Spoon Theory for grown-ups (a new analogy)

So, I'm a big fan of Spoon Theory but I feel it is quite forgettable as non-spoonies can't connect with the full consequences on a personal level. And I need to find an effective way to help family, 'friends' and any future employers/colleagues understand why, when I recover from my latest burnout, I won't be picking up from where I left off with my high-octane career.

Enter Beer Theory (well, that's what I'm calling it for now, but it works with wine, shots or whatever). With Beer Theory, you ask the non-spoonie what their alcohol limit is; y'know, the number of pints at which they know they'll probably throw up and pass out on the floor. This is their limit that, when reached, they are no longer able to function. (Can you see where I'm going with this?) Okay, let's say your non-spoonie friend says their limit is ten pints of beer: they know if they go out and drink ten pints of beer tonight, they won't be doing anything tomorrow except mopping up vomit when they finally regain consciousness sometime after noon.

You: "Okay, so if you only drink nine and a half pints, then you'll be fine?"

Them: "Yeah, give or take, I should be fine."

You: "Great, if you drink nine and a half pints each day, then you can continue to function as normal with no ill effects?"

Them: "Well, no, I couldn't drink that much every day."

You: "Why not? It's below your limit?"

Them: "Yes, but the cumulative effect wouldn't be good."

You: "Okay, so how many pints could you drink sustainably?"

Them: "I dunno, maybe two or three."

You: "Is that all? That's significantly less than your limit."

Them: "Yes, but to do it every day and to function with no ill effects, it would have to be. Besides, I probably wouldn't drink every day anyway."

You: "What do you mean you probably wouldn't drink every day? If you can do it without any ill effects, why not?"

Them: "Well, it's not good for you to be drinking every day, and over time it probably would make me ill."

You: "Hmm. So how many days a week could you drink two or three pints with no ill effects long-term?"

Them: "I dunno. Maybe two or three days a week."

You: "Is that all? Hmm. Okay, so despite the fact you can drink nine and a half pints in a night and function as normal the following day, you're only able to drink two to three pints a day, two to three days a week if you want to continue functioning in all other areas of your life long-term?"

Them: "Er, yeah. So what?"

You: "So, what you've basically described is the equivalent of me doing a menial job on part-time hours."

Them: <Stunned silence>

You: "And just like when you get cajoled into having a couple of extra pints or going out a couple of extra nights a week other areas of your life start to suffer, so too when I get asked to stay on an extra hour or work an extra day, I'm then not able to function in other areas of my life."


What do you reckon? Does it work as an analogy that non-spoonies will understand?

Edit: I think it works on an additional level where spoons don't because the more someone drinks, the more their communication, coordination, memory, mental processing etc. becomes impaired, just like it does with us and our overexposure to stimuli etc.

  • This is amazing - I love it!! I really struggle with spoon theory (I just can't work out how to equate spoons to my energy levels), but beer is something I understand :) 

    This has actually helped me to understand myself better (and would be much easier to explain to other people), so thank you. I feel like you should publish this somewhere.

  • Thank you, DuckBread. I'm so pleased it's helped. I think it works on an additional level where spoons don't because the more someone drinks, the more their communication, coordination, memory, mental processing etc. becomes impaired, just like it does with us and our overexposure to stimuli etc.

    I'll maybe have a look at doing a page on Wikipedia. Slight smile

    Update: Looks like Wiki will only accept articles on ideas that are already in common circulation. Need to find ways to get the word out elsewhere first...

  • I think that has some significant advantages over spoon theory:

    • It accounts for the cumulative effect of being even just a little overstretched where spoon theory doesn't
    • It alludes to the non-linear nature of extra demands (the ninth pint has an awful lot more impact than the first) - again in spoon theory every spoon is equivalent
    • It expresses the fact that continual overstretch is bad for your health

    It also could be developed to illustrate the long term effects of burnout ("Yeah, I *used to* drink 9 pints on an average night out, but since my liver transplant I can't do that any more; please, please try to understand.....")

    It could also be adapted to illustrate the impact of discovering the root cause of a lifelong problem that you've been coping with and now need to approach differently (like an ASD realisation / diagnosis) ("I always found that even one glass of red wine made me incredibly ill. Turns out I'm allergic to tannin." / "But you'll be able to share a bottle of red with me when you're feeling better again, won't you?" / "NO you ***ckwit! Please try to understand.....").

    And you're right with your edit - even a little work effort / socialising etc sometimes depletes our reserves and affects our judgement.

  • Blog? Although to be honest I've found that getting a blog into a position where many people read it is tough. What about doing an article for an autism related magazine, or even a national newspaper or the London Metro or something? Or a book - an Anthology of Autism Analogies? I'd be happy to contribute to that one :-)

    (Now getting carried away; "An Anthology of Autism Analogies: An Artful Agglomeration of Articles for Assisting Allistic Appreciation of Autism")

  • Those are really great publicity ideas, thank you IdwCC. I especially like the thought of the Anthology of Analogies where lots of adult auties could contribute their own experiences. It could be a useful resource for parents, teachers, support/mental health workers and HR departments. Oooh, you've got me thinking all sorts now!

  • * Takes a bow * Thank you.

    As soon as my blog is up and running, I'll let you know so you can add those insights. :)

  • By popular (by aspie standards anyway) request, this is now a blog: https://beertheory.weebly.com/

    Please do add your comments and share with family, friends, colleagues etc.

  • just found this - brilliant and really clearly explained