Empathy: A Vital Ingredient for Recovery

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Have you ever heard the phrase “contempt breeds contempt”? While this can be applied to many situations, it definitely rings true among the thousands of families out there watching a loved one battle addiction.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Watching a loved one plunge deeper and deeper into addiction, it’s easy to cast blame, point fingers and focus on all the destruction he’s caused as a result of the dependency. But, if you haven’t realized by now, this type of response isn’t going to generate the outcome you desire. In fact, it could make the situation worse, causing him to push back with even more hostility and opposition.

That’s why responding with compassion and empathy is so important in the treatment of addiction and alcoholism.

Offering Some Understanding

Empathy is being able to understand another person’s point of view; it’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Being able to relate to your addicted loved one means you’re making an effort to identify with his feelings and insecurities. It’s the best way to build trust with him and is, essentially, a crucial puzzle piece in maintaining your relationship.

Overcoming Shame

Empathy is also important in overcoming the cornerstone of addiction: shame. Many addicts feel guilt or shame over their destructive behavior patterns, so responding with criticism or judgment does not help the problem. In fact, it only leaves him feeling defensive, disconnected and unable to move forward.

Reacting in a supportive and caring way, however, garners a different result. When we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can connect with that person on a deeper level. And it is through this connection that true healing begins – for both of you.

Additional Advantages of Empathy

It’s important to remember that self-healing isn’t the only advantage of using empathy as a tool. Other benefits include less family conflict, improved communication, increased open-mindedness and a more positive outlook on life.
Utilizing empathy also leads to stronger overall relationships and, ultimately, a better emotional state to thrive in sobriety as he journeys down the road of recovery.
Additional Reading: A Guide for Helping a Loved One in Early Recovery

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