Episode 104: Drama

The Less Stressed Lawyer with Olivia Vizachero |  Drama

Where are you experiencing unnecessary drama in your life? Do you know how you might be creating an emotional rollercoaster for yourself through your behaviors? How is drama addiction showing up in your storytelling? And why is this a problem?

One of the biggest benefits people experience from coaching is learning that the dramatic stories they tell themselves aren’t true, and that they have the power to change it. If you often find yourself navigating emotional highs and lows when what you really want is a calm, grounded experience, there might be some drama addiction going on, and it’s time to learn how to tell more empowering stories instead.

Join me on this episode to hear how drama addiction manifests and examples of how you might be unwittingly engaging in it. I’m showing you why telling unnecessarily dramatic stories is a problem, how to identify if you’re stuck in a dramatic narrative that isn’t serving you, and how to begin telling less dramatic versions of your experience. 

If you want to start helping yourself first, it’s time to join Lawyers Only. This is my signature coaching program only for lawyers, and you can click here for all the details!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How drama addiction manifests.
  • Why we tell dramatic stories, and why it’s a problem.
  • The importance of checking in to see how you feel when you tell dramatic stories.
  • How to identify if you’re stuck in a dramatic narrative.
  • Examples of what unnecessarily dramatic storytelling sounds like.
  • Why cultivating a sense of calm can be luxurious.
  • How to tell less dramatic stories.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast episode 104. Today we’re talking about drama. You ready? Let’s go. 

Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach, Olivia Vizachero.

Well hello there. How are you? I hope you’re doing well. I am fabulous and I am even more excited to dive into today’s topic. This is an issue that I see people struggle with all the time. So today we’re talking about drama, and if I’m being frank, I watch people really become addicted to the drama in their day-to-day lives. 

Now, what do I mean by this? Well there’s a couple different ways drama addiction manifests itself. The main way that I see people struggle with drama addiction is that they tell themselves the most dramatic version of a story. So what I mean by that is that their thoughts are really dramatic. They encounter circumstances, and remember circumstances are neutral but it’s our thoughts that aren’t neutral. They’re either positive or negative. 

And I’ll watch people choose very negative thoughts and very dramatic thoughts on top of that. So the more negative your thought is, the chances are the more dramatic that thought it. Now, why do we do this and why is it a problem? Well first and foremost, people think their thoughts are true. 

If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’ve heard me talk about this, that our thoughts aren’t actually true. Our thoughts are subjective opinion statements and we have the ability and control to change them. Its circumstances are true and circumstances are facts that everyone would agree upon. 

But people believe that their thoughts are facts. So the way that you can distinguish between a thought or a fact is to ask yourself, would every single person in the world agree with this? Are there subjective statements in it? Are there adjectives? If there are, it’s likely a thought, not a fact. 

But people mistakenly believe that their thoughts are true. So they’ll tell a dramatic version of a story of a situation that they encounter because they think it’s the only way to look at it. And one of the massive benefits that people get from coaching is learning that these dramatic stories that they’re telling themselves aren’t true and that they have the power to change it, to tell a less dramatic version of the story, which is what I’m going to teach you how to do in today’s episode. 

So one reason that we tell ourselves dramatic stories is because we think they’re true, even though they’re not. The other reason that we do this is because dramatic stories make us feel significant. When we’re telling a dramatic story, we end up making ourselves the victim in that story. Sometimes we’ll also make ourselves the hero, but it’s much more likely that you’re the victim in that narrative that you’re telling yourself. 

Now, it feels good to feel significant. If you listen to Tony Robbins, he has a TED Talk on the six basic human needs, and the need to be needed or the need to feel significant is one of those six basic human needs. It’s an excellent TED Talk that he did. You can find it on YouTube. I’ll have it linked here in the show notes. It is definitely worth a listen. It was so eye-opening to me the first time that I listened to it, and I’ve listened to it multiple times over and over again, and I recommend it to my clients to listen to very frequently. 

So he talks about how we have this innate human need to feel needed or to feel significant. Now, for a lot of people that I work with, this is one of their main needs. We all have all six needs that he talks about, but we all have a preference, we prefer two out of the six. And for a lot of the people that I work with, their need to feel needed or their need to feel significant ranks high among their needs. 

So if you find yourself telling very dramatic versions of stories, it’s probably serving that need to feel significant. So when you’re telling yourself a very dramatic story, you end up feeling significant in that story. Things are happening to you, bad things based on the negative story that you’re likely telling yourself, and you’ll be the one who’s center at that story. So you’ll end up feeling very, very significant. 

So it feeds that need, even though it doesn’t ultimately serve you. It feels good in the moment because you get to feel important in that narrative. Now, why is this a problem though? All right, maybe drama kind of sounds exciting. And if that’s where your brain goes first when you hear me talking about drama and kind of working my best to talk you out of telling dramatic stories, what I want you to do is check in with yourself and see how you feel when you tell a dramatic story. 

If you’re telling a negative dramatic story, you’re probably not going to be feeling very good. It’s going to create a lot of unnecessary negative emotion. And I’m going to give you some examples of dramatic stories in just a minute so you can see this for yourself. But when you’re in a dramatic story, your emotions are going to be heightened and not in a great way. 

Most of the dramatic storytelling that I see my clients engage in is negative dramatic storytelling. They’re telling a pretty negative, a pretty unhelpful version of what they’re experiencing. And as a result, they end up feeling a lot of negative emotion. And remember, when you’re feeling negative emotion, you’re going to take negative action or no action, and it’s going to produce negative results. 

So I want to give you some examples of what I mean by dramatic storytelling so you can see for yourself what it looks like. And then you can do an audit and take inventory in your own life. Where are you telling dramatic stories? And are your dramatic stories serving you? 

So the first example might sound something like this. I’ve had clients say this version of a dramatic story to me over and over and over again. They’ll tell me, Olivia, I’m working on a massive project. This matter, it’s the biggest project I’ve ever handled and it’s just the worst. The opposing side is completely unreasonable. 

I absolutely hate working with them. They’re terrible. They have no idea what they’re doing. Honestly, they’re committing malpractice. They shouldn’t even be able to practice law. It’s just horrible. I cannot wait for this matter to be over, but honestly, it’s just never going to end. I’m going to have to suffer my way through it, but I have no idea how I’m going to survive it. 

All right, does that sound at all familiar? If it is, you’re stuck inside a dramatic narrative. So if you’re telling yourself a story like this about a matter or a case that you’re working on, here’s what I want you to do instead. I want you to ask yourself this question. What’s the less dramatic version of the story? And see what you can tell yourself. 

I actually like to write the dramatic stories out because you can just take a pen to what you’ve written and cross out the drama and tell a much less dramatic version of the story instead. So you could take the story that I just offered you and change it to this. Rather than, I’m working on a massive project, I’m working on a project and it’s not my favorite matter that I’ve ever worked on. 

And I don’t love working with opposing counsel, we have different ways of going about the case. I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions they’re making, but we are making progress. And you know, if I’m being honest, before I know it the matter will be over and it’ll be behind me. 

That is such a different version of the same facts, right? You’re still working on the case or the matter. You’re still dealing with opposing counsel, but it’s way different. It’s way more positive. It’s way more grounded, way more neutral than the original story. We’ve taken out the drama. 

And how you feel when you tell yourself the first story is going to be pretty awful. You’re going to feel overwhelmed and pressured and maybe inadequate or incapable because you’re telling yourself it’s the biggest thing that you’ve worked on and it’s so massive. You’re going to feel really stressed when you’re stuck in that story. 

You’re also going to feel resentful and frustrated with the other side. And you’ll create a lot of dread for yourself in working on that case. Now, if you think about it, when you feel those negative emotions, how do you show up? What type of action do you take? Either you’ll react and you’ll complain and you’ll be harder to get along with when you’re dealing with the other side. Maybe you complain to your colleagues or friends and family members. 

Or you’ll shut down from all that pressure and overwhelm and you’ll procrastinate. You’ll avoid working on it. You’ll do other stuff instead. And then it’ll just be hanging there like a weight over you, which is going to feel terrible. 

So the feelings that you feel that you create for yourself by the story that you’re telling impact the action that you take. And if you don’t like the action that you’re taking, you’re going to have to change the story in order to feel differently and then show up differently. 

Now, in the latter story, the less dramatic version that I offered you, you’re going to feel so much more capable, so much more in control, so much more grounded, so much more calm. And that’s going to enable you to show up in such a better way. 

So let’s walk through another example. Let’s say you have some work to do. If you’re telling yourself the most dramatic story of the work that you have on your plate, it might sound something like this. I have so much work to do. I mean, it’s just an insane amount of stuff to get done and I have absolutely no time to do it. I’m never going to get everything done. 

There’s just no way around it. I’m going to disappoint my clients and it’s because they have the most unrealistic expectations. And it just seems like no matter what I do, nothing is ever good enough. All right, that’s one version of the story that you can tell yourself. 

Or you could ask yourself the question, what’s a less dramatic version of this story? Or what’s the least dramatic version of this story? And you could tell yourself something like this instead. I have some work to do. I’m going to have to be diligent and deliberate with my time, but I will get it done. Even if it’s not as fast as I’d like it to be, I’ll get it finished and that’s okay. 

And my clients will be okay. I’ll communicate realistic expectations. And I’m going to do my best, which is all I can do. And I’m going to trust that that’s going to be good enough. 

If you tell yourself that version of the story, it’s going to feel so much differently than the original dramatic version. Way less stress, way less overwhelm, way less pressure, okay? You’re going to feel capable and more confident and more calm, which is my goal for you. 

Now, another example, I often tell my clients not to answer unscheduled phone calls or to respond to emails as soon as they come in, because you end up interrupting yourself while you’re in the middle of doing something else and it really slows you down. If you look up the statistics on multitasking, you will see studies back this up. Multitasking is really inefficient. 

But when I offer them this suggestion to not respond to everything immediately, or to not answer an unscheduled phone call and interrupt themselves, they give me a very dramatic version of what will happen if they do that. And maybe it’s someone, maybe it’s not even with a current client, but it’s with new clients coming in. A lot of people I work with believe that if they don’t answer, then the client will go elsewhere and their business will suffer. 

So the story that they tell themselves looks something like this. I can’t not answer. If I don’t answer the phone when it rings, people will go elsewhere and I’ll stop getting clients and then I will go out of business. The only way that I can be successful is if I’m always on and always available because that’s what people expect. Okay, that’s a dramatic version of this story. 

If you ask yourself, what’s a less dramatic version of the story? You could tell yourself this instead. You know, there’s plenty of work to go around. I have plenty of work right now. I don’t have to be tethered to my phone. If I miss one client opportunity, more will come my way, that always seems to be the case. And people don’t expect me to be available every single minute of the day. 

All right, that is a much more empowered and empowering story. So check in with yourself here. Those are a couple examples of what dramatic storytelling looks like. If you are experiencing a lot of negative emotion about a particular situation in your life, I really want to encourage you to write out the story you’re telling yourself about it. I actually like to go through and highlight the actual facts. 

They will be hard to find. Most of the things that you’re telling yourself are thoughts, not facts. So you can go through and highlight the facts and then see what else could you tell yourself about those facts, okay? And then go through and take a pen and cross out. Where’s the drama? Go through and just strike it out, okay? 

And then you’ll come up with a much different version of the story. You could go line by line and ask yourself, what’s a less dramatic version of this sentence? And you’ll string together a bunch of less dramatic sentences and you’ll come up with a narrative that really serves you. It makes you feel so much less negative than you’re probably used to feeling because of the dramatic stories that you’re telling. 

Now, if you have a habit of telling dramatic stories, you’ve got to look inward and check in with yourself. Identify how telling those dramatic stories makes you feel significant. How do you get to feel? Do you get to be the hero or do you get to be the victim? Which is, like I said earlier, I find that to be way more likely. People end up being the victim in their story, but they get to feel very important or significant as a result of telling that dramatic version to themselves. 

You also might tell dramatic versions of the story to other people. It might get you sympathy from them. They might empathize with you. If that’s the case, ask yourself, is this really serving me? Because you end up believing your stories. It’s the reality that you create for yourself. So even if it makes you feel significant or important, or you get that sympathy from other people, you end up feeling the negative emotions that correspond with that negative storyline. 

So if you don’t want to feel negatively and you don’t want to take negative action from those negative feelings, you’ve got to change the narrative that you’re telling yourself and you have to be willing to give up that sense of significance or that sense of importance in order to move into being able to tell a less dramatic version of the story to yourself and to other people. You’ve got to be willing to feel deprived of that significance, of that sympathy, of whatever feel-good emotion you get from that dramatic storytelling. 

So the simple solution here is once you’ve identified the dramatic version you’re telling yourself, which you will be able to identify because of the dramatic feelings that you experience, you’re simply going to ask yourself this question, what’s the less dramatic version of the story? And come up with that. 

And then check in with yourself. When you live in that story, how do you get to feel? What negative emotions are dialed down? And how significantly are they dialed down? The less dramatic the story, the more your negative emotions are going to be dialed down. And then what positive emotions do you start to get access to because you’ve changed the narrative that you’re telling yourself? You’ll be really surprised with how effective this is. And it’s just that simple question. What’s the less dramatic version of the story? 

Now, there’s one other way that people engage in drama addiction, okay? And they wait until the last minute to do things. And this will typically look like the way that you procrastinate, right? And I see this both with projects or another famous way that people do this, it could be with making plans. I also see it with paying bills. And that’s when I first learned that this was a way that we create unnecessary drama for ourselves. 

I was listening to a podcast episode years ago. I don’t remember which one it was, but it might have been on the Life Coach School podcast with my coach, Brooke Castillo. And I learned the concept that we postpone things because it creates drama for ourselves. And people typically do this while paying bills. Instead of paying it as soon as it comes in, you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get to it later and then you forget about it and it goes by. 

And then you create this dramatic moment where you remember and then your pulse starts to race and you start to freak out. Oh my goodness, did I miss the deadline? Is it late? And then you go check and then you have that relief of, oh my goodness, I didn’t miss it. I still have time to take care of it. 

Or we’ll do that with projects. Rather than doing it when you could do it earlier than the deadline, you’ll wait until the very last minute because it creates a lot of drama right around the deadline. I used to do this with filing all the time. I’d wait until the very last minute and it would create a very emotionally heightened experience for me. Now, that was my drama addiction. I liked how it felt to be the hero in that story, right? 

Sometimes you don’t get to be the hero because you miss whatever the deadline is and then you have to deal with the embarrassment or the shame or the guilt. But if you do manage to pull it off, you create this worry and then the relief that comes when you handle whatever you need to handle within the time allotted. But it’s right up against the wire, so it’s a very dramatic emotional experience when you handle things this way. 

Or maybe you don’t make plans in advance and you have to scramble at the last minute. I’ve definitely overpaid for things, hotels, flights, things like that, waiting until the last minute. So now I do my best to make plans more in advance and I allow myself to feel bored by my planning or by handling a project ahead of time or by paying a bill as soon as it comes in. 

I’ve recognized that I used to do these things, waiting till the last minute in order to create this drama unnecessarily. And I love that significant, heroic feeling that I’d get to experience when I would figure everything out up against the wire. But sometimes things didn’t go best case scenario and then I’d have to deal with the negative emotion that would come from things going sort of worst case scenario. 

And I recognize I didn’t want to create that stress for myself anymore. I also used to leave at the last minute for things and then I’d be in a rush. And I’ve really worked on eliminating rushing from my life. I see it as luxurious to be on time for things or to give myself enough time to get somewhere if I have dinner plans or I’m going to a show. I don’t need to be incredibly early, I just need to be on time versus giving myself enough time and then creating a dramatic rushed experience getting myself there. I hate how that feels now. 

And I really do think it is a small luxury to have enough space to be able to get to something without the pressure or to be able to plan something without the pressure and the stress, to be able to pay for something without the stress, to be able to complete a project without the unnecessary stress. 

So check in with yourself. Are you creating emotional roller coasters because you like the feeling, the sense of that risk and then the reward? The risk and then the relief. If that’s you, there’s some drama addiction going on here and you want to be cognizant because again, you create a lot of unnecessary highs and lows for yourself when you could just have a really calm, grounded experience. 

And I want to challenge you to start thinking calmly, not as boring, but as something that is quite luxurious. Something that is a way that you practice self-care for yourself. Something that is a positive indulgence. Something that you get to create for yourself that’s really kind of delicious and exquisite. 

If you crave the drama, if you like to indulge in the drama, chances are you don’t love feeling bored and you’re creating instances in your life to escape boredom, whether it’s in waiting until the last minute to do something or just amping yourself up because work would otherwise be boring if you weren’t telling dramatic stories about what your day-to-day experience is like. 

I really want to encourage you to embrace boredom and stop making it your enemy. I’ve had to coach myself a ton on embracing boredom and when I finally stopped going to war and waging a battle against it and I started to embrace boredom in my life, I once heard that embracing boredom is really the key to success. 

When I started to embrace it in my own life, that’s when I started to dial down the drama and my life started to get a lot less emotional. I got off that emotional rollercoaster and it started to be calm and I started to get more done because I wasn’t having to exert all of this emotional energy on the highs and then the lows, and the lows were low, all right? 

So take an audit, take an inventory. Where are you experiencing or creating for yourself unnecessary amounts of drama in your life by the behavior that you’re exhibiting, waiting to the last minute, poor planning, coming up against deadlines? Where are you doing it there and then where are you doing it in your storytelling? Audit your stories. Are they dramatic? If so, dial down the drama. What’s the less dramatic version of the story you can tell yourself? It will change your life, okay? 

Save the drama for your mama, like they say, but don’t save it for her either because she doesn’t want to listen to it, I’m sure, okay? Just cut out the drama and you’ll cut out a lot of unnecessary negative emotion and you will free yourself up to feel better and do better in the process. 

All right, my friends, that’s what I’ve got for you this week. I hope you have a beautiful week and I’ll talk to you in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.

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