When I speak to people with cancer, I listen to their sexuality concerns, ask what kind of help they seek, and offer several solutions with which they can experiment. After reading an article in the LA Times by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman (April 7, 2013), I have another tool to offer them.
Silk, a clinical psychologist, developed a model she refers to as the Ring Theory that illustrates communication boundaries that can be useful to people dealing with cancer or other types of crises. She came up the the model after her own breast cancer diagnosis, which brought up a multitude of self-absorbed comments from friends and acquaintances. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma… Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma [e.g., a partner or husband]. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. 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. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.
This model can be used regardless of the type of crisis someone must deal with. Personal bankruptcy? Check. Infertility? Check. Sick child? Check. Maybe we should all wear badges that say “What’s Your Place in my Kvetching Order?” as a do-no-harm reminder when we speak to people in crisis.