I was reminded yesterday of the critical concept of Ring Theory, which articulates what I've been trying to get at for weeks now:
We ALL need support, comfort, and to tend to our emotional needs.
What may make that appropriate or not is WHO we seek that support from.
We can not ask them to give us activist cookies, to reassure us that we're the "good ones," to hold ANY of our own fear, anger, or distress.
Your therapist friends know this principle well: they can invite their clients to freely dump raw emotion in session with them, as they (hopefully!) can go dump on THEIR therapists and/or supervisors.
I can not count the number of times this week that I said, in response to someone struggling with guilt about discussing their own emotional responses: "How might you use ME and our session as a resource right now, so that you are more able to fully show up for the world in the way that it might need you?"
And then my own therapist opened up that same space for me.
See below/here about Ring Theory, or the "concentric circles of grief":
"Ring Theory [developed by clinical psychologist Susan Silk, is] a model of caring that clearly, concretely delineates appropriate versus inappropriate interactions with everyone around you during times of crisis or tragedy. Whether hard times have fallen on you or someone else, the basic idea is 'comfort in; dump out.'
...Now, also imagine a spotlight. Train it on the center ring, so it is most brightly lit, making it abundantly clear where the focus of caregiving should be. Now notice how the light is diffused across all the rings, which become more dimly lit as they span ever outward. It is also appropriate to offer comfort, but no complaints, to those in brighter rings than yours.
If you want to complain or seek your own comfort, it is only appropriate to impose upon people in your ring or better yet, the people in rings that are more dimly lit. That’s because they are naturally less directly afflicted by this crisis. The spotlight also demonstrates a key component of offering comfort: Never steal the spotlight!
If you’re in the center ring, it sucks, but you're smack in the spotlight and you can say anything to anybody. You can talk about your experience, express your feelings, complain, cry, despair, bitch, and moan.
If you’re in any outer ring, you too can talk about your experience and emotions, complain, cry, despair, bitch, and moan, but you can’t commiserate with anyone who is in a ring that is closer to the center than yours. And you can't shift the spotlight so that it brightens your outer ring at the expense of dimming an inner ring.
...What’s interesting about these concepts is that they can be applied to any crisis — weather, medical, legal, social, emotional, environmental, financial, existential."
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Jessica Katzman, Psy.D.
I'm a psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco's Castro District. I'm interested in harm reduction, LGBTQQIAAP issues, psychedelic integration, social justice conversations, size acceptance, and any intersections of the above. I welcome your comments!
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