Isn’t it easy to describe our life as a soap opera, full of melodrama! I have been strongly reminded of this recently, as I described the process of getting my book ready for publication to someone. When I had finished my tale of woe and tribulation, I just had to laugh at myself. On reflection, it was simply a bit tedious and required more iterations than I would have liked, but it wasn’t the major drama I had turned it into, and it was worth the effort. What’s more, I realised that I could have made it easier for myself by dealing with it differently.
We all have these areas of resistance, where we fight aspects of our lives instead of accepting them, and thereby cause ourselves even more stress. So I thought it was apposite to look at how we can make a different choice. My beloved teacher Ram Dass suggested years ago that the melodrama of life could become a mellow drama instead, and that has to be preferable. I can feel my mind and body relax at the very thought of it!
First, let’s look at how we create that melodrama. We begin with beliefs we have, that this will be difficult, that we’re not good at this sort of thing, that this not something we wanted in our lives. We are not really aware of these as beliefs, because we tend to state them as facts, and they influence strongly how we react. We then employ all the ‘language devils’ to describe the experience: “ I shouldn’t have to ..’, ‘I had to..’, They made me..’, This sort of things always happens to me’. And we use strong negative language; words like difficult, stressful, upsetting, disturbing, disastrous. Finally, we tell our story to others, to confirm the version we have created, and to get their sympathy. By the time we’ve finished with it, the experience has become the awful story we chose, and we live it that way. After all, we have used a lot of energy to shore up our own resistance, so we’re bound to be reluctant to tackle it in a positive way!
So let’s create a mellow drama
We use the same process to create a mellow drama, just with a different tone to it. We’ve all done this, both with those things we handle easily in our lives and with other people’s melodramas, where we say to ourselves, or them: ‘What’s the big fuss about? Just get over yourself you silly sausage!’
- What useful beliefs do you have in this situation? Look consciously for the ones that will support you in keeping it in perspective, and dealing with it well, such as: ‘I can handle things like this – I’ve done it before,’ or ‘it is only a small part of my overall experience’.
- Describe it to yourself (and others) in useful language. Begin with: ‘This has happened/is going to happen, so how am I going to handle it?’ there’s no point in resisting it happening, it’s already there, so accept it as a fact and choose how you react. This question creates a pause, so you can make that choice.
- Reduce the impact of your language. In your description of the experience, use words like ‘a bit’ or ‘slightly’ annoying, tedious etc. It reduces their power to colour the whole thing. Then add in an ‘and’ sentence, which acknowledges the positives in the experience. ‘It was a bit tedious and it was worth doing for the result’, or ‘It was slightly upsetting and it made me realise that I am lucky not to have things like that in my life all the time’.
- Keep it in perspective. As well as being more aware of how you are describing it, remind yourself to keep perspective. After all, it is only a small portion of your life. Think about the other things that do work well in your life. Remind yourself of how you handle most experiences well, even so-called difficult ones. Remember that a year from now you probably won’t even remember that it happened.
- Take a step away from it. Imagine yourself viewing it from the point of view of someone who isn’t disturbed by such things. Or just laugh at yourself, like I did, eventually! Laughter always gives us a slight detachment from being caught up, and releases the tension we’ve built up.
Life is always going to present us with hundreds of opportunities for melodrama, from the trivial – someone cutting in front of you in traffic – to the major – splitting up with your partner. But it’s up to us how we interpret that experience. Sometimes, of course, we feel justified in having it as a melodrama, but often we could save our energy for just dealing with it, by viewing it as a mellow drama, just another part of life’s rich tapestry, and use that energy for more useful things, rather than resisting it and causing ourselves all that stress.
(By the way, the book that prompted this is called ‘It’s not Rocket Science – a blueprint for a sustainably successful organisation.’ It is now published, both as a paperback, available through our website www.meta-org.com and as an e-book on amazon. And I am delighted with the result!!)