A Helpful Addendum to “Spoon Theory” Using Captain America’s Shield

Author Jim C. Hines has come up with an interesting alternative to Spoon Theory that might make the concept easier to explain to your genre-inclined friends and family: Shield Theory.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Spoon Theory was a helpful metaphor created by Christine Miserandino in 2003 to explain to a friend what life is like with a chronic illness; she gave her friend a dozen spoons to symbolize how much energy she had available to get through any given day, and took spoons away for various tasks and choices. Since her piece explaining the theory over on butyoudontlooksick.com, Spoon Theory has tipped over into common parlance, and proved an incredibly useful tool in helping people discuss the toll of chronic pain, illness, and disabilities in everyday life. Some also use the term to impart how much mental and/or physical energy they have to cope with day-to-day difficulties i.e. “I’m out of spoons today.”

Over on his blog, author Jim C. Hines recently talked about coming up with a way to reframe Spoon Theory for his son, thinking that the concept might be too abstract for him. Instead, he talked about having a shield, just like Captain America:

Because in general, every day has good stuff and bad stuff. And just like Cap, we all have a shield we can use to deflect some of the bad stuff and keep it from getting to us. But sometimes there’s too much stuff to block it all, and Cap gets hurt. We all have bad days like that sometimes, where there’s just too much.

Using the shield as a metaphor enabled Hines to explain to his son why some days it was easier to handle irritants than others. He altered the metaphor slightly to suggest that the shield could grow or shrink in size based on the amount of self-care a person performed in their life, such as exercise, or getting enough sleep, or spending time with loved ones.

The Shield Theory could be additionally helpful for people who suffer from problems that are not chronic in nature, ailments that come and go. As Hines says “We all have bad days like that sometimes.” But the other idea that struck me was how Shield Theory could also be useful in helping people monitor how much energy they have to offer others. After all, a shield–if large enough–can be used to protect more than one person. So if you have a good day, and your shield is big enough, perhaps you could extend some of that protection to someone in need. It’s certainly what Cap would do.

Read Jim C. Hines’ Shield Theory post over here!


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