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The Value of Drama

Jim Dethmer
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March 10, 2015
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At the Conscious Leadership Group we specialize in supporting leaders as they learn to shift out of drama and into leading from presence.  We believe this shift in consciousness changes the entire game, both personally and professionally.But we also believe there is value to living in drama, or what we call “Below the Line.”  What are those benefits?

1. It’s familiar

For most people, living in drama is the way they have functioned most of their lives. It’s their go-to pattern.  We need to remember that people like familiarity.  This is why we go to the same Starbucks and order the same latté and eat the same delicacies every Thanksgiving and wear the same slippers even though they have holes.  Familiarity breeds comfort and comfort is king.  We also need to remember that our brains don’t like change.  Change is dissonance and our brains are wired to stay with the predictable and avoid the different.  A very good reason to keep living and leading in drama is that it’s familiar.

2. We get to be right

This is huge!  Our ego believes that unless it is right it won’t survive.  Survival of the ego is core to being human.  When we live in drama we get to be right.  Think about it.  Isn’t every conversation from “Below the Line” simply an argument for who is right?  When we’re in drama we’re always right about something.“He should do his job better.”“She shouldn’t disrespect me.” “I should work out more.” “You should buy me a birthday card.” Being right drives drama.  Being right feels so good or, more specifically, being wrong feels so bad.  A good reason to stay in drama is we get to be right.

3. We get connection

A friend recently told me about getting together with a group of friends from high school.  For these folks high school was several decades ago.  What they talked about was virtually all drama.  They discussed the drama of their health issues, their marriages, their children’s ups and downs, their financial drama and all the drama in the world (Ebola and ISIS to name a few).  As they shared their personal drama with one another they experienced empathic connection.“I know what you’re going through.  The same thing happened to me with my husband.”  “I’m scared of Ebola too.  I almost didn’t come because I had to fly to get here.”This connection in drama drives much of our experience of community.  Some people don’t actually know how to connect with others apart from drama.  Drama is good because it gives us connection.

4. It’s entertaining

Let’s face it—drama is entertaining.  It might be tragedy, comedy, romance, horror or conflict but we can’t take our eyes and ears off it.  Drama drives all great theater.  There is always a victim, villain and hero.  Most people’s life, apart from their drama, isn’t very captivating, engaging and entertaining. If the choice in life appears to be between lifeless boredom and spicy drama it makes perfect sense why we choose drama.

5. We Avoid Core Feelings

When we are in drama we have feelings, often lots of feelings.  We get to feel righteous, wronged, entitled, judged, helpless, better than, less than and many more.  In our experience, these are actually pseudo feelings or moods or attitudes.  They are not core feelings.  In fact, one of the values of drama is that we get to avoid feeling our deepest core feelings.  These feelings include sadness, fear, anger, joy and sexual feelings.  When in drama I get to feel wronged or misunderstood and I get to avoid feeling how deeply—deeply sad or scared or angry I am.  Most people are terrified of feeling their deepest most authentic feelings.  They avoid this level of vulnerability at all costs, and a great way to do that is by staying in drama.When leaders consider a commitment to end drama we find it incredibly useful for them to really feel the cost of what they will be giving up.  When leaders choose to stay in drama we believe it’s valuable to give acceptance and love to that choice.  Drama makes sense.

Of course we understand that drama has its costs and living and leading from “Above the Line” has tremendous payoffs, but, to skip over the value of drama is to skip over part of reality.  Avoiding reality is always dangerous.What is the value you get from your drama?

About the Author
Jim Dethmer

Jim has been coaching leaders and supporting individuals, groups, and organizations to optimize their effectiveness. Potent and practical, he see issues clearly and communicates next steps crisply. Jim works with Fortune 200 CEOs across all industries, and co-authored the book—High Performing Investment Teams—to support his work with leading asset management organizations around the world.