I have always hated the “spoons theory” analogy. I hate it because it is NOT a theory or an analogy at all.
(If you deal with chronic pain or health issues, hang on; I am with you. I have had chronic issues of my own, including severe depression, anxiety, years of inflammation in every part of my body, scoliosis, nearly constant but unexplained ear infections.)
A real theory would suggest a cure for the problem. A genuine “spoon theory” might suggest that spooning (cuddling) could cure you. Or it might give ideas about where your chronic pain comes from, that maybe the lead content of your dinnerware was causing your illness. That’s not what the “Spoons Theory” does; it doesn’t suggest any cure or treatment.
A genuine analogy would be a comparison to something you actually do use up during the day, like a money allowance or calorie count. Analogies compare like things to other like things. How many spoons would an ordinary American use during a day? Two, maybe three? No one is given a certain number of actual spoons at the beginning of the day and no one runs out of actual spoons; you just wash them and re-use them.
So why has it become a universal code for telling people you’re in too much pain, or exhausted just from an ordinary day?
OH. That’s it. It’s not a theory, it’s not an analogy. It’s a code.
“Spoons” is a code word. You’re in pain and you say the code word, “spoons”. Other people who know the code word immediately understand, because they have been given the code word too.
This code is known and used by chronically ill people and understood by other members of a struggling society of disabled. If you have fibromyalgia and you say “I am out of spoons,” that code word is understood by the palsied woman using a walker. If you have rheumatoid arthritis and say, “I am not sure I have enough spoons to do this”, that code word is understood by the PTSD survivor who is using every ounce of strength to keep panic at bay.
If you’re wondering why on earth this bothers me at all, since it’s clear I understand why the code word exists? It’s because words are important to me. If you use the word “analogy” or “theory”, I need to hear an analogy or a theory. If you told a child to put on shoes and instead they put on a scarf, would that work? Probably not. If you told a waiter to please bring you coffee and instead they brought you eggs, would that work? Probably not.
If you’re talking to someone who needs to hear the right words, call this the “Spoon Code” and they’ll understand. And you’ll have my gratitude. 🙂