Remember my blogpost from a few weeks ago, on contentment? I had found myself in this place in my life, where I felt truly at peace with it, probably for the first time ever. I was feeling calm and grounded, and ready for whatever challenges might arise. Well, let’s just say that I fell off my board whilst riding that wave. There are many reasons for this, but I would like to mention that a week or so after I published that post, I had a few people ask me: “So, still content about your life?” I didn’t make much of it at the time, even though I felt and sensed the underlying tone and message of such a question. Sometimes, things like these come from within our own circles. Not necessarily with conscious intention, but if something isn’t going right for us, and it’s going right for someone else, there can be a very human response of dismissing and attacking that, both subtly and explicitly.
Indeed, I haven’t felt much contentment recently. A close of friend of mine saw me a couple of weeks ago and asked me straight away: “Where did it go?” I didn’t need to say or do anything, she could just see that the contentment had left the building. That’s the other thing about close circles: sometimes, you don’t even need to speak or talk about something – your people just know. And I very much appreciate this!
But it wasn’t until this week, that I realised why it had left the building. As it often happens, this insight came to me as I helped someone else in my work as a Dramatherapist. One of my clients was telling me how much their life has changed in these past months we’ve been working together, and how in many ways it felt a bit boring. They had made several healthy and proactive changes, had improved relationships, had taken up physical exercise, and felt more and more at peace with themselves. As they listed all these things, I realised straight away what was missing. Can you guess?
Drama. That’s what is missing from their life at the moment. There’s no drama, no chaos. Problems and conflicts that arise are solved swiftly and with purpose. Immediately, I was taken back to my work in drug and alcohol abstinence, where one of the most common struggles was to figure out the meaning of fun in a life without substances, as well as the becoming accustomed to a life where there are no big highs, and no big lows, and instead, there’s a steady stream of something. This something is hard to explain, for most of us are really not used to it. I’m certainly not. I’ve grown familiar to it over the past 8 years in particular, but it’s still something that I find hard to accept.
Many things contribute to this. As I remembered my previous work in addiction services, and spoke to my client, I also deeply resonated with my personal experiences of struggling with this. For many years, I internalised the drama of my environments, then I externalised all of these dramas I had internalised, and made my life chaotic both internally and externally. Either way, I know drama. I know chaos. I know pain. And sometimes, we all fall in the trap of the whole “better the devil you know” thing, and return to deeply painful, but familiar, places. By the way, I call bullshit on that! Fuck the devil we know! I started actively working on stabilising my life 8 years ago, when I moved to London. I took up active spirituality, I did a masters in Dramatherapy, I spent two years without drinking so that I could figure out what I was trying to avoid with so much alcohol, I spent three years without sex for the same reason, and have been in therapy for more than 3 years. Honey, they don’t call it “personal/spiritual work” for nothing!
Through all of that, however, I must admit that I also went too far on that spectrum of self-reflection, analysis, and transformation, and lost touch with reality a little bit. By reality, I mean the day to day. The regular interaction with people, places, and things. I tried to “connect” so much, that I ended up disconnecting. And that’s when the little devils came back and reclaimed their spotlight in the drama of my life. I had lived my life without major or minor dramas for many years – at least in the sense of great disruption to my personal balance and inner focus. But something was missing, and I had never addressed the idea of what fun meant post-insightful living, and slowly, steadily, and subtly, old parts of me began to return and eventually took over again. That was two years ago, and I’ve been making peace from those broken pieces (thanks Iyanla Vanzant, for this wonderful saying and play with words!).
Why does that happen? Why and how do old parts of us return and seemingly destroy all the good work we’ve been doing? Firstly, they’re older, which by default means that they may hold great power over us. Also, because of that longevity, they’re familiar, they’re comfortable, in many ways. I mean, my depressive states, whilst depressing, can still be more comfortable, than a completely new situation. I’ve had those states since my teens – a new situation is, well, new. The development of new patterns is the same thing. Going back to my client, they’ve been living this new life for the better part of a year, but in contrast, their self-destructive, victim mode, was in operation for decades.
I suggested that being mindful of this will be very helpful. To understand that the new pattern, the new life story and narrative is incredibly powerful and full of potential, but at the same time, is still new. It’s still in its infancy. It needs to grow, to learn, to become stronger. This requires time, patience, and consistent effort and commitment. Eventually, this will become the default pattern, just like the old pattern was once new and then it became the default one. And at some point in the future, there will be a new shift in personal paradigms and a new pattern will emerge. When patterns and life narratives begin to shift in our lives, it is important to find new ways of describing it, with new vocabulary. For instance, the whole reason my client and I explored this in the session, is because they called their life “a bit boring” at times. That’s literally like sending an invitation to our personal devils saying: “I’m available again. I miss you in my life.” They’re more than willing to return and cause havoc.
I encouraged my client to find a new way of describing their current life, without the word boring. They came up with calm and intentional. Their lives are “calm and intentional”. The work then becomes about reaffirming this statement every single time the thought of “boring life” comes up. Then, it’s important to work on finding new ways to have fun, and rediscover what fun is, what it means. I struggle with this one a lot. For so many years, fun was inextricably connected with abusing alcohol, and casual sex. For my client, it was something else. The abuse of substances, the dysfunction in relationships, and many other forms of self-destruction, create and spread drama in our lives. Drama gives us highs and lows, and the reason why we struggle when we don’t have it, is because we struggle with just being. We struggle with balance, calmness, contentment, peace. It’s like we don’t think we deserve these things. It’s like we all believe we always have to be in some kind of struggle, fight, or whatever.
Drama is overrated. Contentment is underrated. I’m currently somewhere in the middle.