counseling, psychology, self-help

How to Protect Yourself from Dramatic, Negative Behavior

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Today is Election Day.

As our country continues to become more divided and filled with ongoing conflict, I felt a post on how to mitigate dramatic, negative behavior (your own and other people’s) would be warranted. We are live in an EXTREMELY divisive society. It is important to know how to deal with people who live to manufacture drama in their lives AND yours!

The thing about our society is people have become very rigid in their views of the world. If you disagree with their way of thinking, they perceive you as the enemy. “Agreeing to disagree” seems to be a mindset of yesteryear.

In counseling we call this all-or- nothing (black and white) thinking. It is one of the faulty cognitions I work with clients on. It has become a very common way of thinking in our country—we see things in polarizing terms: good vs bad, right vs wrong, friend or foe, love vs hate,  on our side or against us, and so on and so forth. People no longer even ATTEMPT to find any common ground. “You are either with me or against me” is a common mindset in our society.

We need to do better. Life is much more nuanced than this simplistic form of thinking. Yet while we cannot control what goes on out there, we can control what goes on within US.

If you don’t protect your peace of mind, you will end up detesting life and resenting other people for your circumstances. We see this play out every day in the political arena.

Negative emotions are spiraling out of control across all walks of life. Being cynical is the norm. The ability to keep things in perspective and look at the bigger picture seems to be challenging for many.

As a clinician, I often have clients who come in to session keyed up who just dump their negative emotions out onto me.

This is an appropriate time and place for venting such feelings. Counseling is a place to process and release whatever it is you are feeling with a trained, mental health professional.

It is NOT appropriate to dump your negative emotions on people in your day-to-day life. This is a toxic way to act and behave. All too often this is happening in our culture–people offload their negative emotions onto anyone who will accept such behavior. In our political climate, politicians go after their opponent on a personal level instead of the policy.

This example set forth by our country’s leaders spills over into how our society as a whole conducts itself. 

This is why having healthy boundaries is more important than ever.

As a mental health professional, I have developed strong boundaries to not internalize what clients bring into session. It is important to not take on clients’ emotional state as to not burnout and protect my OWN mental health. I need to be able to leave work at work.

In life, we also need to be able to have good boundaries to not take on other people’s “stuff.” Nowadays far too many people find it acceptable to take out their negative state of minds on undeserving targets.

Maybe this topic is resonating with you. You may encounter, far more often than you care to admit, people who live for drama. People who are overly dramatic can be a drain on our time, energy, and mental well-being.

Dealing with dramatic behavior can be quite a downer.

You likely know exactly what I mean by overly dramatic behavior – it’s loud, aggressive, childish, intense, inappropriate, or any over the top emotional reaction. It frequently includes  yelling, gossiping, “emotional dumping”, crying, and acting like everything is a crisis.

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These people are the worst. Their behavior is emotionally and mentally exhausting. It is YOUR job to protect and guard yourself from these characters.

There are people who live for the control drama.  A person like this is likely feeling small and powerless in their own lives. Thus they try to manipulate and steal the positive energy of another. Control dramas emerge when someone tries to gain power or energy from another person and to essentially, “get their way with others.”

These types of personalities get their way with others by making their target pay attention to them and then attempt to elicit a certain reaction to make themselves feel fulfilled and powerful. Do any recent political debates come to mind? A few certainly do for me. This type of behavior comes from people who feel VERY powerless in their own lives. They may have money, status, and all the traditional markers of success–yet are very unhappy on a PROFOUND level.

For these drama makers, their positive feelings are won at the expense of the other person. These personality types like their to be imbalance and drama in their interpersonal relationships. They live for it! They love having someone (or something) to complain about, vent about, gossip about!

If there is not something readily apparent, these types will create the drama. After creating such a hostile environment, they will more often than not BLAME you if you are their target of blame. Look at our politicians on both sides of the aisle and you will get some great examples of people who LIVE for drama and attention.  (Mind you, these personality types tend to lack self-awareness for how they conduct their lives–throwing bombs and acting like the victim when confronted by their OWN abhorrent behavior. Reflect on some politicians at the forefront of our political landscape RIGHT NOW).

How do we protect ourselves from other people’s drama?

  1. Accept you are NOT going to change these types of people. You can’t change people who do not see an issue with their actions.  You CANNOT control what other people do but you can limit the role they play in your life. You also get to control how you respond. You need to cultivate the ability to not be baited into other people’s drama. You are wasting your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you. People who truly care for you will want to hear how you feel and work on the relationship. If someone does not care about you, there should be no need to waste your energy on them. Keep it moving.
  2. Recognize when YOU are creating drama. Are you looking for attention and excitement? Bored a bit in your monotonous life? Be careful. Those mindsets can lead you astray into the world of “drama.” If you find a lot of drama is ever-present in your life, you need to look at the one constant: YOU. Helpful tips-Don’t give unsolicited advice. If someone does not ask for your opinion, do not just offer it up. Avoid inserting yourself into situations that do not directly involve you. Do not triangulate with people who are in conflict. All you are doing is creating drama for yourself. Listen I get it. I have done it myself from time to time in moments of extreme frustration. Or in trying to be a good friend. I have learned people’s actions may frustrate me but I gain nothing from letting my emotions lead my response. I also can see how other people use their emotions to bully and manipulate–once you are cognizant of this fact, you crease feeling the need to react at all.                                If I share with someone how I feel and they attack me, I do not engage any further. I already have my answer from their reaction. The situation need not go any further. I walk away from people who are not mentally and emotionally capable of mature relationships. If you get into a back and forth with people, you are in actual creating your own drama.
  3. Don’t feed into other people’s drama. Gossip. Third party conversations.  Learn to speak less and listen more. Be an observer–not everything needs your reaction. Don’t let people bait you into heated debates where each side digs their heels in deeper. It is a big waste of time.
  4. Physically remove yourself from the drama. Some people will never stop creating problems for themselves and you if you continue to associate with them.  Keep friendships with people who have good, positive energy and do not CREATE drama.
  5. Anticipate difficult people AND situations. Take inventory of people who leave you stressed and unhappy. Refuse to talk about sensitive topics with people who are known for the ability to stir the pot and amp up the drama. Ain’t nobody  got time for that.
  6. Stay in your own lane. If you are busy watering your own grass, you do not have time to worry about whose grass is greener now do you? Minding your OWN business is the #1 best strategy to avoiding drama. Life is too short for this type of nonsense.
  7. Remain emotionally detached from other people’s opinions of you. If you derive your sense of happiness and self-worth  from your own internal metrics and values, you become immune to the opinions of others. When you are happy in your own skin, other people’s opinions cannot impact your happiness because you are in control of how you feel about yourself.   Know this.  When mentally strong people feel good about something, they do not let the spiteful or shallow comments of others take that away from them. I am not saying you should automatically stop speaking to someone who is talking negatively about you. Give them a chance to make it right. Speak to them about it—you will get your answer about how to proceed in the relationship by how they react to you making them aware that you know how they have been speaking about you to others. If they make excuses, refuse to apologize or take ownership, or attack you more—you are likely dealing with a dramatic individual.
  8. Be calm and don’t engage. Dramatic people are looking for a reaction–sympathy, compliments, some type of reward, to blame shift. Do not reward their bad behavior. Setting boundaries will be paramount as will enforcing said boundaries.

I hope these suggestions will help you protect yourself from whoever in your life lives and breathes for drama. Most of us have the same basic need and desire to get along with others and live a drama free life. Don’t let negative, dramatic people steal your peace and joy.

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Your turn…

Have you been a target for a Drama Queen or King? Is your good-nature being abused because you’ve been inadvertently reinforcing their behavior? Do you have a personal story you’d like to share about dealing with dramatic people?  What helps you stay immune to the negativity that surrounds you?  Leave a comment below and share your insights and thoughts.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

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