Ring Theory

I ran across this theory early on in my experience with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer and it really resonated with me. The longer I’ve lived with the disease, the more it resonates with me. While I’m horrible at asking for help and often overestimate what I can handle, the kindness of some family and friends has driven home how important this idea really is. Actually it’s probably more the actions of some family and friends who have not shown kindness that has really driven home how important this concept is to those of us who are dealing with a health crisis.

I’ve included a link below to the full explanation of the theory, but here’s a quick paraphrase:

Here are the basic tenets, paraphrased from Silk and Goodman:

  1. Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the Health 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. . . When you are done, you have a Kvetching Order.

A pictorial representation may help;

The basic idea is that the person in the middle does not receive the venting/kvetching from outer circles, especially when said venting is about the person in need of help. For example, if you are a family member of a terminally ill patient who spends the night in the hospital with your dying family member, you don’t then get to complain to that dying family member about how that night away from your family was stressful for you or how others in the family did or didn’t communicate nicely when arranging for someone to spend the night.


This theory takes into consideration that the person who is dying is carrying a much heavier psychological load than anyone else and that close family is affected more than distant relatives or acquaintances. In essence, this theory is how to demonstrate love in a clear and understandable way. Violating this idea creates more and more angst and damage to the person who is already carrying more than a healthy person ever could understand.

Why would someone who loves a dying person want to cause further damage?

Here’s an article that lays out the ring theory in much more detail for anyone who is interested in learning more. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/promoting-hope-preventing-suicide/201705/ring-theory-helps-us-bring-comfort-in

31 thoughts on “Ring Theory

  1. Applicable not only for the dying person, but for anyone who is in the hospital. Nothing worse than someone outside the circle showing up and stirring things up.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was trained to call this dump out. You may only dump your feelings to people on outer rings and never dump in to people on closer rings. It definitely helps when people try to push in during times of crisis, they are not one the ring! And people will try to push in!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much. Checked out the links too. Been a recipient of thoughtless remarks and now wondering if I’ve ever been guilty. I remember passing a friend leaving funeral home as I entered. She said she couldn’t stand seeing the grief of our friend’s 11 year old twins. It struck me as cowardly. How about their grief and you simply being there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think everyone responds differently to grief, to heartache, to difficulty. I also think everyone has different responses to other’s experiences too. I’ve also reviewed my own responses in light of my own experiences and adjusted accordingly. It’s good to keep learning, keep growing! Thank you for reading and commenting!


  4. Abigail,
    After reading through your post and back to the original article, I share your sense that this concept (with the rough diagram that first looked a teensy bit kitschy to me) is of great value to us all.

    I’ve never reblogged before, but I’m going to try to do so with this one.

    Thanks for your continually helpful and humane posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, my goodness, Abigail! No truer words! When my father was dying of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, we tried to keep any drama and anything negative away from him. I wouldn’t even cry around him because I knew that he needed the rest of us to be strong.

    Know that I and the rest of your blogger friends care about you and that you’re in our thoughts, our hearts, and in our prayers.

    I see a reblog button, so I’ll reblog!

    Blessings to you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I now know that I can reblog, but it looks like doing so won’t enable me to introduce you and your blog to my readers the way I wanted to. And I want a title that gives more idea about the content. So I’m back to cutting and pasting. Will release later today.
        The post is quite special—and so are you!💕

        Liked by 1 person

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