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The Circle of Kvetching

Posted by on in Current Medical Issues

I recently had a conversation with a good friend who has a family member with a serious illness. She told me that close friends of the family had called her in distress about this family member, as if she was expected to comfort them! This made me remember an article I read recently about “ring theory.” I sent this article to my friend and suggested she send it to all of her friends and family. It’s important information about how to cope with friends and family who are dealing with a crisis or death.  I think it is so necessary to understand, that I wanted to spread the word to all of you. (It’s also been called the circle of kvetching, for those who can relate to the Yiddish term). Here is the original article:

How Not to Say the Wrong Thing 
by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman 

Last year Elana Premack Sandler wrote this excellent explanatory article:

Ring Theory Helps us Bring Comfort In
by Elana Premack Sandler, LCSW, MPH 

A few years ago, psychologist Susan Silk and her friend Barry Goldman wrote a piece about a concept they called the “Ring Theory.”

It’s a theory to help yourself know what to do in a crisis. If the crisis is happening to you, you’re in the center of the ring. If the crisis is not happening to you, you’re in one of the outer circles.

Here are the basic tenets paraphrased from Silk and Goodman’s article:

  1. Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the crisis.
  2. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the crisis.
  3. In each larger ring, put the next closest people. As Silk and Goodman state, “Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones.”
The concept is simple: “comfort in, dump out.”
I think disseminating this information will make the world a better place! It seems obvious when reading about the theory, but we have all likely been in the position of saying something similar that we later regretted. So please share this far and wide. As Susan Silk and Barry Goldman have said “And don’t worry. You’ll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.”
Best of Health,
Sima Kahn, MD
Founder, Healthcare Advocacy Partners
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