I think we have a scary epidemic on our hands. It seems that youth isn’t the only thing we are culturally obsessed with. And while the youth focus has bled it’s way into the medical field (hello Botox) and the office (hire the young guy! The kids understand the new technology!), I’m pretty sure that ugly thing which has us in its grips has some serious consequences of its own. So what, prey tell, is this awful scary thing we should be aware of? Drama. And I’m not talking about the kind you’ll find at the local high school’s rendition of A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Of late, I have become emotionally intolerant of the drama that I see affecting almost every facet of our lives, from family gatherings in which we share whispered conversations about the shortcomings of those with whom we share our genes to the offices of commerce in which we feed on the personal and professional details of coworkers and clients.
It would be one thing if drama was harmless, if engaging in the hype of what’s happening in each other’s lives was even helpful…but how often have we come out of a total drama fest at home or at school or at work and found ourselves exhausted and twisted up over what would happen next? How much time do we spend analyzing and rehashing what happened, who knew what and what we should do about it all, worrying and fretting, finally wanting to avoid it for awhile from pure exhaustion? That’s not the first reaction, of course, or we would not have a scary epidemic on our hands. The first reaction is excitement, even glee. Oh goody! Something is happening! We seek out more details, the smallest of tidbits adding fuel to the fire. We work for ways to be relevant to the conversation. We become emotionally invested in the life of the drama and its participants. But later, after the high, we face the anxiety and the letdown of the loss of the excitement–and even though we hate the letdown, we loved the high–so we seek out more drama–or create it. If this high/crash/jonesing cycle sounds somewhat eerily like a description of a crack addict, it is: drama is addictive.
And because of our addiction, feeding it has become a multi billion dollar industry. From products like The Real Housewives of (fill in the blank) to every gossip rag you’ve ever read while waiting for a flight or getting a mani/pedi, we feed on the drama of strangers if we can’t get enough of it in our own lives. And we think nothing of it–after all, it isn’t like drama is killing people…right? How bad can it be?
Beyond contributing to the pharmaceutical industry with spikes in prescriptions for anxiety meds and antidepressants, or eroding strong talent cultures in companies and relationships between family’s members, drama had a more insidious effect: it slowly starves our emotional selves of real substance.
And what IS real substance? Let’s think about that for a sec. I am going to define it as productivity–physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. When we are productive, we are often creating, learning, building, problem solving, and contributing in some way…maybe to our community, our family, our friends, our coworkers or our business, or our chosen charity. We are working for the GOOD of something and/or someone, not feeding on their potential demise or failure. I believe that substance provides nourishment to our inner lives. Think of it like the difference between eating sugar, which has few positive effects on our health and leaves us hungry, and eating protein, which builds muscle and satisfies hunger. Drama is like sugar and Substance is like protein. Substance fosters fulfillment, wisdom, and problem solving because we are engaged in the acts of productivity. Substance is found in learning moments between us and our kids, in honest conversations between spouses and friends, in positive problem solving discussions between coworkers and business partners.
I’m pretty sure that future medical scientists will discover that exposure to long term drama is as dangerous to our systems as crack…but like all addictions, it’s hard to go cold turkey in a society that hands us drama for free and with both hands, daring us to walk away from it. Still, unless we want our children to be addicted to the drama and the negativity it breeds, unless we want the talent cultures in our companies to be mired in it, unless we want our relations to stink of drama, we have to find the will to choose differently, to foster something else in our lives.
The title of this post is more than a catchphrase: it is a mantra, a reminder, a touchstone to help us remember that we want MORE in our lives, our relationships than gossip and comparison, feeding on the failure of others while they wait for ours. So, if you, like me, are tired of the drama at home and work and with your friends and family, let’s adopt this phrase for our own and work at it. Let’s choose substance and with it, productivity, positivity, problem solving, nourishment, wisdom, and fulfillment. Let’s break the cycle of addiction. In moments when we want to reach for the drama, let’s choose differently. Let’s reach for an encouraging word. In the break room, or with friends over a beer or coffee, let’s choose to offer transparency and truth rather than gossipy tidbits. Let’s strive for the higher ground. At the family function, instead of sitting in the corner and complaining about our in-laws, let’s consider solutions and grace. In private moments let’s reach for what will nourish us, not addict us. We can do it. We can beat this epidemic. Let’s start now–Let’s work for Less Drama. More Substance.