Susan Silk and Barry Goldman developed the Ring Theory to help guide people through crisis. For a visual aid to better understand it, picture four circles of growing diameters stacked within each other.
At the epicenter or inside the smallest circle is the person experiencing the crisis. Based on different levels of intimacy, the various people in their life will land in one of the three surrounding circles. Listening, encouragement, and compassion flow from the outside in, while venting happens from the middle out.
Seems pretty fair, logical, and simple, right? Unless we’re all in crisis at the same time, sitting in that center spot. (Um, kind of like right now.)
This week, I’ll dive deeper into the Ring Theory and crack open the different types of intimacy. So get ready to say “no” to denial and toxic positivity, and say “yes” to community support, realistic solutions, and validating our human experience.
Welcome to a brand new, unlike-anything-I’ve-ever-done-before series: Global Life in the Hard. For all of October and with a little help from my industry friends, I’ll arm you with resources to build up resilience in response to our current circumstances.
I’ll do this using a three-pronged approach: 1) Expat Happy Hour podcasts, 2) Expats on Purpose discussions and mini-coaching bonuses, and 3) 100% FREE topic-specific, intimate, and intense workshops throughout the month.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- When old resilience strategies stop working
- Feeling the guilt & pressure to move forward
- How denial catapults you into anxiety & depression
- Dumping on random people at the grocery store
- Why emotional connection is like oxygen
Listen to the Full Episode
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- Global Life in the Hard
- Expat Coach Coalition
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
- Susan Silk and Barry Goldman: The Ring Theory
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 8:00 am in New York, 2:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 7:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
Who here’s hungry for a good ol’ dose of toxic positivity? I’m guessing no one.
Today is one of those days where I’ve got some thoughts that I want to share, and I’m not really sure if it’s gonna be a rant or ramble right now, in our global context. There’s this idea of in some areas of the world, life returning to normal. But depending on where you live you might be in a hard lockdown. Some people are going back to work. While others businesses have been turned upside down because of the loss of revenue that they faced from the global pandemic. Not to mention a global climate crisis and a racial reckoning happening around the world. There’s a lot going on. Right? And what I’m noticing right now is we are at the same time, holding this uncertainty and are hearing or feeling pressure to move forward.
Now. I’m the last person to say, “Oh just, you know, put your hands up and give up.” I believe that we have more in us than we give ourselves credit. And that we need to do the work to not lose focus of taking care of ourselves and the ones that we love so that we can continue to move forward with purpose and meaning in our lives. Right? And I also believe there’s something called gravity. Gravity is the reality and we are navigating something that we’ve never seen before. I’m noticing with clients who have really strong resilience strategies that the things that were working before just aren’t cutting it.
I noticed with myself, I’ve made adaptations even to my exercise routine because the type of rest that I was giving myself wasn’t quite enough. And I had to get creative with how I showed up in my regular routines to continue to meet my own needs.
What’s amazing about this energy that we’re holding is how do we accept what is, and hold a positive outlook to move forward? And the thing is with toxic positivity if you go back to it. It’s when people say, “Well just think positive, change your mindset,” and let’s say in the coaching community that you see immensely. How do we think positively and make space for sitting in the heart emotions at the same time? Because what we do know is when we ignore our emotions we’re actually operating from a place of denial, and we are creating a context that can catapult us into anxiety or depression. That’s not the answer.
So, because of all of this, I have decided to do a month-long series called: Global Life in the Hard. We’re all just trying to do life and for those of us who are living globally mobile lives, we have that level of complexity added on top of the fact that our global lives are no longer mobile. Or we are in cultural contexts that have intensified because of what’s going on with a pandemic and all the other things that we’ve mentioned. Global Life in the Hard. How can we sit in the hard? Do what we need to do to accept those realities and move forward in a way that nurtures us and helps us stay on purpose on the things that mean the most to us, right?
So that’s what we’re going to be talking about on Expat Happy Hour and in my Facebook group Expats on Purpose for the coming weeks. And I just want to acknowledge, depending on where we are in the world, and also our positionality, our identities in the world, we’re all impacted differently.
Some of you might be really struggling because you haven’t seen your loved ones for two years. Or maybe there’s a threat to your family finances and you’re worried that you’re going to have to leave the country where your kids feel settled. It could be that the way that you used to make money is now impossible and you’re still struggling to regain your feet financially. Or it could be that the travel restrictions are keeping you away from seeing your aging parents, or you might have even lost a loved one.
I know there are clients that are in lockdown and they can only go shopping for food on specified days, because of the government that is ruling the country that they live in. Or maybe all of these things are happening to you at the same time, right?
So this is for you and this is also for those of you who are listening, who are coaches and psychologists and practitioners, who support us in the globally mobile community. Join me inside Expats on Purpose. I’ve got eight free workshops coming up. I’ll put the details in the show notes. This episode of Expat Happy Hour will kick off the whole theme and then you’re going to get more juicy details inside the community every single week for the next month.
So, I’m really excited to announce this week’s focus for Global Life in the Hard. Week one is about: Creating International Connections in the Hard. We’re gonna talk about connection in general in this episode. And what I see happening right now. But in our free sessions inside, Expats on Purpose, we’re going to break down some strategies that will help alleviate loneliness, fast-track your cultural learning. And I’m going to share a really innovative approach on the things that we can go through to work on staying connected to ourselves and to others when we’re in an unfamiliar culture. So stay tuned for that and you can check out more details in the show notes.
But before we learn more about Global Life in The Hard, I really want to talk about connections in general. And what I’m seeing right now is that it’s connected to this idea of toxic positivity and that’s the absolute last thing that we need right now. We are feeling, this is what I’m noticing, we are feeling disconnected, one from ourselves and from our loved ones, right? And I don’t just mean the distance. There is a disconnect because we’re not giving ourselves permission to create emotional connection in a way that has a ton of depth.
Now, let me explain another way of talking about connection is intimacy and you’re familiar with intimacy. I know, you know sexual intimacy, there’s spiritual intimacy, physical intimacy, or connection, right? Intellectual connection. All of those things are gorgeous. Connection is nuanced. Intimacy is nuanced. But the one that I always go to first is thinking about emotional connection. And emotional connection is something for me, it’s just like oxygen. I know. I need it to feel whole. I know I needed to feel close to someone and it’s like, we know we need rest right? The same thing.
But what I’m noticing right now is I feel like people are holding back emotionally. They’re holding back emotionally with themselves. And they’re also holding back emotionally with others. And you might be saying, “Are you kidding me? Sundae, where are you getting this from?” Here is what I’m watching. There’s something from Susan Silk and Barry Goldman called The Ring Theory. Now, the Ring Theory is essentially: how do we support someone when they’re in a crisis? I want you to imagine the person in a crisis is in the center of the circle. And then there’s a ring outside of this person in crisis that is closest to that person in the center of the circle, right? Then there’s another ring of close friends and family that know them. And then there’s a ring that goes one layer out, maybe we’re colleagues or neighbors. And then there’s another ring, which might be like, you know, random friends on social media, etc. And what we know about these concentric circles is that we need to be really clear. We have to support the person in the center ring. You support the person who’s struggling and then you grieve out, which means you’re watching this person in crisis, and you see how hard that is and you support them. But then you should grieve out and go, “Oh my God, it’s so hard for my friend who’s in crisis,” and you look out to the circle so you can get support from people in the outer ring.
Does that make sense? That is what this concentric circle is. We support in and we complain out. But here’s my hypothesis. Right now, it’s like everybody is in the center of the circle. Right?
We’re in the situation where we feel, we’re in the center, but then we look at our friend who is in the center, and that person is in the center. And we know everybody is in the center of this crisis because it is a global pandemic, on top of the climate crisis, on top of racial reckoning. There’s so many layers here. So we’re looking at our situation and we’re staying, “I can’t complain out because there’s no one out. There’s no one out. So because I can’t complain out,” vent to someone that you care about and love. Then what happens is you tell yourself, “I shouldn’t feel this way because there are other people that have it as hard or harder than me.”
And then you feel shame for even wishing that you could lean on someone for support. Or you feel like you’re a bad person because you’re too weak and I’m doing air quotes here now, with my fingers, because you’re struggling and look at that person over there, who has it way worse than you.
So now you’re telling yourself a story that you’re not resilient. You’re telling yourself a story that you’re flawed because you’re not able to hold up your life in a way that is as positive as this other person who has it way worse than you, right? So everybody is contracting, and they’re not creating authentic emotional connection because they’re holding that back from themselves and from others. And what we’re doing is we’re minimizing, we’re denying or invalidating our own human experience. We are not giving ourselves permission to feel and express the full range of emotions that we have as humans. And then we not only push that down. But then we judge ourselves for maybe being jealous of someone else who seems to have it better. Or maybe feeling sad that we’re not showing up or making as much progress as someone else who has even more complexity. And then it creates this spiral of intensity, including emotions like shame.
And then there’s no space. No space for self-compassion. No space for vulnerability with others. No space for transparency. That’s what I’m seeing.
And we put our chin up and our filters on and we go on IG and we look at memes that say, “you should change your mindset, change your attitude,” which is true. We have a lot of power in our attitude, but not at the sacrifice of feeling our real emotions. Giving ourselves permission to sit in them. Feeling the discomfort, instead of suppressing it. And then, of course, inviting anxiety, depression, and all those other things that can impact you.
So this is an observation. A hunch, I wanted to share with you based on what I’m seeing if we’re talking about connection. For those of you who know me best, I’m talking about like real connection. I want people to get in there in the nitty-gritty with themselves and with others. And if we’re going to talk about other connections, connections with locals, connections across cultures, none of that is going to feel as connected if we are disconnected from ourselves, right?
How are we going to create real relationships with other people, when we are not even allowing ourselves to give permission to ourselves for acknowledging how we’re really doing.
And I’m not suggesting that we need to dump grief, sadness, self-doubt, or all of that on any random person we see in the grocery store.
The invitation I’m offering to you is just to give yourself a moment to allow yourself to be in the center of your crisis, knowing full well, there are millions, if not billions of people who are in a maybe even deeper crisis. Admittedly, at the same time, can you for a moment give yourself permission to be in the center of your crisis? To what’s hard now and name that and give yourself some grace for what you’re navigating.
I mean, my clients have good levels of security, good levels of health, good levels of relationship with others and that is a wonderful privilege to have on this planet. At the same time, I look at these amazing beings carrying the weight on their shoulders of not having seen their family for two years. Maybe having lost a loved one while they were abroad. Feeling disconnected because Zoom calls are just not doing it anymore. Holding the insecurity of, “Will we be able to stay in this country long enough so my boys can finish high school or will we be sent back because my partner is going to lose her job,” right? These are also things that are important and weighing heavy on you. And are you allowing yourself permission to acknowledge that? And in your connection with others. Do you have a few safe people that you can just share that and vent out? That’s what the concentric circles, this Ring Theory is about, support in and vent out.
Do you have someone where you’re going to agree that you give each other permission to vent? And that starts with you acknowledging what is hard and giving yourself permission to actually name it.
There you go. That’s just a very small foundation when we’re going to talk about connections, creating international connections in the hard. How about starting with a connection to yourself and how it is hard and how it’s going to be okay? Because you’re going to create momentum. You’re going to create the relationships that are feeding you. You’re going to navigate whatever challenges are coming your way. But just pausing and say, “Hey, okay, I’m going to connect with myself first to acknowledge the hard and then I’m going to give myself permission to create a more intimate connection with someone I love by sharing that.”
So take that with you into your home, into your friendships, into your spiritual communities, maybe even into your workspaces, and see where adding just a little bit more of authentic ownership of how you’re really doing, can create more connection with those that you’re in community most with.
All right. So that’s to kick off our topic on connection in this week inside Expats on Purpose. We’re going to do more around creating connections with locals when you are outside of your home territory and all the swings that we take when we are living abroad and are navigating cultures whether short-term or long-term. A very Innovative approach, that you don’t see out there online nearly anywhere else.
I can’t wait to see you there. It won’t just be me. I’ll be joined by graduates of Expat Coach Coalition and they’re going to bring their wisdom each and every week. Stay tuned for next week where you’ll hear more about the series. Just a little teaser, we’re going to be talking about Getting and Giving Support in the Hard, Midlife in the Hard, including, How to Have a Midlife Reset and oh my, Menopause. And even Making Money in the Hard. So don’t miss it. Check it out in the show notes.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening. I’ll leave you with the words from Steve Jobs: “Let’s go invent tomorrow.”
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