HCiA007: Spoon Theory – Helpful or Unhelpful?

We start this episode with a catch up. Carole lets us know how she is going with her book launch (see link to her new book below). She has also been investigating incorporating some of her “9 steps” into corporate wellness programs. A recent health concern with Carole’s daughter has seen her need to re-align her time commitments and she is going to take a few months break from the podcast to focus on nourishing her family.

Mandy has also been busy but mostly on local events and programs. She is organising a free public event for National Pain Week in July (more information can be found here).

This leads to a brief discussion about balance in our lives when managing families, businesses and pain management programs. We talk about prioritising based on what aligns with our values and choosing important over urgent. Balance also comes when we value self-care because we cannot help others if we are not looking after ourselves. spoon

Now, onto the topic of today’s podcast. We talk about The Spoon Theory. An analogy used to explain what it can be like living with chronic pain/illness to someone who has no understanding of the challenges. Online, we often see people with chronic pain/illness refer to themselves as a #spoonie, based on this theory. We can relate to why this analogy is useful as a communication tool.  When you do not look sick, people can have a hard time understanding what it can be like to live with pain on a daily basis. We both believe this would be an excellent tool to use to start a conversation with a loved one.

But both Carole and Mandy have also some concerns about using this as a constant reference. And here is why:

It reinforces that you are not 100% and focuses on what is holding you back. The very idea of a limited number of spoons (activity/energy levels) can be a demoralising mindset and allows you to be repeatedly reminded of what you can’t do.

With this belief, you feel disempowered that you have no control over the situation. You may also feel as though your situation is static and will never change. But there are things you can do and improvements that can come with the right mindset, techniques and approach.

The theory suggests a comparison to what you used to be able to achieve, the person you used to be…we find this kind of comparison unhelpful.

[Hi! Mandy here: I had the opportunity to edit out the part around 23mins when I totally loose my train of thought, but I decided to keep it in. Don’t worry, I (kind of) find my brain again!]

We then discuss pacing and how having a goal based activity mindset can assist in working through the problem of what some people perceive as a limited amount of energy or limiting amount of pain.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you agree, disagree? We would LOVE to have some feedback and so please let us know what you thought of this discussion. Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page or leave us a rating/comment on iTunes.

This conversation was also started recently in a blog I love to follow. If you want another perspective, please read this blogpost by Julie Ryan.


Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps: Building the mindset and team you need to suffer less and achieve more

What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives


1 Comment on HCiA007: Spoon Theory – Helpful or Unhelpful?

  1. Your perspective is not much different from my own at this point. I don’t/ can’t focus on counting spoons from day to day or even focusing on the pain or the fatigue I’m in each day. I’m either feeling good enough to do things or I’m not. When I need to rest I try to rest and pace myself. When I’m feeling good I still try to remember to pace myself (it doesn’t always work as well as it should – at least not lately).

    I’ve never really been able to see the idea of waking up and knowing how many spoons I have for the day. It’s a great way of explaining our limited energy but the one fault I find with it is that most of us don’t know an exact count of how much we can do. We have spoons or we don’t.

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