07 Feb 2014

Beware the Drama Bomb

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Portrait of stressed woman having head painThis feels so familiar. My heart is pounding. My stomach feels tight and fluttery. My vision is blurring a little, and my breath is short. My ear is sweating on the phone as I try to make sense of what this person is saying. This feels yucky. I don’t like it, but at the moment, I can’t pinpoint why. It isn’t until I hang up and take some deep breaths that I’m able to put my finger on what just happened.

Drama Bomb.

We’ve all been there. Those conversations that feel disorienting, yucky, and wrong. And we’ve all reacted to them. Maybe we’ve gotten defensive or angry. Maybe we’ve gotten hurt or upset. Cried. Yelled. Cussed. Shut down. Gotten passive-aggressive. It’s easy to do, and natural. Even if we’re not totally clear in the moment, we’re aware that the conversation feels threatening, so we react in kind, maybe going into protection mode. After, we might vent to other people, “I can’t believe they said that!” And we still might not be sure exactly what it was that rattled us so.

Most often, these interactions involve a whole lot of The P-Word: Projecting. The other person is projecting their needs and beliefs on to us: “I need you take care of me!” “I need you to fix this situation!” “You’ve done something to wrong me!” In turn, we project our needs and beliefs on to them: “You have no right to say that to me!” “I deserve to be treated differently!” “You’ve wronged me by saying that!” Projecting comes from the Ego, which perceives separateness and tries to protect the self by making other people into capital-O Others and us into a capital-S Self. The Ego says, “You’re over there, and I’m over here, and we’re fundamentally at odds with one another.”

Drama Bombs happen when Egos get out of control and the situation becomes a big, hairy Projecting clusterf**k.

The thing that bothered me so much about this particular situation was that I had been here before with this person. I’d done the Drama Bomb dance dozens of times to the point that I finally had to create distance with them. Prior to this phone call, I had reached out in hopes that there might be a way to salvage the relationship.

My Ego was all like, “Dude, I did everything right. You shouldn’t be acting this way. You need to get your crap together and treat me better!”

Separation, separation, separation.

So, how should a yogi deal with a Drama Bomb? What are some steps to take in the moment and after to chill the Ego out, invite in a little Witness Consciousness, and get back to a We Are All One frame of mind?

1. Anticipate the Bomb. Here’s the thing: You know who in your life is prone to Drama Bombs. You’re done that dance with them before. While a mindful yogi should always give the benefit of the doubt, it doesn’t help anyone for you to be naive. Before you engage with drama-prone folks, check in with yourself. Get centered. Take some deep breaths or do a short meditation. Get in a good place so you’re less likely to react.

2. Notice the red flags. You’ll likely feel a Drama Bomb in your body before you’re fully aware that you’ve been bombed. My red flags are the ones I described above. It’s hard in the moment to go, “Oh, my heart is pounding, and I feel a little dizzy. Let me check in and make sure I’m not reacting to a Drama Bomb.” But with practice, awareness, and mindfulness, you can learn to recognize your red flags when they happen.

3. Breathe. I know, I know. The yogi’s prescription for everything. But seriously, if you catch your red flags, a few deep breaths can help turn off that reactive thing that causes you to get bitchy, defensive, or passive aggressive.

4. Make some space. It’s totally okay to call a time-out on the conversation. Let the other person know that you need to take a break and get back to them later on whatever the issue at hand is. This can give you time and space to re-center and get clear before you re-engage.

5. Practice compassion. Hardest. Thing. Ever. But do it. First, practice compassion for yourself. What are you feeling? Normalize it. Tell yourself it’s okay to feel that way. Second, practice compassion for the other person. Is it possible they’re feeling scared or confused? Try–if at all possible–to put yourself in their place and recognize that they’re probably struggling as much as anyone else. This is where you invite your loving Witness Conscious to take over.

6. Recognize Projecting. Yours and theirs. If a Drama Bomb is afoot, there’s some major Projecting going on. Recognize where your own beliefs are being triggered. And without trying to mind-read, notice where the other person may be projecting on to you.

7. Maintain boundaries. Just because you’re getting all warm-and-fuzzy compassionate doesn’t mean you have to let it all hang out. Be calm but clear on what kind of communication is acceptable. “Mary, I really want to talk to you about this, but I don’t feel comfortable talking when you’re yelling. Let’s talk again when we both feel calmer.”

8. Do a post-mortem. When you feel calmer, and without dwelling, review the situation and your response to it. What lessons can you learn? Would you react differently in the future? Express some gratitude for the opportunity to learn and grow.

Recognize that a lot of people (maybe even you… or me!) are addicted to drama and will try to create it anywhere they can. Just because a Bomb falls in your lap doesn’t mean you have to let it blow up there. Practice your mindfulness skills, stay centered, and let the drama addicts keep their Drama Bombs to themselves.

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