In last week’s essay, we suggested a specific tip to interrupt your reactive, drama-filled behavior by “Naming 5 Red Things”. We received numerous comments from readers about how helpful and simple the idea of naming 5 red things was to redirecting their energy and focus away from drama.

We usually offer tips on how you can limit your drama. What about being with others when they are having a “drama attack?” What do you do? What do you say? We have several suggestions, but first let’s look at what a drama attack is.

Each of the 3 roles in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ can produce similar, yet unique, drama attacks. For example, when others are in the Victim role and feeling powerless, it is common to hear complaints about how everything is wrong and it’s not their fault. This feeling of powerlessness has an odd flip-side to it. Engrained Victim thinking can produce an attitude of entitlement and demanding outbursts.

The Persecuting drama attack can appear with similar aggressive outbursts, assigning blame and hurtful in nature. On the surface a person may appear powerful and confident, but underneath—whether conscious of it or not—they too, are feeling overwhelmed and have decided to attack rather than be attacked.

A Rescuer drama attack is characterized by compulsively focusing on another person or situation and believing the world will not go on without their heroic efforts. Their obsessive helping behavior and thoughts have no boundaries. Personally they are feeling anxiety and fear about a situation that they too, are feeling powerless over.

A DDT drama attack can be a jumbled bunch of messy behavior and all 3 of the roles may appear simultaneously. When this happens, don’t try to diagnosis which role you are observing. Simply know the extreme convergence of the roles means the other is in a lot of pain and badly needs your understanding and compassion.

Here are a few things NOT to say during a drama attack. “Oh, you’re just acting like a Victim”. Ouch! That will surely cause more pain, defensiveness and drama.  Also avoid saying: “Just get over it.” Or asking “Why are you feeling this way?”  These will only make things worse during a full-blown drama attack.

Instead, try these suggestions:

  • Remain calm. Others can feed upon your calm energy.
  • Do your best to understand the situation and their feelings without judgment or blame. It can be helpful to let them know you see them and their emotion, without enflaming it.
  • If there is a trusting relationship and they are looking to you for support, recommend that they take a few slow deep breaths. Breath slowly with them.
  • Saying less is often best. Listen deeply and, when you do speak, use short and simple sentences.
  • Take care of yourself. If the situation is abusive or threatening, know that you cannot fix or change the other person. You are not being disloyal to a co-worker or a family member if you focus on yourself while others are having a drama attack.

If a person has truly “gone down the drama attack rabbit hole,” no amount of rational thought will help. It is best to stay calm, listen and try to understand. If things get too intense remove yourself from the situation.

Once the person has calmed down, it may be possible to revisit the situation and coach them on what triggered the drama attack and what they can do in the future to interrupt the pattern.

Remember, in their essence, they are a Creator—whether or not they know it, or act like it!