you really need to be focusing on. Not unlike watching TV instead of cleaning your house.
2. Drama is something familiar.
Unfortunately, some people grew up in dysfunctional homes or within families where addiction or trauma was present. This will create chaos, unclear boundaries, and teach people that engaging in conflict dysfunctionally is the way to behave and live your life. We are drawn to what we know. It is not unusual for people to find themselves in these emotionally loaded scenarios again and again because they are drawn back into this old stuff. And they may not know how to disengage and detach healthfully.
3. Chemicals released in anger can feel addicting.
I really like this website called Anger Mentor. They do a good job explaining how the dopamine released when angry can get people high and help them to engage and reengage in these cycles. It feeds the feel good parts of our brains.
4. The drama might give one an exaggerated sense of importance.
If one is the object of anger or derision, it could feed a need to be seen or to feel like a vital part of people’s lives. Remember the old parenting wisdom, be careful not to ignore your kid because a child will seek bad attention versus no attention?
5. The car accident phenomenon.
You know what I am talking about. How we people are prone to slow down if there is a car accident because we just can’t miss out on what is happening. We want to know. News agencies are constantly feeding this need with incredulous, awful stories that they hope we can’t tear ourselves away from.
Call to action
I hope there isn’t this much drama going on in your life. With the drama comes trauma, old injuries getting reawakened, and it could be keeping you from having a more peaceful and enriched life. If there is a ton of drama going on around you, try to detach and stay out of it. This can be challenging. I have made a few mistakes in my past and brought some drama to my door. But, I swear, this time I have learned my lesson. I hope.
Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com. Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support!