Did you know that your brain is hardwired to solve problems, even when they don’t exist? When there’s nothing to solve, the brain creates something new to fix.
Enter: the drama cycle.
Maybe you’ve experienced this in your career. You work tirelessly toward your dream job, and once it arrives, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be—or maybe you become so good at it and become bored as a result. So, you create a new goal. And then another, and then another.
Maybe you notice this in your relationships, too. For example, perhaps your spouse used to be terrible about helping you around the house. “He’s nearly perfect,” you’d think to yourself, “if only he’d wash the dishes or mop the floor more.” But let’s say that over time, and many conversations later, your S.O. finally learns to help out more. He loads the dishwasher every night, and even helps you clean on the weekends. At first, you’re overjoyed! But over time, the charm wears off, and you’ve found a new thing to fix about him.
In other words, you keep moving the goalpost.
It’s frustrating when you’re always dissatisfied. How can you know if you’re making progress solving a problem when you keep redefining what it means to solve it?
Why Your Brain Never Runs Out of Problems to Solve
Turns out, research from cognitive psychology and neuroscience suggests this is simply the basic way our brains process information—we’re constantly comparing what’s front of us to its recent context.
Let’s unpack this a little more.
Take the relationship example from a moment ago. At first, it was amazing having your husband help out around the house! But little did you know, he had just raised the bar. Now, helping around the house has become a standard—something that’s not a ‘nice-to-have’ but rather a non-negotiable. In your mind, the problem is solved, and now you can move on to the next one.
In other words, it’s all relative. Instead of deliberately or intentionally acknowledging how far your partner has come since day one, you’re comparing him to what you’ve seen recently—aka, how he can better himself even more.
From a scientific perspective, this idea of relativity helps your brain use less energy. It’s easier to remember what’s happened in the short term than the long term.
How to Stop the Drama Cycle
By now you’ve realized that yes, you’re responsible for creating your own drama. And although your brain may be hardwired to do this, there are definitely some life hacks to stop it in its tracks.
Turns out, it’s actually pretty easy! The next time you’re making decisions where consistency is important, like what you expect out of your partner around the house, make sure to define your expectations as clearly and as early as you can. Think about writing down a list of what kinds of chores you want your husband to take care of. When expectations are clearly defined, there’s less of a chance you’ll find something to be angry with.
As humans we’ve evolved to constantly seek advancement and improvement of our situation—our problem solving and survival skills have become incredibly strong. When neither are required (aka, everything seems to be going well), it confuses us so our brain finds something to worry about.
To overcome this, we have to sharpen other skills, using tools like mindfulness, staying present, and observing without judgement. Another method is to distract yourself instead of stewing on the negative, even if it’s for five minutes. Try a crossword puzzle, read your favorite book, or watch something on TV.
The best way to achieve this? A lot of practice! That’s where I come in…
Ready To Transform Your Relationship?
I offer a proven approach to help you build the fulfilling, true relationship you desire. Think of this as an actionable plan for fixing your relationship. In other words, I’m not just teaching you what to do—but how to do it.
Contact me today to schedule a low-key, no-pressure, no-commitment phone call to see if I’m a good fit for you and to answer any questions you might have.