Are you addicted to conflict, chaos and drama?

Jason Brien.

Do you find yourself constantly drawn into conflict, chaos and drama? As soon as you hear that a fight or conflict is going on somewhere, do you rush to insert yourself into it? Does chaos, conflict and drama give you your daily ‘fix’ and does it make your heart race and get your adrenaline pumping? Do you feel more comfortable during times of conflict and drama than you do during times of peace and tranquillity? Does conflict, chaos and drama give you a sense of identity or do you feel that it allows you to fill a certain role (i.e.., peace keeper, mediator, etc)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be “addicted” to conflict, chaos and drama. I want to stress that in this article I will be using the term “addicted” quite loosely as the clinical definition of addiction relies upon changes in brain chemistry which is not what I am suggesting happens to people who are frequently involved in conflict, chaos and drama. Many people that are “addicted” to conflict, chaos and drama mischaracterise the stress response (racing heart, adrenaline, etc) as excitement. Obviously when people label things as ‘exciting’, they are going to be more drawn to it. They falsely believe that the livelier their life is, the more meaningful and purposeful their life must be.

Many other people may be “addicted” to conflict, chaos and drama simply because they don’t know how to break the conflict/chaos/drama cycle. People who are constantly exposed to conflict, chaos and drama become desensitised to it. The abnormal becomes normal and the constant exposure means they never have a chance to experience and learn the benefits of peace and tranquillity. Some people even like using conflict, chaos and drama as an ‘excuse’ for not being able to get ahead in life. As much as they talk about wanting to escape the conflict, chaos and drama, they never actually take any concrete actions to do so. If you are “addicted” to conflict, chaos and drama, and you genuinely want to change, here are some tips which may help you.

1.Ask yourself why you are “addicted”?

Ask yourself “why do I crave conflict, chaos and drama”? Ask yourself “What does conflict, chaos and drama give me that peace and tranquillity doesn’t”? Whilst people can speculate about all the reasons why, only you can find the real answers. Do you enjoy the attention that it gives you? Do you enjoy being the centre of attention whether its you starting the conflict, chaos and drama or its you trying to fix/stop it? Does the stress response make you feel “alive”? If it is family conflict, chaos and drama, do you enjoy it because it’s the only time the family interacts and any interaction is better than no interaction?

2.Create, set and maintain personal boundaries.

Sometimes people are only drawn to conflict, chaos and drama because others have ‘sucked’ them into it. Sometimes it’s the friend or family member that messages or calls you complaining about this, that and the other and before you know it, you find yourself jumping aboard the chaos bandwagon. By creating, setting and maintaining personal boundaries, you can start to extract yourself from other people’s constant problems. You may for example express a personal boundary to a friend or family member by saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry to hear that you are going through so much. I understand that you would like to chat but right now I am at work, getting ready for bed, with family, having a self-care day, etc, etc”.

3.Create, set and maintain boundaries against yourself.

Just like you set boundaries against others, it is just as important to set boundaries against yourself. Self-imposed boundaries control how much time, energy and emotions you allow yourself to spend on any given thing. Self-imposed boundaries means being a parent to yourself. You parent, monitor and supervise your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and you stop those thoughts, feelings and behaviour’s which are damaging and unhelpful. For example, it is not helpful or productive if you are spending inordinate amounts of time and energy dealing with conflict, chaos and drama when you have more important work, study or family commitments to attend to.

4.Learn yoga, meditation or Tai Chi.

If you want conflict, chaos and drama to become your abnormal rather than your normal, you have to learn to become comfortable with peace and tranquillity. You may need to learn how to really slow things down. There is nothing wrong with having a quiet mind. There is nothing wrong with not having your emotions constantly rising and falling. Peace and tranquility can give your mind, body and nervous system a chance to rest. Chronic stress eventually leads to allostatic load which can significantly increase your chances of coronary heart disease among other physical and mental problems.

5.Seek professional help and support.

There is nothing wrong with visiting a mental health professional to learn new skills and techniques which will ultimately help you to disengage from conflict, chaos and drama and so improve your mental health and familial, social and occupational functioning. Unfortunately, some countries, cultures and people continue to attach shame to mental health and mental health treatment which obviously discourages people from seeking help and support. Mental health professionals can help you to learn assertiveness, stress and anxiety management skills, personal boundaries and much more.

Not everyone who is “addicted” to conflict, chaos and drama has a personality disorder (borderline, histrionic, antisocial, etc.). Using extreme psychiatric labels to label yourself and others is unproductive and unnecessary. The vast majority of people engage in unhealthy and maladaptive behaviours simply because they haven’t learnt any better. If you are “addicted” to conflict, chaos and drama, you really need to think about the long-term effects the constant stress and drama is having on your health and life in general. At the end of the day, you can either use your limited and finite time and energy productively or unproductively.