A few years ago, at Thanksgiving, I tried to share with my mother something that was really bothering me. I don’t remember exactly what it was; I think it had something to do with my sister. But that doesn’t really matter, what does matter was that she actually responded with, “Lisa, don’t be such a drama queen.”
I lost it.
“I hate when you call me that! Just because I feel something doesn’t mean I am a drama queen.”
And that’s the truth.
I learned to keep my emotions to myself, to the detriment of my own health. I learned to keep things inside because letting them out leads to accusations of being over-dramatic and over-sensitive. But of course, keeping things inside add to the truly dramatic moments such as this particular one with my mother, a crying screaming fest of hurt feelings and accusations that led nowhere.
Sarah is a lot like me, in that she is emotional and is very hard on herself. Yesterday she started crying in the morning when I asked if she had practiced the piano the day before (she spent the day at the theater with Nathan, while I tried to get some things done at home).
“I forgot,” she cried. “And I have a lesson today!” The end of the world as we know it.
“It’s okay, Sarah. Michelle will understand.”
When I picked her up after school she said, “I’m sorry I got so upset this morning.”
“Why did you?” I asked.
“Because I was angry at myself.”
She is me.
So, how does one interact with a person who internalizes every perceived error as further evidence of the imperfections of her own personality? How do you comfort someone who sees the world through emotions? How do you help someone who is hardest on herself?
How do you interact with yourself?
Here are some suggested rules of interaction with this type of individual:
- Don’t call her drama queen. It hurts and it’s not true.
- Acknowledge her feelings and then try to get her to look at them intellectually. “Why do you think you are so angry at yourself for dropping the cup?”
- Allow her to feel things, but remind her that not everyone sees things the same ways she does.
- Tell her you love her even when she makes mistakes.
And of course, perhaps the most important rule of them all:
Don’t feed the Drama Queen! It makes her fat and even more dramatic.