Circles Around a Problem

concentric blue circles

Yet another post in which I borrow shamelessly from the Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft podcast. You really, really, really should listen to it every single week. I don’t actually subscribe to it but just remember, “Oh, it’s Wednesday! Time for Gretch and Liz!”

Anyway, yesterday they were discussing the issue of how to deal with people who are very upset about your problems and so aren’t helpful. A woman had written in earlier saying that she had cancer, and her mother was so devastated about it that it was draining and upsetting for the daughter to be around her. Instead of her mother comforting her, she was having to comfort her mother. So the woman just didn’t want to be around a person who should have been a great help and support.

While there was no easy solution for this woman’s particular situation, a listener did write in with a suggestion for other people who have difficult situations going on in their lives. (That would probably be all of us.) Imagine the person who has the actual issue, in this case the cancer victim. She’s at the center of a set of circles. The next closest circle is composed of her immediate family, dearest friends, etc. Then the circles go out from there, with each one being composed of people with less and less personal involvement.

Here’s the principle: Comfort inward, complain outward. So every message given to the person in the center should be positive, helpful, and encouraging. (No Hallmark cards need apply, though. We’re not talking about fake cheer or refusing to face facts.) Telling someone, “Oh, I’m so worried about you! I can hardly sleep at night! I can barely force myself to eat!” or “I’m so afraid your surgery won’t go well!” is totally counter-productive. But there’s a temptation to think that somehow that suffering person is going to feel better if she knows how much her situation is affecting others, an idea that makes no sense if you think about it.

If you need a shoulder to cry on, look outward. (Or possibly sideways–to those in your same circle. But since those people are experiencing the same level of pain and involvement as you are, maybe best to limit the sideways complaining.) Talk to someone who doesn’t have as much of a stake in the situation as you do.

Isn’t that a simple but powerful idea?

And now for a little bonus, again courtesy of GR. She is a huge fan, as am I,  of Gary Taubes, the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. He has a new book coming out on Dec. 17 called The Case Against Sugar. Gretchen has done an extensive interview with Taubes which is available for free as a downloadable PDF through her website. I could just post the link directly to it here, but I don’t think I should do that since she’s requiring an e-mail address in exchange. I will post the link below and you can decide for yourself if you want to get it that way.  The PDF is about 23 pages long and well worth reading.  I periodically get kind of sloppy about my eating habits and then, inevitably, my blood sugar starts climbing. Reading this material has given me a good swift kick and put me back in the abstainer mode where I need to be. Last year I declared that I would abstain completely from any kind of sweets or desserts during the holiday season, and I did so, and it worked out great. But then I regressed. The last time my A1C was checked, several months ago, it was 6.1, well past the point that is considered pre-diabetes. That’s not good.  I will get another A1C check sometime in February, as I’m supposed to have the test every six months or so. If I could get down below 5.9 I would be thrilled. But sugar (which includes all processed refined carbs) is implicated in a host of other ills, including high blood pressure, which I also have, although it’s pretty mild. I would love to get off even the low dose of medication I take for that. So hats off to Gary Taubes, and here’s the link to her webpage where you can get the PDF:

“Interview with Gary Taubes:  The Case Against Sugar”

(Note: the links to Taubes’ books in the paragraph above are Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on a link you will be taken to my store page where you can then use the button to purchase the book through Amazon. I will get a small commission at no cost to you. If you’re interested in the Taubes books, I’d appreciate your buying them through my site.)

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