As many of you may recall, I have written quite a bit about what to say and WTF not to say to someone with FBC (f-bomb breast cancer) as well as how to be a friend to someone coping with illness or other f-bombs. I think that when an f-bomb explodes in life, we all want to know how to be and what to do.
Well, lo and behold, twice in the last two days, I’ve been told about the The Ring Theory. When I read the LA Times article about it, I had major goosebumps because I realized that the theory authors Susan Silk and Barry Goldman are really onto something!
What excites me so much about The Ring Theory is that it is positively instructive for patients, family and friends. Susan says that the theory works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential.
The whole philosophy of The Ring Theory is: Comfort IN, dump OUT. Here’s what to do:
- Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma.
- Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma.
- In each larger ring put the next closest people, keeping in mind that parents and children go before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones.
- You can draw as many rings as you would like.
This is what the Ring Theory looks like:
Here are the rules of The Ring Theory:
- The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.
- Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings (i.e., Dump OUT).
- When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help (i.e., Comfort IN). Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it.
One of our close family friends went off the grid after my diagnosis. He didn’t know how to handle it, later said, “I didn’t know what to say or do and didn’t want to do the wrong thing.” The HOTY felt like he had to be a caregiver to not only me but also that person. Kind of convoluted, right? Susan and Barry suggest that screaming, crying, complaining and whining are fine. After all, it’s normal to wonder WTF? after a close (young) friend is diagnosed with FBC. The key is to do it to someone in a bigger ring. Dump OUT.
This theory is a major Silver Lining because it makes so much sense. It is respectful of the feelings of everyone impacted by the diagnosis or catastrophic event.
What do you think? Would you try drawing your own Ring?