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Silence the Drama Queen to Improve your Karma

Silence the Drama Queen to Improve your Karma

The problem with our generation is that we all just want to be onions, nobody wants to be a potato. No, I have not lost my mind (any more than the usual that is), let me explain.

We all just want to be full of complicated layers that take great effort to unpeel and make others overwhelmed and teary eyed as each layer unfolds. There is no charm left in the childlike simplicity of a potato that just innocently sits there with a look that says ‘I’m the most predictable, harmless thing in the world, I have nothing up my sleeve, you can just eat me’. That’s it, no drama, no complications.

Our older generations had quite a few proud potatoes. Life went on at its regular pace without any dramatic twists and turns. Not so much anymore, we new age onions thrive on drama.

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We are not content with being single or committed, we want to be ‘Its complicated’. We may live comfortable cheery lives but we want to say ‘my life is messed up’. The only thought in our heads may be the toppings we want on our pizza tonight, but we want people to believe that we are soulful brooding creatures, who silently battle a hundred storms a day.

We say we don’t, but secretly, we love Drama

Don’t lie, my friend, you know we do! We like to create our own tragedy, drown in self-pity over that tragedy, be the hero who ‘survives’ the tragedy and finally get a standing ovation from the audience for our great achievement (in most cases it’s just a sitting sigh from our friends who know us too well).

A boss’s reprimand for not meeting a deadline turns us into a Facebook life coach with a post that reads “I have already been through hell, so give it your best shot, I will still win, I will survive”. One could have won already had one finished that report. One could get a hundred likes for this post, but one still has to finish that report.

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Break ups transform us into the great Antony mourning his eternal lost love for Cleopatra. It lasted six months, you fought six hundred times. There was no war that stopped your everlasting union, it was the natural thing to happen between two ill-suited adults. No layers to unpeel, it’s a potato scenario.

I know it sounds harsh, I know sometimes our problems overwhelm us. I’m not trying to trivialize life and its issues. Of course, sometimes life does hand us battles, but, most of the time its just little hitches and hiccups. In our heads, we turn these into big wars that need to be fought, big obstacles that need to be overcome. What if, for once, we quit magnifying our problems and let the smaller issues remain small?

What if we kill the drama and just get on with ‘regular usual life’?

It’s probably a bit boring, isn’t it? If we don’t have the heart-wrenching tragedies and overwhelming grand triumphs, we just won’t get that high. Life is the one movie where we get to be the hero and the drama keeps the movie interesting. The problem is that it also kills mental peace. In our attempt to make life a blockbuster, we end up busting our own overwrought minds.

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We obsess over everything – analyze, rationalize and correlate till a theatrical production has been created. Our poor production house of a head which is already half dead from creating the ‘crisis’ then has to go into producing another grand blockbuster around ‘surviving the crisis’. By the time we are tweeting our great survival story, our poor brain is attending its own funeral.

What if for once we avoided the mental suicide? What if something went wrong but we told the drama queen inside us to just take a rest. No exaggeration on what has happened, no assumptions on the reasons why it has happened, no blanket judgment on who is responsible for it, no pleas to the Almighty on why the Universe is singling us out to inflict pain. The universe doesn’t know, the universe doesn’t care, the universe has its own problems to deal with (Unless we want to handle those planet-swallowing black holes while the universe thinks about our break up).

So if a friend has stopped talking to us completely, why don’t we just call and ask what’s wrong instead of lamenting to all the common friends and analyzing it till we reach the conclusion that this happened because we are the most misunderstood person on Earth. (Emotional tweet to follow – Never explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you. #Iwillsurvive). For all we know, the friend is probably peeved because we don’t have time to call, but have the time to post at least 10 soul searching survival quotes a day.

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Our minds would be a lot more free and peaceful if we didn’t turn everything into a melting saga. So this is my suggestion, let us fight the battles we really need to fight. At other times, let’s tell the drama queen to shut up and just enjoy being a simple, straightforward potato!

Featured photo credit: pixhome.blogspot.com via pixhome.blogspot.in

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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