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Someone you know ill? Ring theory of what to say to people going through a hard time.

Stashed in: #health, Stress, #kindness, Sadness, Awesome, Compassion, Psychology!, Apologies

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Hat tip to 2013/4/8 issue of

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to.


Here are the rules. 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.


People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."

If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.


Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

This is intuitive but the framework is still very useful for thinking about this.

Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.

And don't worry. You'll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.

Well that's a chilling thought.

This reminds me of the emotional vampire concept.

For some reason this really tickled me: "Emotional vampires are people that "suck the good" out of every relationship. Rather than feasting on blood (like the vampires of legend), they feed on the positive energy or good feelings that exist in a relationship. Also, unlike the traditional vampires of legend, emotional vampires are very real, and take shape in the form of people we interact with and try and befriend."

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