Some of us are addicted to drama. We have TV show to prove it … murder, mystery and suspense. And if you, like me, occasionally protest that something that wouldn’t happen in real life, we’re shushed and told: “It’s a drama, suspend disbelief.”
If we do, we may enjoy seeing the story unfold. We may watch as we see ordinary people getting caught up in extraordinary events that, for a time, seem both unresolvable and unmanageable. But then, within a few short hours, all is once more well with the world. The characters can go back to their normal lives and we, the audience, breathe a sigh of relief and prepare for our next piece of escapism.
But what happens when life begins to imitate art? What happens when real life is only about veering from one drama to another? How do we feel about it then?
There are some people – and families – who live a life full of drama and seek out dramatic events when there is too much “ordinary” happening. They lurch from one crisis to another and seem to feel charged up when they are experiencing the highs of their life of drama.
The problem is that drama may be a part of life but it can’t be all of life. Most of us humans function best when we are working in a calm environment, when we are able to use all our senses to work on a problem and find a solution.
Imagine taking a trip on a boat and try to feel the enjoyment you experience from the tranquility of the ride. Imagine a calm, turquoise sea, a picturesque backdrop of sandy, uncrowded beaches and the warmth of the sun as the boat glides across the water. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Then imagine how you’d feel if that same boat was going into a squall. The coastline blurs, clouds darken and the water turns choppier and choppier. How are you feeling now? I’m sensing a certain tension.
What matters particularly in this scenario is who is the captain of your ship. If s/he is experienced, calm and confident, you may feel safe in the knowledge that they can steer you out of trouble. But, if they are they looking to you to help them out because, while they may have their captain’s licence, they’ve never been in this situation before, you may be right to feel worried.
And this is where we are at present. My imaginary ship is rudderless, captain-less and I have no idea what’s on the horizon. To be honest, I can’t even see one.
The daily headlines seem to offer little hope and more and more confusion with our own ships’ captains – from all parties – as confused about their direction of travel as the rest of us. If they could give us a clue it might help but I can’t see it happening any time soon.
I read recently that we humans click more on “dark” headlines than we do on cheerful news. As a result, the mainstream press seem to be going the way of social media by emphasising the gloom. We read it, digest it, and our spirits lower. And so it goes on.
The irony is that, despite all this alleged misery, life has improved hugely for most of us over the past 50 years. The material lives of most people are far better than even our grandparents’ time and the quality of our living remains much better than it was. So our reality is not in any way the same as our fantasy. But that is not what we pick up from the news, with its daily dose of misery through which we must all scrawl.
So what to do? Cold turkey is hard. Smart phones and social media is intended to become addictive and the programmers are good. We can’t help going back, and back, and back – even if it’s just to check the headlines or if someone’s responded to our tweet or thrilling post elsewhere.
We do need to break off our addiction if we’re to start feeling better. Perhaps start with a phased and thoughtful withdrawal. Perhaps allow yourself a a morning and evening perusal, rather than a constant glance and update. It’s doing us no good.
Drama on a continuous basis is exhausting. It wears us out and it keeps our minds in their original reptilian state when logic and reasoning were not important and all that mattered was being on constant alert for what danger might be about to befall us. It means our mental anxieties play out in our bodies making it impossible to relax and process what’s actually going on. To work well – and to keep well – we need our minds to be in harmony with our bodies. We need to be able to sit back, relax and decide individually what matters.
To return to the sailing metaphor, put so well in the Invictus poem: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Don’t forget it. You’re in charge. And, in the present chaos in which we seem to live, it’s good to appreciate that boredom can sometimes be good for you.