When someone goes through trauma or a high-needs situation — momentary, chronic, or terminal — not only is it hard on the person going through it, but it puts a strain on everyone trying to support and give care.
So much so that caregiver burnout is literally a cliche in some circles.
I first heard about “the ring theory of kvetching” from Jay Darling — who joined the Cascadia Workshops team earlier this year — who got it in an email from his mom, Ann Darling. Below is my brief paraphrase followed by a link to the original article.
The person or people with the illness, trauma, or super hard situation — they get to complain outwardly to their first circle of support.
The first circle of support does NOT vent — about the challenges, the loss of sleep, the emotional toll, etc. — to the person or people at the center of the trauma.
But they DO get to vent outwardly.
Again, the first circle of support is spared from the venting of the second circle, who, again, only vents outwardly.
Support, caring, comfort FLOWS IN.
Kvetching, venting, complaining, requests for empathy, all of this only FLOWS OUT.
Here’s a little graphic I created to illustrate this, and below that, the original email I received.
My closest community is going through this in more than one situation, and this concept has been very helpful as a reminder of how I want to show up with whom.
(Thank you to Susan Silk and Barry Goldman, who wrote this up as an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times).