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The Drama Killer: Growing Real Through Conflict

How to avoid unnecessary drama and BS in life by living real through conflict.

 Drama: A Sign of Conflict Denied

This article is going to help you remove drama from your life by showing you the difference between unnecessary and necessary conflict. We’re gonna work together to help you see that all drama is an instance of somebody avoiding necessary conflict within themselves and that this avoidance causes unnecessary conflict in the external world in the form of drama.

In short: An unnecessarily conflicted mind will lead to an unnecessarily conflicted world and this conflict is most often made manifest as unnecessarily dramatic situations. This article will teach you how to handle drama by seeing it for what it is and either turning it into something real (in the form of necessary/real conflict) or walking away from it.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand where drama comes from, why it ‘exists’, and what you can do to kill it so that you don’t have to waste your time on something unreal.

Killing drama in this way will allow you to live a life with:

  • Less stress.
  • Less bullshit.
  • Less confusion.
  • Less time wasted on unreal situations.
  • Better relationships with yourself, the world, and reality.
  • More real relationships with the people in your life.
  • Less fear of conflict in general.
  • More control over the dramatic situations that you find yourself in.
  • A sense of acceptance of what life actually is.
  • More potential for growth through real conflict than stunted growth through unreal conflict.

Drama is the biggest waste of time on the planet because all drama is ego and all ego is unreal; it’s nothing more than shadowboxing because it’s just people fighting with their own ‘stuff’ and externalising it.  Refuse to fight the shadows when you can dance in the light – this article will show you how.

 Life and Conflict

Before we can go into the drama itself, a little reminder about life, where conflict comes from, and the difference between necessary and unnecessary conflict:

Life is the most important gift we’ve ever been given (though we occasionally have moments where we wish somebody had kept the receipt so that we could take it back for a refund or exchange). In fact, when we boil it down to the basics and cut through some of the bullshit, we can get to a stage where we see that we are life; it flows right through us as we flow through everything else. It’s beautiful, dreamy, and weird – even  more so because we know it will all be over one day and so the time that we have here is precious.  We have to make the most of it.

Our lifetimes can be spent in only two ways: either being real or being unreal.  One of these paths will lead to the greatest possible amount of satisfaction and fulfilment (though never true, lasting happiness as we live in a world where things can and will go wrong and some of the things we care about will slip through our grasp and be lost); the other path will lead to a life of unnecessary friction, frustration, and misery because it is a denial of truth and we can’t build anything lasting on lies.

It always boils down to the same thing: either we’re growing, flowing, and becoming more real or we’re lost in the ego and hiding from ourselves, the world, and reality.

Many of us find this simple reality about life difficult to accept because accepting it means having to face our own ‘stuff’ and grow through some potentially uncomfortable or difficult truths about ourselves in the short-term (as we let go of the illusions we’ve become attached to). Truth be told, though the solution to the problem of an unsatisfied life is simple, it is not always easy to implement: all we have to do is take off the mask that we’ve chosen to wear and to let go of the idea of a ‘fixed’ identity that comes with it.

If this is so ‘simple’, then why do so many of us struggle to do it? The answer is always the same: a fear of necessary conflict. This is where ‘drama’ comes from.

What we have to learn to accept as we grow into our real life is that conflict is an essential part of life itself; there are too many people on the planet with too many amazing and incredible views about what life is and how to live it for everybody to be in conceptual ‘agreement’ all the time (eww  – how boring!). There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to live life: only real or unreal ways – those that ‘work’ and those that don’t (to ‘work’ they have to be aligned with the truth).

Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually conflict is essential to our growth because, to keep growing real, we have to keep learning or growing stronger in each of these domains, and without conflict we can’t go through the process of having this happen. In other words, if we spend our whole lives avoiding the truth of our lives, they’ll become dramatic. This drama is always founded on the unnecessary foundation of untruths.

Real growth is always about pushing through the resistance of finding our edge: be it mentally putting ourselves in situations that challenge our assumptions, physically finding our limits and pushing through them, emotionally standing within our ‘stuff’ and confronting it so that it can pass, or spiritually living in such a way that we can confront our own ego, see it for what it is, and remove layer after layer of the fragmentation that stops us being as whole as we possibly can be.

All of these things are fuelled by necessary conflict: the conflict between who we currently are and who we can become if we stand our ground in the face of reality and keep moving forwards. Necessary conflict is just the way of things and it’s always real because it is ultimately creative if we use it in the right way. Unnecessary conflict is unreal because it is rooted purely in ego (which doesn’t even really ‘exist’) and so it doesn’t offer these opportunities for creativity and growth. It literally offers nothing because it isn’t real.

Unnecessary conflict is never connected to life itself in the way that necessary conflict is; really, it only exists in our fears and thoughts about life (which is why we can call it ‘unnecessary’: life is beyond our fears and thoughts – it just is what it is).

This is why understanding the difference between necessary and unnecessary conflict is an essential tool for dealing with the drama in our life: all drama is unreal because it is rooted in ego and is therefore unnecessary. In fact, drama only exists in our lives because somebody somewhere is avoiding some kind of internal conflict in themselves, has created the ego to keep hiding from it, and is using drama as a strategy to fight and defend the illusions they’ve identified with in an attempt to avoid their emotional ‘stuff’.

We can either confront life or we can avoid it: confronting it leads to real growth through conflict; avoiding it leads to stagnation through drama.

As you read the rest of this article, keep the distinction between necessary and unnecessary conflict in mind and remember that there are two types of people:

  1. Real / Conflict Types: Who are able to work with necessary conflict and keep growing real as they move forwards through life.
  2. Unreal / Dramatic Types: Who are unable to work with necessary conflict (aka life itself) and so create dramatic strategies or stories to avoid having to move forward at all because moving forward is a threat to the ego.

Conflict types are able to avoid drama because they know the distinction between real and unreal conflict; dramatic types are unable to confront reality via real conflict because they are too attached to their egos and have become growth-resistant (growth = ego killer). All drama in interpersonal relationships is about the avoidance of growth at some level (mainly mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually but it can be at any level imaginable).

Which one are you?

Real versus Unreal Origin Stories

The main difference between a Real or Unreal type is their relationship with themselves and their own egos.

In short, Real types are able to grow through their own ego and put it in the backseat by working to grow through necessary conflict, whereas Unreal types bring drama into their lives by avoiding necessary life conflict as they try to defend the masks they wear to hide from themselves and ask the world to treat the mask as being real too (always an attempt to avoid growth, which means change, the ultimate threat to the ego as it exposes its unreality).

In both cases, it’s not the mask that is the actual problem but the relationship with the mask: part of living in a ‘society’ involves having to wear a mask sometimes – we can’t all just wander around being ‘authentic’ all the time (though we can certainly become more or less authentic if we’re real about our intentions).

Real and Unreal types are both human beings and all human beings are forced to wear a mask and to have an inner battle between ego and reality. I’ve written about this before in Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness and elsewhere on this website but the short version is that we are all born real (without mental barriers or hesitation) and then something happens as we ‘grow’ up that makes us ashamed of who we are and so we wear a mask to hide from this shame – it is this shame that leads to inner conflict.

The only difference between a Real and Unreal type is that, somewhere along the line, the Unreal Type forgot that they were even wearing a mask and started to believe that they were the mask, whereas the Real Type somehow realised they were wearing a mask and decided to try and take it off (despite the pain of removal).

This is basically what leads to the different relationships with conflict: the Real Type is actively working with conflict to try and get back to their true state, whereas the Unreal Type is defending the mask in order to avoid this and uphold the illusion.  The drama in our lives is basically a product of either removing the masks or asking everybody to keep wearing them.

Welcome to the Dramarama

Now that we’ve covered the basics of conflict and how our relationship with it leads to us being either a Real or Unreal type, we’re ready to enter the Dramarama (the world where everybody is wearing a mask to hide from their own ‘stuff’).

We’re also ready for a few definitions that will aid us on our journey so that we don’t get caught up in the circus and become dramatic ourselves:

Drama: Any unnecessary conflict that is always caused for the sake of (attempting to) either keep somebody’s ego in place or to defend some kind of role/mask that they’ve chosen to wear in order to hide from themselves.  In short, people causing drama always want some kind of unreal attention that will stop them having to face themselves by validating their ego (which is always unreal).

Real Conflict: A necessary part of life that allows us to grow real through a process of learning what is real about ourselves, the world, and reality. A Real Type is somebody who lives life in such a way that they are prepared to actively face this kind of conflict and grow from it.

Unnecessary Conflict: What happens when people attempt to resist growth in an attempt to defend the ego and thus defend their illusions (which is what makes it unnecessary – defending illusions means defending nothing. Literally). An Unreal Type is anybody who causes this kind of conflict in order to try and persuade themselves and others to see their ego as being ‘real’ (so they don’t have to go through the short-term pain of growth). All drama is unnecessary conflict.

The ‘Drama Killer’ (i.e. the way to remove drama from your life) is real conflict because all drama is about somebody avoiding conflict in themselves by wearing a mask to keep it at bay.

If you have a lot of drama in your life it means you need to make real changes and real change will always mean bringing conflict into your life in the short-term (usually because you remove a mask that others have got used to you wearing and their own masks have been dependent on it so they fight to stop you changing). The first level of real conflict is always with yourself and the things that made you wear a mask in the first place which led to drama in the external world.

In short, whenever you find yourself in drama either you, the person you’re engaging with, or both, are avoiding real conflict in yourselves or the context of the relationship. Drama is what happens when you keep the pantomime going and keep hiding from reality; conflict is what sets you back on the right path – both in yourselves and in the relationship. This is because being in an unreal relationship means you have learning to do and you can only learn from the creative conflict between idea and reality.

The Building Blocks of Dramatic Situations

Setting the scene about life, conflict, and Real and Unreal types was necessary for us to be able to dissect the dramatic situations in our lives and to be able to determine how we can either stop treating them as real (so removing the perceived ‘power’ they have over us) or make them real by introducing some true conflict and the possibility of growth via insight.

The rest of this article will look at the basic building blocks of drama in the light of everything we’ve said so far. This will allow us to reverse engineer dramatic situations and figure out what’s going on and will also help us to deal with drama in the most real way possible.

Here are the most common building blocks of dramatic situations:

Heroes: You can’t have a dramatic situation without a ‘hero’ of some kind; however, that doesn’t mean that all heroes are unreal. The difference, in the terms that we’ve been using, is that a Real Type Hero will sacrifice their ego through conflict for the sake of real values or the whole; an Unreal Type Hero will only ask others to sacrifice their realness for the sake of their egos – for example, by ‘rescuing’ people (thus removing their real human power), creating causes that don’t need to exist so they can battle their own demons on the sly, or blowing things out of proportion so that they can get ego strokes for heroically fighting phantasms.

Short version: Real Heroism is founded on the idea that the ego is false and can be destroyed; Unreal Heroism is founded on the idea that the ego is real and should be defended. Real Heroism is about a profound respect for life; whereas Unreal (Dramatic) Heroism is about the fear of death (usually in the form of some kind of Immortality Project designed to make the ego last forever). Real conflict is about facing death and change; drama is about living to avoid death and change by fruitlessly fighting to stay the same.

A Real Hero is about transcending ego through the real kind of conflict we have already discussed; a false, Dramatic Hero is about strengthening the ego – which, ironically, increases the odds of eventually becoming a ‘villain’ in somebody else’s story.  All of this can be viewed through the lens of Wholness / Fragmentation (see: Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness #52) – a Real Hero is on the path to becoming more whole (by sacrificing the ego, the only thing that really keeps us from wholeness); the Unreal Hero is becoming more fragmented as drama is always about becoming more attached to the fragments that stop us dealing with the internal conflict inside ourselves (hence masks, etc. – see below).

Masks / Roles:  You can’t have drama without people playing roles or wearing masks of some kind. The problem with dramatic people (Unreal Types) is that they need to wear a mask so that they can keep avoiding themselves – and, because these masks are unreal, they need other people in their lives to wear a mask too and this is what leads to dramatic situations (Unicornitis is a classic dramatic episode). Often, the masks we are asked to wear by dramatic people are the masks of their own shadow (see below).

Conflict is about facing reality and growing whole by removing masks; drama is always about avoiding reality by wearing them and becoming more fragmented.

In Transactional Analysis, some of the most common ‘roles’ that people play are the three that make up the Drama Triangle: The Victim (“poor me”), the Rescuer (“I’ll help you”), and the Persecutor (“It’s all your fault”). Though there are many other masks and roles that people can slip into, the function is always the same: to allow somebody to try and get power in a situation by being unreal with themselves and others.

A simple example of this is the dramatic role of ‘Victim’ – a lot of the time, people slip into the victim role and stay in it because it gives them the payoff of getting sympathy from people – often, an attempt to get power or control over them – and having an excuse not to have to do the difficult work of growing real. The other Drama triangle roles have payoffs too: the Rescuer feeling heroic and helping somebody out, and the Persecutor feeling superior for having somebody beneath them.

Any time any of these roles become fixed they are unreal: no human being is a victim all the time in reality, nobody needs rescuing because we can all be our own salvation, and nobody can be a persecutor because in reality we are beyond inferior or superior (overall, not in relation to certain actions we’re better or worse than others at – hence why competition is a healthy thing when it comes to growing real).

These are just three examples of roles people commonly play to be dramatic but they’re all bullshit in the light of reality. In terms of what we have said in this article already, all of these roles are dramatic and unreal because they ask us to be fixed. They are not examples of real life or necessary conflict because they ask people to stop growing and to remain the same.

Be wary of anybody asking you to play the same role all the time or to wear the same mask. All they’re doing is inviting you into drama. A Real Type will realise that roles will change; an Unreal Type will ask for themselves and others to stay the same: real conflict is about accepting the possibility of death and sacrifice (symbolically or literally); drama is about asking others to die (symbolically) and sacrifice their realness for whatever mask the DRAMA ADDICT is wearing.

Archetypes: Archetypes can be seen as masks that people wear to play a timeless kind of function in the lives of the people around them. This is slightly different to the masks and roles mentioned above as archetypes emit a kind of universal energy instead of just the specific or situational energy of generalised roles.  Common examples of archetypes are: the mentor, the ally, the herald, or the hero and the villain.

All of these archetypes offer functional value in our lives and many of us will embody or perform the function of many of these archetypes over the course of our lifetime (the list of possible archetypes is incredibly long but they all serve certain timeless human functions). Like the roles/masks mentioned above however, archetypes can be dealt with in either a real or unreal way, and this will lead to drama in our lives or not.

Again, the difference between real and unreal archetypes boils down to rigidity: a Real Type realises that archetypes are not ‘fixed’ functions we perform but that they are parts of ourselves that we can choose to express in certain situations. Unreal types will not play archetypal functions as an expression of this timeless human energy but in order to uphold their egos. As an example, this might be the difference between somebody embodying the ‘Mentor’ archetype because they have universal wisdom they need to share, versus somebody wearing the mask of a mentor to profit in some way or to get the ego benefits that come with ‘rescuing’ somebody.

Attention and Validation: All drama can be seen as a kind of attention-seeking behaviour where the dramatic person in question has a burning emotional need to be seen. The short version of this is that Unreal Types are always insecure in themselves because they are disconnected from their real core (hence being predominantly in the ego) and so look to the world for external validation that they ‘exist’.

Usually, the main reason dramatic people have found themselves needing this kind of attention (either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ attention – it doesn’t matter to the dramatic type; all attention is of equal value and keeps their ego in place by allowing it to ‘exist’) is because they have no real purpose in life (i.e. they got off the Train). When we have a real purpose, we don’t need attention because we’re too busy living our lives and filling them from the inside out; dramatic people have found themselves lost in stasis (stuck at a station – see the Train) and so have to try and fill themselves from the outside in.

Whereas attention is more about being ‘seen’ in any way, shape, or form – ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – validation is slightly different in that it is about the dramatic person needing to be seen in a certain light – in this case, the light of their ego (because of shame, etc.). In short, validation-seeking leads to drama in the form of Unreal Types creating situations where they can play a role that allows them to feel like their desired self-image is being realised. In general, this role is almost always the opposite of how they really feel inside (for example, Dramatic Heroes are often the ones in need of being ‘saved’, etc.).

Stories: Drama only really exists in our lives because of the stories we tell ourselves about the things that we’ve been through and the places that we believe we’ll be going. The difference between a Real and Unreal Type is that the stories they tell themselves either invite conflict into their lives or drama: In general, the Real Type tells themselves a story that puts them in real conflict with life because their story is more about the future and their vision; the Unreal Type creates a drama for themselves by only repeating a story about the past and its impact on their fixed identity.

This is a subtle distinction but it leads to the Real Type living actively in the creative tension between where they currently are and where their vision is taking them, whereas the Unreal Type is left in a passive state of mooning down over the past and allowing their ego to keep them where they are. You can’t be real without conflict and there can only be conflict between the present and the future (because the past is gone); drama is what happens when passive people try to defend the bullshit stories they tell themselves about why they’re not happy and why they don’t believe in the future.

If you find yourself in a dramatic situation, start telling yourself stories about the future, and then put the work in to start taking yourself there. That’s how you use real conflict to serve as the Drama Killer.

The Shadow / Villain: As the saying goes, “There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth” – when we’re stuck in the ego, we want to believe in comforting ideas like ‘wrong’ and ‘right’, or ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but the reality is that all such value judgments are just our interpretations and that reality is beyond any such duality (reality isn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it just is what it is – that doesn’t mean we have to be assholes though because reality is about wholeness, not fragmentation).

Drama is the opposite of truth because it is always about somebody defending their interpretations of themselves, the world, and reality.

It may sound harsh but all dramatic people are shame-based people. It has to be this way because they are always using drama in an attempt to defend their egos (whether they know it or not) and the ego only exists because of shame about one’s own realness.  You can’t face reality if you’re ashamed of it – instead you send it into hiding, which is why there can’t be any drama without a  shadow of some kind.

If you don’t know already, the Shadow is a Jungian term which is basically used to encapsulate all of the things that we can’t see in ourselves – either because we don’t want to see it or because we have been conditioned to try and hide it (hence wearing the masks that we’ve been talking about throughout this piece). In other words, the Shadow is all of primitive, nasty parts of ourselves that we don’t want to face (as well as some of the good ones) that we have disowned and tried to forget about: aka our ‘Dark Side’.

The problem when it comes to drama is that whatever we try to hide about ourselves from ourselves, we will eventually end up seeing in others (projection). Nothing real within us can ever go anywhere and so whatever we try to pretend isn’t there will find new ways to reveal itself by turning against us and screaming for attention (thus suggesting that drama is just a refusal of the invitation to real conflict). Our Shadow is everything we’ve ever unexpressed, unrealised, rejected, forgotten about, or hidden from ourselves – dramatic people are just the ones who have way more of this stuff than non-dramatic types.

Essentially, this goes back to the major theme of this article: The Drama Killer is just your ability to face your own ‘stuff’ by improving your relationship with yourself and your inner conflict with your own shame.

A Real Type is just somebody who is capable of facing their own dark side without judgement and growing through the necessary conflict revealed here. An unreal type is just somebody who causes drama in their lives by hiding their dark side and projecting it out into the world around them in an attempt to protect their egos. A Real Type is somebody who can admit their darkest secrets to themselves without shame; whereas an Unreal Type is somebody who creates drama for themselves by hiding their secrets from themselves and everybody else. Drama is a communication problem and always means that somebody somewhere isn’t communicating with themselves in a real way.

We’re all ‘only human’ (no more, no less is always okay) which means that we all wear masks from time to time. The extent to which we attach to these masks is what affects whether or not we bring drama into our lives by trying to defend them and the ‘dark’ stuff that hides beneath. If you learn to be real you can bring this dark side into the light and grow whole through real conflict; if you choose to remain unreal then you’ll spend your life shadowboxing as you fight yourself again and again as the world reflects you back on yourself.

Drama is just your own shadow inviting you to join it in life’s great conflict – get real and show it who’s boss. There’s nothing to lose but your illusions.

Conclusion: Drama is a Sign of Unreality

This article has shown you that drama is unnecessary and is always caused by somebody avoiding conflict in themselves by wearing a mask in an attempt to keep hiding. It is a sign that there is always emotional ‘stuff’ going on and so instead of dealing with these emotions they’ve decided to identify with the fragments that caused them in the first place.

Remember: Human beings can have internal conflict but never internal drama. How we deal with our internal conflict affects whether or not we invite drama into our lives externally.

The ultimate Drama Killer is being real, particularly in two main ways:

  • Facing conflict – By acknowledging that there is a gap between yourself and your desired future, getting back on the Train, and growing through your edge as you dedicate yourself to growing whole through fragments. Facing real conflict allows you to ignore or better respond to unreal conflict (drama).
  • Facing darkness – By looking into your dark side (Shadow) without judgment and learning to take your mask off in increments. Ultimately, facing darkness means that we learn to see ourselves and others without judgement because we know that reality is beyond ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and we either make it work or we don’t by being real or unreal.

In short, drama is always a sign of a life being lived untruthfully: Facing conflict instead of avoiding it and facing your darkness instead of just pretending to be light all the time will align you with the truth and allow you to either be less dramatic in yourself or invite less drama from others.

To kill the drama in your life, learn to speak the truth – ideally, with your actions and always with an attitude that everybody is real deep down beneath the masks they wear.

 



Check out Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness for more on this topic.

To work with me get in touch about a Reality Check.

Oli Anderson is a fully-qualified coach working to help people close the gap between idea and reality so that they can live purposeful lives that make them feel truly alive. He is the author of Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness.

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