A Beginner’s Guide to Drama Bonding

For most people, conflict is scary, dysregulating to relationships, and an experience that makes us tiptoe around others. But that’s not true for everyone.

Enter: drama bonding

For people who grew up in chaos, drama can become a familiar + safe space. Instead of finding conflict chaotic and disruptive, it might feel calming and soothing. After all, if we’ve grown up in a high-conflict home, peace and quiet can be weirdly unsettling.

An inset drawing from Lindsay Braman's drama bonding zine.

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Being drawn to drama can be a result of growing up with trauma, constant conflict in a family of origin, chronic uncertainty (like poverty or housing instability) or simply from growing up in an otherwise pretty normal family in which only really BIG emotions got care and attention.

Creating drama, consuming conflict, or thriving in chaos can all be signs that a person has a dysfunctional relationship with drama.

An inset drawing from Lindsay Braman's drama bonding zine.

A drama addiction results when we confuse intensity for intimacy. As I’ve written in other articles, it’s easy to confuse relational intimacy with conflict if anger or chaos was the only time that we felt really connected with our caregiver while we were growing up.

While I’ve explored some of these concepts under the umbrella of family therapy in the past, I recently read the book Addicted to Drama: Healing Dependency on Crisis and Chaos in Yourself and Others by Scott Lyons (grab a copy from Amazon or from Bookshop).

In his book, Dr. Lyons deconstructs the previously pejorative archetype of “drama queen” and instead compassionately exposes the addiction to crisis, chaos, and stress at play for these individuals. If you are interested in learning more without a commitment to reading the full text, enjoy this miniature zine I created to illustrate a few of the concepts from the book.

Click here to purchase the digital download or order the physical product.

What is Drama Bonding?

Most people relaxed in peaceful spaces. An entire field of design is dedicated to the science of predicting how calm environments (usually) curate calm minds.

Humans generally settle and rest in spaces that are calm, predictable, and low in conflict. In this soothing environment, our nervous systems are regulated, and we’re able to breathe a little deeper and feel more like calm, balanced, grounded humans.

For drama addicts or “drama queens,” what gets often dismissed as immaturity or lack of compassion for others may actually be a result of a brain and nervous system that is wired a little differently: chaos and drama feel safer and more familiar than calm environments.

An inset drawing from Lindsay Braman's drama bonding zine.

For drama addicts or “drama queens,” what gets often dismissed as immaturity or lack of compassion for others may actually be a result of a brain and nervous system that is wired a little differently: chaos and drama feel safer and more familiar than calm environments.

Growing up in chaotic families or surviving multiple traumatic events early in life can lead to a distorted sense of “rest.” For these people, initiating conflict (or refusing to let go of it after its natural peak) may be their best tool for navigating relationships and emotions.

Although you might think of drama addiction is simply instigating conflict in relationships, what’s pejoratively called a “drama queen” might seek soothing through chaos through surprising behaviors, such as:

  • becoming hooked on rage-inducing content or reality TV
  • feeling energized by conflict
  • holding grudges
  • picking fights
  • engaging in online bullying or trolling
  • dismissing the effectiveness of mindfulness
  • over-scheduling
  • staying excessively busy

This can also look like drama bonding. Drama Bonding is a way of connecting with others through conflict or shared outrage. Like the other forms of coping, it can serve as a means to stay angry and avoid processing underlying emotions. The dynamic of drama bonding, however, can lead one to question whether the connections are based on genuine love or simply shared outrage.

An inset drawing from Lindsay Braman's drama bonding zine.

How to Un-Drama Bond

The healing process in drama bounding is to find healthier ways to build connections and to cope. Of great importance here is processing past traumas within healthy relationships (whether friendly, romantic, or therapeutic), and seeking a deeper connection between the body and brain.

One new coping skill to practice could be considering responses to stress. In the zine, drama and reflective responses are given as examples of stress responses. Drama sounds like, “You are always doing ___ to me!” Whereas, a reflective response sounds like, “When you … I feel …” The reflective response allows for an opportunity to genuinely connect versus immediately causing conflict.

Healing requires learning: exploring, identifying, and correcting behaviors that cultivate unhealthy conflict in our relationships. Healing is understanding that intensity is not a substitute for genuine intimacy.

Order the Product or Download the Zine PDF Bundle

Image Description for Screen Readers:

The zine has eight pages. The first page is a cover that is white with black, handwritten font that reads, “A Beginner’s Guide to Drama Bonding by @LindsayBraman.” The words “Drama Bonding” are in red block letters with black outlining, and emphasis marks are around “drama.”

The second page has a striped border around it. Within the border, at the top, there are drawings in black, white, and red of a tea mug with a tea bag inside, a conversation block with a heart inside, a monstera plant leaf inside a red pot, and a cup of boba tea with a red lid. Under this is writing that reads, “Most people relax when they’re in peaceful spaces with gentle people.” A black banner runs across the page horizontally underneath this. It has white text on top that reads, “Calm, predictable, & low-conflict environments” – text continues underneath on a white background – “relax our nervous systems and regulate our bodies.”

The third page has a black background with white specks and a jagged border. Inside the blackness is white handwriting that reads, “Other people’s brains are wired differently. For them, CHAOS & DRAMA actually feel safer.” Next to this is a drawing of a white person who has a look of bliss on their face. Beside them on the left is a speech bubble with a frowning face and the symbols “!?#” inside. Above this is a siren with alert marks around it as though it is going off. On the right, there is an exclamation point and a clock.

The fourth page has a drawing of a white person sleeping in a bed that has black sheets. On them is the word “CHAOS.” Around them is handwritten text that reads, “For them, chaos *is* soothing. When people grow up in chaos, it can become familiar and ‘safe.’ Being drawn to drama can be a result of growing up with: trauma, constant conflict, chronic uncertainty, or a home where big emotions got care.” Next to this is a notepad with text that reads, “Thriving in drama can be a trauma response.” The word “trauma” is written in red with emphasis marks.

The fifth page has a doodle of a hand holding a black-and-white picture of two arguing people. Next to this is written, “Not being able to stop scrolling rage bait or reality t.v. can be a sign that conflict is being used to cope.” In a box underneath this is written, “Other signs include:” The text continues below with a checklist that contains “feeling energized by conflict, holding grudges, picking fights, online bullying or trolling, mindfulness ‘doesn’t work,’ over-scheduling and staying very busy.” In a black box to the left is more text: “Relational drama regulates people who feel unsafe in calm.”

The sixth page has a drawing of two white people on a black background holding hands and sharing affectionate looks. Next to them are speech bubbles that read, “I am so outraged by that thing!” “I am also outraged by that thing!” “Is this love?” Above them, on a white background with a black line border, is an explanation of drama bonding: “Drama bonding is… connecting with others through conflict or shared outrage and a way for us to stay angry and avoid processing our feelings.”

The seventh page is black text on a white background. It starts, “We heal through: processing our past trauma in relationships, seeking connection between our body and brain, and trying out new coping skills, like:” The text continues in a flowchart-like way. The word “stress” is written in a black box. The two options in response to stress are “Drama!” or “Reflective Response.” Drama sounds like, “You are always doing __ to me!” A reflective response sounds like, “When you… I feel…” There is a line drawn under this. A different set of text reads, “Healing requires learning.” An arrow points from this to red text that reads, “Intensity is not intimacy.”

The eighth page is the back cover of the book. It says, “To learn more, visit lindsaybraman.com/drama.” The hyperlink is written in red and underlined in black, with a pointer arrow next to it. The text continues, “This zine was inspired by ‘Addicted to Drama’ by Scott Lyons, Ph.D.” At the bottom is smaller text that reads, “For more zines, worksheets, doodles, and mental health resources visit: lindsaybraman.com”

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