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  • Writer's pictureJon Heatherly

Respond to Drama With Grace

Four ways to be kind instead.

From Cultured

Photo by Shane Devlin on Unsplash

Do you ever find yourself feeling manipulated? While we want to think the best of others, they may not always share our best interests. Most people show consideration for others. However, some feel indifferent, and others may be malevolent.

If we want to be honest, we embody those archetypes at different points in our lives. That may be true, but no one deserves abuse. It’s vital to cultivate specific life skills for these situations.

Today I want to discuss with you a concept called control dramas. I first learned of these in a 1993 fiction series by James Redfield called The Celestine Prophecy, and I find them incredibly useful in real life. They describe ways in which people build themselves up at others’ expense. So let’s touch on the book, control dramas, and how to protect yourself.

The Book

You may best understand control dramas from the context where I learned them. The Celestine Prophecy recounts the tale of a young man experiencing a series of synchronicities. These life-altering events lead him on a journey to discover the world’s spiritual nature. New revelations compel him to travel to Peru and search for an ancient manuscript containing spiritual insights.

As he progresses in his journey, each step reveals what direction he must take for the proceeding insight. The narrator evades governmental and theological forces hell-bent on suppressing this paradigm-shifting document. This series touches on spirituality, conspiracy, rebellion, and working towards a better world.

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Control Dramas

The book describes control dramas as ways people manipulate each other for energy, but you can also apply them with a psychological lens. Healthy relationships give without expectation. While some people may not know healthy social behaviors, others may be unwell or not care.

There are four control dramas, as mentioned in Redfield’s series. They range from aggressive to passive, and we’ll discuss how to identify and even transform them shortly. The four control dramas include the Intimidator, Interrogator, Aloof, and Poor Me. The idea is to be aware of these ego traps and overcome them.


The most aggressive of the four is the Intimidator. Fear is the name of the game, and this tactic intends to force submission. The Intimidator wants to be in control.

Dominance and abuse — these are two critical traits of the Intimidator. They may threaten physical violence, or they could exert psychological and emotional abuse. Intimidators often come from homes raised by other Intimidators.

Often, the best resolution is separation. However, some instances may require intervention; it’s hard to leave an intimidator if they’re your guardians or significant other. Seek outside help with discretion to escape abuse. If you find yourself subject to the whims of rage and fear, please seek professional help through resources such as BetterHelp.

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The Interrogator belittles to feel better about themselves. They ask passive-aggressive questions that feign interest but incite feelings of low self-worth. They will have you second-guessing yourself and making you feel monitored.

Judge, jury, executioner: Interrogators love the moral high ground. They will analyze everything about you and then pick you apart into your base elements. Forcing their moral authority fuels this vicious cycle. A childhood of inattentive or absent caregivers causes this.

Center yourself, and breathe if need be. Responding requires standing firm and calmly telling them how they are making you feel. They may not acknowledge being excessively critical, but it’s a step towards building a genuine interchange. On the flip side, you may help someone without undermining their confidence, and it’s often best to wait until someone requests help.

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The Aloof control drama is a more passive method of manipulation. An aloof person tends to be vague when you talk to them. They may act like they want your attention, but deflection begins the moment you engage. Your attention uplifts their spirits, yet they never respond specifically.

Of course, people may choose anonymity. You don’t have to tell coworkers your address, phone number, or medical history. Everyone has a right to privacy, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

An aloof person, though, employs this strategy to attract you at your expense. They seem far away and vague. You may disengage because of their cryptic responses, but they’ll vie once more for your attention. This mechanism often stems from a repressed childhood where they did not feel free to express themselves.

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Poor Me

The Modus Operandi for the Poor Me is victimhood. You may be having a bad day, but they’re guaranteed to be worse off. So they want you to feel bad for them. It’s the most passive of the four control dramas.

Some people need help, but this unconscious cycle self-fulfills its prophecies. Stemming from a worldview believing one’s needs won’t get met, a person plays victim to elicit sympathies and deference. Poor Me’s assume this is the way of the world.

You may find yourself with a sense of guilt around a person acting like this. Center yourself with a deep breath, and consider if this situation justifies guilt. If not, then prepare to plainly state you think they may want you to feel guilty. Only they can decide to continue the cycle or engage in genuine dialogue.

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Final Thoughts

Have you seen any of these control dramas in your life? I certainly have. Perhaps you were subject to these or still are; maybe you have expressed these yourself.

These situations require compassion for both parties. Frequently these behaviors are cries for help, and maybe you’re equipped with the tools to do so. Yet, you have every right to walk away when possible.

As mentioned, bringing yourself into the moment helps more than instantly reacting. Whether transgressing others or being infringed upon, breathe mindfulness into the here and now. We may forgive, but behaviors must change.

Intimidation, Interrogation, Aloofness, and Poor Me: these are the four control dramas. People use them when they don’t know healthy ways to engage with others. Even I still find myself falling into these traps, and I have to catch myself before wrecking myself — or others. Be thoughtful. Be kind, and thanks for your time.

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