September 11, 2005
“Many people live in a state of eternal drama and chaos, but think they can get away with it by mislabeling it as passion.”
That quote doesn’t come from anybody famous– rather, it comes from a friend who has been an individual and couples’ therapist for a quarter century. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a rather “flip” comment, but I have since come to appreciate the basic truth it contains.
I suppose I have the perspective of having spent a fair chunk of my life surrounded by other people’s chaos. Many of these otherwise good folks seem almost unable to function, unless there’s some kind of “crisis.” And if there sin’t an obvious crisis, in that moment, it almost feels like their subconscious goes to work on creating a situation that will create a new level of drama.
I am not entirely sure where to look for the roots of “drama,” “chaos,” and “crisis.” Whenever I have been in the company of chronically chaotic people, it has always felt like their habits were somewhat narcissistic– the “purpose” being to create situations that “require” a bunch of people to “come to the rescue” because that person’s life has gotten out of control.
One person I used to work with would start projects she often really couldn’t handle, often volunteering in what seemed to be the spirit of a good worker. But she would get 10% into the project, discover there were difficulties, and would then start to moan and groan and solicit help until everyone within a four-county area had been alerted, had had to drop whatever they were working on, so now (effectively) the entire staff was working on this woman’s project with her. From my personal perspective, the fact that she would mess up bothered me less than the fact that she always seemed to feel “entitled” to have everyone else abandon what they were doing, to help her. What was also annoying was that she always presented herself as highly “capable” and never would say “I might need help with this,” up front– but at the end would insist on full credit for having done “her” project.
I realized that my friend the therapist was right when I overheard someone else with a “dramatic” life complain to a friend “I forget things because I get too involved. You just don’t understand what it’s like to be passionate about life!”
My ex used to “manufacture” chaos out of thin air, as an “avoidance maneuver.” By making sure certain aspects of our lives were always in a state of chaos and disarray, she made sure that certain things would never come to pass, because it would simply be too much hassle to deal with them. She “missed” many appointments because she “couldn’t find the right shoes,” then “couldn’t find her keys,” then “couldn’t find her glasses.” When there were events that included me, I always felt thoroughly manipulated.
Yet others appear to use drama and chaos as ways to make themselves come across as “special” and “different.” It has usually rung rather false with me, perhaps because it seems so transparent– showing a fear that the person would somehow be less lovable, absent the constant crises. The irony, of course, is that it is this very thing that caused the person to be less lovable.
I suppose I’d understand the whole “chaos and drama” thing if I could see that it clearly led to the person in question having precisely the life they wanted. But it seams that’s a rarity– in fact, I hear far more “woe is me” and moaning and groaning from chaotic people. As a group, they seem thoroughtly UNhappy with their lives– yet often thoroughly UNwilling to make any kinds of changes, in spite of the fact that they tend to put great strains on relationships and friendships– and end up lamenting the fact their friends “don’t return phone calls.”
Is it insecurity that drives chaos and drama? Is it fear of rejection? Is it narcissism? Or is it simply a chaotic mind? And– as one of the least chaotic people on the planet– why do I often feel like I am a “magnet” for other people’s chaos?