Monday, March 28, 2011

Lesson #29: Keep The Drama Onscreen

It is no secret I love daytime soap operas.  I grew up preferring to watch an episode of Days Of Our Lives or Another World to sitting through any cartoon or children's show.  I enjoyed seeing the adult characters confront problems and calamities, and overcome adversities in order to get stronger, wiser, and able to tackle the next disaster.  The implicit message underlying all the soaps of the 70s and 80s was that you too can overcome traumatic hardships in your own life.  The only drawback for me was how I absorbed and digested this message as: you need drama in your life to have meaning and purpose. After all, the happy characters were rarely seen, and I wanted to live my life "onscreen" as much as possible.

So I set out in my teens and twenties to live the conflict-driven life.  I created plenty of secrets, lies, betrayals, stormy relationships, arguments with crescendos, break-ups with tragedy, and always a front burner story line playing out.  If I was not in a situation laden with drama, then I was damn well going to create one by inventing a dispute, a complaint, a grievance, something that would make me have to learn, grow, and change, just like the soap heroines I loved so much.

Soon after turning thirty a horrifying shift occurred.  My external circumstances became situated in a way that made me...happy! I had a great job in Palm Springs, some fabulous friends, good money, and a wonderful family nearby.  Furthermore, I became tired and bored by my own problems-du-jour I was making up.  I was bored telling them, bored hearing them.  I found myself facing the existential crisis of being content and was terrified what that "meant." After all, if Barbara Ryan, Maggie Horton, Lillian Raines, and Bobbie Spencer disappeared whenever they were happy, what was going to happen to me?

As fate would have it, this was around the same time spiritual practitioner extraordinaire Jacob Glass began doing a lecture series in Palm Springs.  Jacob has an unique way of taking fundamental principles from A Course in Miracles, drawing from New Thought practices of the past one hundred years, adding a pinch of Oprah, a dash of pop culture, and sprinkling with life metaphors from Charlie's Angels.  He was the perfect blend of hope and cynicism that I needed to wake me up to the reality that I had created all the melodrama in my life, and I could stop at any time.  He helped me to understand that I could make conflict and theatrics out of any circumstance if that was my intention.  And most importantly, I learned from him that spirituality, peace, and serenity do not cut all the drama out of your life, they just cut out the cheap drama.

It was from learning these lessons that I moved to New York, wrote a book, began my private psychotherapy practice, and have had the opportunity to interview so many of the daytime stars I loved watching when I was growing up.  It was from the decision to eliminate flimsy cheap drama from my life that I have had the clarity of mind, focus, and direction to create so much more.  I still love the drama onscreen, but now have little tolerance for it in day-to-day life. 

Every day I see people on Facebook and Twitter who appear to be inventing conflict for the sake of experiencing turmoil.  I respect their right to create drama, as I had to do it for several decades before I was willing to give it up.  But I can honestly say that choosing serenity and happiness in any set of circumstances has allowed me to experience highs and lows more profound and deep than I ever did when I was younger.  It enables me to embrace turning forty, knowing that I can face future challenges with an authentic sense of resilience, rationality, humor, and hope.  It sets me on the course of having experiences and adventures that will enhance my soul, not dull it. 

Are you preferring your drama onscreen or off screen? What choices are you making today?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com

1 comment:

Jacklyn said...

Ahh...Damon....I absolutely agree... Less drama in real life, and more great scenes for our favorite TV characters! A little laughter and fun on the soaps would be a good thing, too.