Are we the actors and producers of our own dramas? Part Two

In the previous post we talked about why people tend to create dramas in their life. While some manipulative behaviors are obvious, some of them can be extremely subtle and often go unnoticed. People who are aggressive in nature can in a very evident way drag us into their dramas, while the same couldn’t be said for the one’s that manipulate us with their acts of helplessness, so that they could get compassion or the feeling of guilt from others. When we feel some uncomfortable sensation around someone’s behavior we can be sure that we got pulled in to their drama an we are ready to play our role in it.

How can we recognize dramas? From aggression to passive aggression…

The most obvious and noticeable kind of aggression is of course physical violence then verbal attacks, offenses, insults, humiliation, intimidation. For some people it is needed for them to validate their self-worth through destroying the worth of others. There are two ways we can react to this kind of behavior, by not reacting at all and pulling away from it or we can get aggressive also and defend ourselves with physical or psychological violence.

“Let me take care of it, son. You will get hurt.”

A subtler kind of aggressive communication is the constant criticizing of other people. Most of us had parents that never thought we were good enough, the ones that always thought they know the best and that they are always right. They always corrected us, they would take things from our hands trying to show us how it is really done. In everyone they will pick out their flaws and in every situation,  they would find a problem. What they we’re doing is that by trying to find fault in others they would make them feel bad and take away their self-confidence. This is a way they build their own self-confidence validate their self-worth. Very often, in communication with these kinds of people we end up losing our sense of self-confidence, feeling bad in our own skin. We make and effort to satisfy them, even if it costs us, just so we can get their approval. When that doesn’t happen (because they will always have something to resent us for) we will start feeling guilty, which will only lessen our self-confidence even more and it will continue going down as the vicious circle continues.  The next, even more subtler kind of aggression but extremely destructive is the communication that consists of provocation, making fun of others, irony, sarcasm, “jokes” that indirectly degrade others and gossiping. The goal of this kind of communication is to make themselves feel superior by degrading others and making them feel bad in a perfidious and subtle way. Because this kind of communication is so rooted in our lives, most of us don’t even see how destructive it is. On the other hand, when we are engaged in this kind of communication, we tend to accept it and literally start making a verbal competition of “who’s going to get whom”. In this case we can either become passive and retreat, feeling conquered and without confidence, or we can flash out and become aggressive to protect ourselves from not feeling defeated.

Photography: Srđan Garčević @sergesrdjan

“Don’t you see how sick your mother is and you can’t even call to ask if I am alive”

The most dangerous kind of passive aggressive behavior is usually the role of the victim that some people use to attract attention and compassion of others. The variety of methods is unlimited: from playing games by acting secretive and not available with the thinking like “if he is interested in me he should put in the work”, to refusing contact and communication and thinking “I am mad now, you should call me, and I will refuse to answer”, to manipulating with illness “bring me a glass of water, I have a bad headache”, and this kind of behavior continues every week and even every day. In this way they are trying to attract attention and compassion. The consequence for the partner is often the feeling of guilt, especially if this scenario continues for years and is played out between the members of the family.

Our defense mechanism

When we are exposed to the manipulative behavior of others, most often we unconsciously react to it. The first sign of our reaction is the feeling of uneasiness. We can feel this either on the physical, mental or emotional level. When we get anxious, we automatically blame the other person. Inside we blame them and judge them for their behavior, and on the outside, we react using a familiar pattern that we keep repeating for years in similar situations. It is then that our drama comes to life. When we calm down and cool off, we enter the third phase of our defense mechanism, and that is the feeling of guilt. On some conscious or unconscious level, we know that our reaction was inadequate so we feel shame and regret, and very often we judge ourselves and tell ourselves we will never get “caught up” in the same drama again. However, the next time it happens we unconsciously react with the same pattern of behavior.

In the next post you will read: how to free ourselves from our old patterns and how to stop being a player in other people’s drama.

Author: Ana