While we talked earlier in the week about empathy and sympathy, we didn’t pinpoint where that good energy would come from. People with aphasia and caregivers need empathy and compassion, though they’ll get it from different places.

People should look outwardly, rather than inwardly, for compassion. Leaning on people outside the experience is part of Ring Theory.

tree ring

What Is Ring Theory?

Susan Silk came up with her “Ring Theory” back in 2013. The theory states how support should flow during a crisis or chronic situation.

The person experiencing aphasia is the center of the ring. Their closest loved ones — the ones doing the caregiving — are the next ring. The caregiver’s support system — friends, specialists, etc — are the larger ring after that.

How Are the Rings Used?

Knowing your ring is important because your placement in the situation dictates where you should look for empathy:

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.

Meaning, the caregiver shouldn’t complain to the person with aphasia, though they should definitely seek empathy from people on outside rings such as specialists and friends. And friends should be giving not seeking empathy from the person with aphasia or the caregiver.

Comfort IN, Dump OUT

Silk says, the point is “comfort IN, dump OUT.” This means the comfort flows toward the person with aphasia and the complaining about the situation flows towards people on the outside of the crisis. Everyone has someone to talk to, but the person with aphasia isn’t asked to bear an even larger emotional burden, and the feelings of the people on the outer rings aren’t given more weight than the people closest to the crisis.

Help or compassion also flows toward the center of the circle, to that person with aphasia in the center of the rings. This is the direction you want that compassion to flow; towards the person who needs it most. This isn’t to say that your favourite nurse or speech therapist doesn’t deserve a treat and thank you for their hard work, but that good energy and help needs to be directed at the person in need.

Moreover, support networks of friends and specialists should be holding up close caregivers, too. When comfort flows in, it washes over all the people as it makes its way toward the center of the circle.

What do you think about Ring Theory?

Image: Davidgsteadman via Flickr via Creative Commons license