Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Drama in Everyday Life: A Type of Vital-Mind

Originally posted on August 24, 2011

Drama is a vitalizing dynamic. What is essential is the expression of exaggerated emotions—triumph, joy, fear, vulnerability, fear, protest, lust, greed, shame—all the colors of the rainbow. Civilization has rightfully demanded a modulation of these, but as with most social trends, driven by unintelligent minds that want simple and final answers, it overshot the mark. Because drama could be excessive, best then to stifle it almost completely, or let it be expressed in rather stylized forms.

Drama became packaged as scripted and rehearsed performances by practiced performers— “actors”—, and it was understood that these exhibitions of emotion were okay, authorized. Audience members may partake vicariously, enjoying what cathartic benefits are left over—as Aristotle observed. What was not okay is for adults to indulge themselves in unbridled emotionality.

I want to suggest that there is another context that offers the benefits of full expression: imaginative play. We can redeem the spectrum of feelings from the realms of the repressed or the sublimated and distanced—i.e., through established art forms such as the theatre. I’ll go further and say that people, in order to optimally flourish, include ways to more fully express themselves on occasion.

Expression is not just for other people to witness—though there is that dynamic, too. It is also for the self, to remind us that we live with more intense “flavors,” with more “juice,” rather than in the flat realm of mere expedience. Drama is like occasional exercise—it tones the holistic body-mind. It also is good interpersonally, in establishing that you as my audience are in relation to a whole person—largely sane and contained, but just enough goofyness and passion to be “real.” And when you can respond by appreciating me in this more full expression of my role repertoire—or even better, playing with me, expressing your own brief intensity—ah, that makes our relationship all the more real—almost in a sense, a bit intimate.

It is true that in ordinary life, in many—perhaps most—roles, it is better to contain exaggerated emotions. (Those whose work requires deep emotionality—professional television wrestlers, some military situations, actors (of course), etc., well, they do what’s needed correspondingly more; but for most, optimal life functioning requires keeping low-key.) The challenge in most situations is to negotiate and to problem solve without the contamination of childish emotionality.

But—big “but”—we need to spend some time letting it all hang out. It’s sort of like the way we need to wear clothes most of the time; but there are a few occasions when getting naked is what is most adaptive. Bathing is one of those times. Similarly, there are occasions when it would be nice to be far more expressive:
  – whooping and hollering as fans for a sports contest, yay and boo and get-‘em seems to make it far more involving and fun, though this is somewhat culture-bound
  – participating more vigorously in theatre and movies—rarely done—but then, remember that the old-time melodramas had audiences really booing the villain and shouting encouragement to the hero or heroine as they sought to extricate themselves from some terrible predicament
  – other contexts where we are permitted and even expected to respond with more enthusiasm, such as certain points in a wedding
  – being caught up with excitement—if enough others in the group make it not too deviant—in listening to a charismatic preacher, or singing along with an inspiring or catchy song . . .

Indeed, this is part of what makes certain events “fun”—the exhilaration of an experience associated with a general recognition—at least in the eyes others so involved—that being excited or scared or touched with sentiment is what is supposed to be happening.

Vital-Mind D for Drama—we need it in our lives. We need some opportunities to build up our capacity to read stories or poems with feeling. This needs to be part of the curriculum. Reading it correctly, without pronunciation errors—no, that’s not the point; some mistakes are okay. The challenge is to read it with feeling, adding non-verbal elements, voice tone, facial expression, bring it alive. This is drama!

We don’t need much—maybe 8%. Some people do 12%.  If you’re introducing drama as an element in your life more than 24.3%, you’re beginning to become annoying to people, a “drama queen.” That much isn’t needed. But if you’re doing less than 6%, you’re too muted, mousy, repressed, up-tight, not having fun and not being fun for others around you. 6-12% is optimal.

Allow yourself to say “yay!” to celebrate; or to be a bit more than soft-spoken when you encourage another: “You go, girl!”  Some people learn a few jokes and tell them well—the art of drama is here—pauses, facial expressions, voice tones. When you make a mistake, allow yourself to mix a bit of apology and bewildered looks—it’s a little funny, breaking the ice of assumed competence and cool. These should be recognized as micro-dramatic moves, and what’s important to note is that in the course of ordinary civilized life, they are neglected or actively suppressed.

I think nowadays that many well-socialized adults may go weeks without ever giving vent to a full expression of feeling. This deepens our Vital-Mind Dr deficiency. It also perpetuates a massively phony facade: We’re all competent here; I’m cool. I’m reminded of the way a cat occasionally leaps and stumbles. Recollecting itself it licks its shoulder as if to say, “No problem. I meant to do that.”

I think many people subtly suffer from the socio-cultural norms of the caricature of gravitas or ‘dignity’ in adults. As I say, often this is fine, but not so much that the small percentage of truly lively dynamics get too suppressed. We need both keeping cool and becoming “dramatic.”  This also is why I want to see drama go far beyond the realm of scripted and rehearsed theatre and enter and enliven everyday life, school, work, even church, in the form of playfulness, emotionality, expressiveness, set-changing, and so forth.

3 Responses to “Drama in Everyday Life: A Type of Vital-Mind”

  • Kent Dura says:

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  • Dr. Edwin Land once said “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”

  • A friend was complaining that his family is full of drama especially his father, who has gone further to disown her daughter for taking a non-partisan stand on her father and her mother’s prolonged frequent bickerings or simply put, marital problems. Your article has helped me understand that drama in real life, is not unhealthy but healthy. I will grateful if you can post more of your writing.

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