This post looks at one particular trait of mine – creating dramas – to highlight how patterns originate, are perpetuated, and eventually become automatic. A pattern begins life as a strategy. The strategy starts with a desire. We want something, we find a way to get it, and we repeat it until it becomes second nature. The strategy itself may arise intentionally or by accident, but if it works, there is no real point in changing it. There are many more ways for a strategy not to work, than there are for it to work, so it doesn’t make sense to risk changing anything which already leads to our needs being met.
Over time, patterns establishes themselves as a part of our personality, creating the impression that we have always been like that, when the truth is more likely that we have adopted and reinforced particular ways of behaving over the course of our lifetime. Fortunately, this means that, with awareness, it is possible to employ better strategies.
33 years ago, I came home from my first day at senior school with my maths books in my bag. I love numbers, but I hadn’t listened properly when the teacher gave us our homework for the evening. The actual assignment, I found out the following day, was a simple one. The one I had brought home, however, was unfeasibly difficult and I did what I always used to do when everything got too much: I panicked, declaring that I was going to be in trouble if I can’t do it and demanding to know why we had been set such a difficult task?
I created a drama and everyone around me fell into the familiar roles they had played numerous times before. They dashed around me in a maelstrom of concern, whipped up by my emotional frenzy. A maths professor from the neighbourhood was drafted in. It was he who pointed out that the homework was an impossible task for a 12-year-old. In that instant, calm should have descended or at least have been induced. Ideally, someone with more life experience should have taken me to one side and brought peace and reason to the situation. As a good friend said to me only this morning: we have a choice whether or not to let the drama in.
So how did my penchant for dramas arise, because I’m sure I wasn’t born with it? Well, there were undoubtedly people in my close family from whom I could learn the basics, but there was also one incident, early in my life, which can be seen as the birth of my drama strategy. I was one year old when I was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and had an emergency operation which saved my life. For months (if not years) afterwards I was spoilt by those close to me. Every time I coughed or my breathing slowed, there would be anxious looks on red-alert faces.
With such overwhelming evidence, it doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that I get attention when I’m in trouble and am unable cope. Here was a strategy for life. It’s far from the best one, but it’s highly effective because it means the focus of everyone’s attention is on me, I get people running around for me, doing whatever they can to help me, because I am so helpless and clearly suffering.
There are countless examples of me creating a drama; a fine one is the recent journal entry entitled, ‘How I Manipulated Everyone’. And the friends who witnessed my double drama at a party in Frankfurt in 1997 will be smiling to themselves right now. The pattern remained unchecked for years, until I met Karaj, who showed me what what I was doing. He instructed me that dramas, whilst they may be effective, are far from the best strategy for getting one’s needs met and remaining fit, healthy and independent.
Karaj helped me enormously, but I still have to be aware because I remain capable of creating a drama out of nothing. A few days ago I received an email from a close friend saying he’d lost my number and needed to speak to me. I sent it to him and then my mind began to inflate the situation. I could feel a familiar pull: ‘What has happened? I need to find out. What if it’s an emergency?‘ I resisted and awaited his call. When it came it was nothing to get excited about. No drama. No escalation. He just wanted to chat about the work I do.
From a very early age we begin to develop and test strategies, which are likely to become patterns before we are fully conscious of them. Indeed, many people remain forever unaware of their patterns, which just goes to show how powerful they are. They shape our script, because they are choices we have made – conscious or otherwise – about how we are going to live our lives. Look at the ways you get what you want. Do you charm people, manipulate them, are you straight with them, persuasive, moody, emotional, apologetic, charismatic, quiet, inclusive, argumentative, conciliatory? What are your strategies? What are your patterns?