The Drama Triangle: Part 3
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
This is the third in a series of four blogs about how the Drama Triangle* can be used as means of identifying the kind of thinking we are doing when things aren't working well for us. Since our thoughts drive our behaviours, awareness of the drama roles we might be playing can help us to understand why we are reacting to a situation in a particular way.
Part One covered:
the different drama roles we play;
the signs of drama;
the role of our brain's limbic system (our 'drama brain');
the reasons drama arises;
the cost of being in drama.
Drama is an inevitable part of life, but you can support yourself to manage it. Part Two introduced a 'drama meditation' that invites you to become aware of your experience when you are in drama.
This blog covers three simple steps you can take in-the-moment, once you notice you are in drama, to help yourself come to calm. They are a great way of settling yourself in moments of difficulty.
Steps to Come to Calm in the Moment
1. Press Pause
Do an internal 'press pause'.
Feel what you feel. Notice any discomfort you might be experiencing.
Know that you are likely to be 'in drama'.
Accept that this is your experience in this moment.
Reassure your 'drama brain' that:
You can see that it is upset.
It can settle down now.
You will make sure that you take time to listen to what it has to say when there is a safe space to do so.
You could describe this as caring your way out of a difficult situation. Remember, drama is an inevitable part of being human. It is a sign that we are feeling threatened in some way, that something needs our care and attention.
There are two additional soothing strategies that you might find helpful.
A deep out breath
Bring your attention to your breathing.
When you are ready, take a long, slow breath out ... deeply ... slowly ... letting the breath go ...
You may want to pause at the end of the out breath, lingering for as long as is comfortable for you.
The emphasis is on the one, slow out breath (there is no deep breath in beforehand).
Then return to your normal, resting breathing.
What did you notice as you did this?
Most people find their body relax as they breath out deeply. This is because a deep out breath activates the parasympathetic nerve fibres that are found in abundance at the base of our lungs. These nerve fibres belong to the part of our autonomic (automatic) nervous system that is involved in relaxation, recovery, and repair of the body.
A long, slow out breath is a body-soothing action that can be repeated if needed to bring a sense of calm to moments of difficulty.
And the second soothing action ...
Hand on heart
Place your had over your heart.
You can experiment with using different amounts of pressure:
Some prefer light touch - others firm
Some prefer using two hands - others just one
You can also experiment with placing your hand(s) in different positions over your chest.
In the centre
To one side
Find the position and the amount of pressure that feels just right for you.
Then hold your hand(s) there for 10-15 seconds as you breath in and out.
What did you notice as you did this?
Placing your hand over your heart can be a comforting thing to do. It triggers the release of oxytocin - a hormone that helps us regulate our emotions and reduce levels of stress and anxiety. It is also a lovely way of inviting self-compassion in a moment of difficulty.
Perhaps you have other ways to soothe yourself in the moment? Things that help to bring some calm in moments of difficulty.
3. Get curious
If you have the mental 'bandwidth' in the moment, then get curious:
... and ask yourself:
I wonder what's happening for me right now?
Don't worry if this kind of curiosity is not available to you in the moment (which it often isn't). The out breath and hand on heart will help to soothe you.
You may find it easier to bring curiosity to your experience after the event and see what you discover.
The next blog will cover a way of listening that enables you to settle your 'drama brain' after the event. This simple process can help you to become less reactive in your thinking and free you to make decisions in a more considered way.
In the meantime, I'd love to know how you get on with trying these simple, in-the-moment steps to managing your drama. Maybe there are different self-soothing strategies that you find helpful, that you would like to share with others. If so, then email me or leave a comment below.
* The Drama Triangle was created by Stephen Karpman.
(illustrations by Lucy Monkman - www.lucymonkman.com)