A few weeks ago we were visiting family and took a long walk through a nearby neighborhood. We came upon a dilapidated house that looked like one continuous yard sale. A small, handwritten sign was taped to a front porch window that said: No stress-passing. We both paused for a second and then immediately start laughing. What a fun twist on words—and a very profound statement!

When we are in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™, dancing between the roles of the Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor, we are reacting to fear. It might be a person we don’t want to work with, worry that we might take a drink when we have sworn off alcohol, or fear there’s not enough money at the end of the month. The fear-based situations are endless.

Our body’s response to the fearful situation is to generate stress. Stress is a nervous system response that floods the body with hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol that prepares the body for emergencies. The heart pounds faster, blood pressure goes up, muscles tighten, and the senses sharpen. The body is able to run faster, lift more weight, think faster and move quicker. This is the appropriate stress-response and prepares us for true emergencies.

When triggered in the DDT, we use reactive habits that are often maladaptive coping mechanisms that generate more drama and stress. The result of these behaviors can create stress that does not prepare us for true emergencies. Rather we create artificial worries and generate more stress.

Eventually our levels of stress spill over into the fight, flight or freeze stress response. When we can’t manage this stress by ourselves, we pass the stress on to those we live and work with.

The appropriate stress response, on the other hand, involves acknowledging the fears and emotions and learning tools for working with them. By becoming mindful and self-aware of the reactive triggers and redirecting habits toward more resourceful ways of managing the stress, we learn to respond to stress mindfully. This opens the door to holding the stress and allowing it to prepare our minds and bodies for the focus we need to move through the situation.


Once we can pause and hold the tension of the situation rather than react with old drama-filled habits, we build our capacity to hold the stress and not pass it on to others. Remember— No Stress-Passing!

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