If you had the choice between joy and drama in your life, which would you choose? You would probably say joy. But think about it. Would you really be willing to give up your drama for the sake of joy? Or do you think that joy and drama can exist side by side?
They cannot. Drama and joy exclude each other. Drama is fed by feelings of self-devaluation, suffering and failure. It confirms one’s notion of worthlessness and legitimates one’s suffering. Drama is like a downward spiral, which takes us ever further into the swamp. The further and deeper it grinds down, the more it has the character of a self-destructive addiction.
For many people their life drama is the basis of their identity. Their aim in life is to gain recognition for the suffering that they have endured. This is a very human and legitimate need. The problem with drama is that recognizing the suffering does not cure it. On the contrary. The knowledge that it gets you attention and compassion from others gives the drama additional value. It becomes a tool for gaining affection. The drama is thereby strengthened, and it becomes even more difficult to free yourself from its grip.
For many people, their daily small catastrophes are also a way to feel alive. Sometimes it is the only way they know how to feel alive. Drama is fed by the intensity and high voltage of one’s feelings.
The real changes mostly come in small and inconspicuous steps, and often you only notice them when you look back and realize that a familiar reaction no longer affects you. Instead of jumping up when your colleague makes a pointed remark, you suddenly notice that she is not well and that her comment has nothing to do with you. Instead of sinking into self-doubt and shame when somebody criticizes a particular behavior, you suddenly feel at ease. You may even feel grateful that somebody has pointed out your lack of awareness.
I often see people in my practice that cannot even imagine how it feels to be alive without running on high voltage. The joy that emerges from the stillness and fills the inner being appears boring in comparison, especially if the experience is not at first accessible and must be developed through daily practice. One must have faith that this daily practice will guide one out of the swampland, especially when success is not immediately noticeable.
Your best chance of success comes when you arrive at that point in life when you are tired of the drama, and the drawbacks of suffering have become stronger than the goodies you get from it. I call this the choice point. The pull of the drama and your self-destructive part is balanced by your desire to live a fulfilling and rewarding life. If you can say one hundred percent yes to life, the scales will come down in your favor. Then you switch from a downward to an upward spiral. Your work is not yet finished, but it becomes a lot easier because satisfactory experiences now accelerate the upward movement.
At this point, we not only look at how to overcome suffering but also how to expand joy.
Joy is the quality of the heart which we build as we grow in our capacity to take responsibility for life; to be grateful for what is given and to let go of what is no longer needed; and to expand our capacity to love and serve ourselves and others.