Sometimes “OPD” (Other Peoples’ Drama) wafts miles and oozes into my consciousness by clinging to the thoughts of faraway loved ones. It is what it is. Sometimes, against my own better judgement and choices supporting my own mental health self-care, the people involved matter more than my particular “no drama” boundary. That’s just real. We are social creatures, us human primates. We matter to each other. How could I turn away from loved ones who need me? (Slippery slope there; see step 1. below for more details!)

It was interesting to me, yesterday, how much of the OPD I was gently dealing with was a byproduct of a very commonplace behavioral loop built on poor self-care and some handy errors in thinking…

  1. Give too much of ourself, unreservedly, and ignore personal boundaries (reliable first step toward drama).
  2. Allow resentment to build up over time. (and it’s gonna)
  3. Have a profound emotional moment, possibly resulting from 1. and 2., but also maybe just due to poor self-care in general, over time.
  4. Reach out for support for 3. but without being observant of the needs or boundaries of others in the moment.
  5. Be rejected in the moment by way of individual (or group) boundary-setting; they are having their own experience, and also have choices and needs.
  6. Lose our shit in an emotional firestorm of weaponized emotion, catalyzing a really bad time – for everyone. (why do people keep thinking this behavior is okay?)
  7. Demand, quite reasonably, respect for our individual emotional experience, while projecting it forcibly into the conscious space of other (non-consenting) adults – without respecting their emotional experience equally.
  8. Storm off, reliably ensuring everyone is invested in our drama, but can’t resolve it without chasing us… or…
  9. Refuse to honor boundary-setting intended to provide recovery space and quiet time for drama-survivors, by continuously, spontaneously, returning to the scene to unleash more weapons of mass distraction at people we say we have affection for.
  10. Maybe both 8. and 9. keeping things really chaotic and focused on us.

I wasn’t directly involved. I didn’t hear/see the original salvo of emotional weaponry get fired down range. I don’t have all the details. It wasn’t my drama. Not my issue to solve. Theseย  steps, however, are pretty reliably a thing human beings do, and it’s highly likely that they played out approximately this way, in basically that order. I don’t find any of it either necessary – though I’ve done it myself – nor do I see it as being at all healthy or productive. It gets to be a cycle, for people who follow the steps regularly; we become what we practice.

We can do better. We can practice another way. It starts with better self-care. It starts, very much, with being aware of that person in the mirror, and what we need over time for ourselves, and healthy boundary-setting, that we, ourselves, respect. It starts with being aware of each other in the moment, observing each other, and asking clarifying questions – and seeking consent. Clear communication, explicit, non-accusatory, emotionally neutral, and built on “I statements” is a huge piece of that. If I’m having a shit time, and you ask me about it, my answer still needs to account for what you are up for, yourself. You are likely not my therapist – so a deep dive into my fucking consciousness, and unpacking all my chaos and damage is probably not something I should dive into, if I respect your space and your emotional needs as I do my own. I’d ask first. Sure, I could honestly say “I’m having a shit time” – giving you a chance to say “tell me about it…”, or instead, perhaps, “that sucks”. Notice how “that sucks” doesn’t directly invite you to tell me more? Yep. If you wanted to talk more, I might like you to make sure that’s cool with me. Maybe I don’t feel up to listening for hours and holding you while you cry? Or maintaining a calm exterior while you rage about things that feel a bit directed toward me? Maybe you need to get a fucking therapist? Maybe I can feel those things and still love you? ๐Ÿ™‚

We are each having our own experience. Knowing that, ideally, allows us to respect our own needs – and also be aware that those may not be shared by others.

If you’re following along, we’re about to step 5. and 6. already. Yep. We fired that weaponized emotion down range, but our loved ones, friends, or associates of any sort in the moment have done what we did not; they set clear boundaries based on their own needs, and have attempted to (probably gently, the first time) let us know they are not up for supporting us through our emotional storm at this time. They have their own thing going. Failing to respect that is an emotional attack. Rejection, though, actually does hurt – and if I’m in a super shitty emotional place and already not respecting my own boundaries, I may not be easily able to respect the boundaries of others – and worse, may not be allowing myself to be aware of it. This is generally when shit really gets ugly, somewhere around step 5. or 6. Because – hurt feelings added to existing powerful emotion just makes everything feel much worse. It’s hard not to take whatever – or whoever – hurt us quite personally, and most human beings I’ve met react to hurt feelings with more of whatever got them that result in the first place – so more anger, or more tears, or more sadness, or more arguing – definitely more boundary-violating shenanigans. You read that right, I said “shenanigans” – because we have a choice there. We are absolutely entitled to our feelings – our emotions are not subject to argument, ever! Having said that, our behavior is a choice. Generally, a choice we’ve practiced over time because the results have served us in some way. Get over all that. Do better. (Yep. There are verbs involved. Nope. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Yep. It does take actual real practice. Fuck yeah, your results may vary. Practice more.)

Stop taking shit personally. Be kind to each other (inclusive of being kind to yourself, by the way). Respect boundaries. Yours too. And not just yours, respect the boundaries of others. Deep emotional conversation about your heartfelt pain may be something you really need, something we all really need. There is an entire industry built of human beings who make this their specialty, and even they require consent to undertake it – hell, they insist you make an appointment and fucking pay them. It isn’t unreasonable to recognize that one reason for this is that it is simply a bit much to ask of others – particularly loved ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

Steps 8., 9. and 10. are practices. They aren’t particularly efficient or useful practices, and seem to me to be rather under-handed, self-serving, and unhealthy practices. Emotionally manipulative practices. Disrespectful practices. Practices that stem from reactivity that can be eased – with other practices, carefully chosen, and practiced repeatedly over time. We become what we practice.

This morning I woke up still here, in this quiet space, in this drama-free zone. Still, also, wondering how things are “there” and wishing people dear to me well from afar. I’m definitely better at drama from afar. LOL

It’s a good morning to begin again, with better practices, and better self-care. I look around my place, here, and smile; I can do better, too. ๐Ÿ™‚