Pain vs. Suffering – The Drama Triangle from the Neurological Perspective


Five Interesting Brain Facts:

1.  Neurons that fire together wire together.  When you repeat behaviors, it strengthens them, as if you were practicing an instrument.
2.  Dopamine is the brain chemical (“neurotransmitter”) that rewards behaviors and causes a high (“euphoria”).
3.  Dopamine rules the emotional brain.
4.  The frontal lobe controls the emotional brain and becomes weak when you neglect to take care of it.
5.  Addiction results from Low-brain-energy Choices.

The drama triangle explains a lot.

– It’s how we beat up on each other… and ourselves.
– It’s addictive.  It’s very easy to hooked on, and there’s a nearly unlimited supply of drama in the world.
– The burst of dopamine that comes from self-rescue feels very rewarding.  As though you were actually getting something done.
– Many people go out of their way to create the conflicts that fill their brains with drama-induced dopamine.

Using the drama triangle gives a cheap, dirty high.

– When you become addicted to drama, you’re living the life of the heroin addict.
– You’re always jonesing for that next conflict, that next victimization, looking for ways to stir up hurt, pain and antagonism.
– The crash causes you to go looking for more trouble, so you can become the villain.
– So that you can then be victimized by the reaction from those you just hurt.
– And then play the role of the hero when you bail everyone out.
– What a rush, as the dopamine centers of the brain light up with your next high…
… that lasts about as long as a hit of crack cocaine.

And just like with every drug, over time…

– You become addicted and dependent on the dopamine rush.
– You develop tolerance to the effect and have to ramp up the level of drama.
– Your relationships start to suffer.
– Your productivity and effectiveness in the world is degraded.
– Your bank account dwindles.
– You lose empathy for others.
– Fear, anger, paranoia and frustration rule your world.
– You eventually burn out, because your brain cannot sustain the production demands.

Living in the drama triangle IS suffering.

– Pain cannot be avoided in life.
– Pain is feedback.  It’s our brain’s way of telling us to change.
– If a stove is hot, it burns.  Don’t touch it.
– If we are sedentary, exercise hurts.  Don’t be sedentary.
– If we get beaten by a spouse, it stings.  Change the marriage.
– If we are incarcerated, it aches.  Change our mindset.
– Pain is not a bad thing.
– But suffering is.  Suffering occurs when we chose to stay in a place of pain without making a change.
– Suffering is reinforcing for many.  Suffering is a choice to live in the drama triangle.

The choice to live in the drama triangle:

– Might not be a choice for some.  Many people don’t know better.  Just look at the headlines.
– Is self-preservation.  It’s a low-energy state.  It doesn’t take any real creativity or intention to stay there.
– Is lazy.  If you know about the drama triangle and chose to stay there, you’re avoiding putting the energy into raising up into an empowered life.
–  Is going to die out.  The drama triangle leaves people in poverty.  Bad choices and conflicts are not rewarded by a society that is becoming more transparent, more accountable, and more enlightened.


– Get empowered.
– Become aware of what triggers you.
– Consciously change your thoughts.  Decide ahead of time not to get pulled into drama.
– Pay attention to your body, learn to feel the reactions that come with the adrenaline burst of anxiety, anger, fear and frustration.
– Block negative thoughts that launch you against yourself or others.
– Start to use Strategic Gratitude.  The moment you feel yourself slipping, think of all the things you have to be grateful for.  Gratitude inhibits the fear circuits of the brain and keeps you empowered.
– Decide to turn obstacles into springboards.
– Choose to surround yourself with people who boost you, not drag you down.
– Avoid “heroes” and “rescuers” – who are really just codependent enablers of the drama.
– Instead, seek coaches, who use healthy strategies to teach you.
– Learn how to deploy MANY strategies to keep you elevated in a healthy way.  Start a Brain Building Program! 

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