Empathy is the state of visualizing someone else’s point of view, including attention to thoughts and emotions at play. This article looks at the potential for you to give empathy rather than insist on receiving it.
Empathy is one of the most healing ingredients for any relationship. When someone experiences receiving empathy, they often feel validated and understood. They feel that the other person took the time to get close to them in a non-judgmental way. When you feel empathy, you feel less triggered and safe. While it may not be obvious, getting empathy might be your actual goal.
When individuals grow up in a household with a lack of empathy, they can feel a state of isolation and confusion. These people may struggle with repeated relationship patterns and conflict. Because empathy is so grand in scope, you could make a case that countless small components of our relationships extend from empathy in some way. When a person had an ‘empathy deficit’ over their life, they might excessively seek empathy from others and feel very rejected if they don’t receive it.
This appetite for empathy can sometimes feel overwhelming to loved ones as they feel the need to continuously show empathy for their addicted family member. This can culminate in someone feeling burned out, callous or detached. It can lead to depression within a family or even start to develop other addictions.
In active family therapy, we are working to help multiple family members both give and receive empathy rather than the empathy only going towards the addicted individual. A good therapist will appreciate this mutual need, simultaneously validating multiple members of the family and holding accountable the addicted individual to also appreciate things from the other person’s point of view.
Empathy is a necessary ingredient for trust. If you are in recovery or on the road to change and feel that your loved ones don’t trust you, have you looked into your capacity to empathize with them? In this way, you are actually improving the dynamics of the family and meeting the subtle needs of your loved ones rather than only expecting them to be available to you.
This topic can be difficult for some people, especially those in severe depression or a crisis. They could even feel offended by this topic. For these individuals, it is the therapist’s job to determine appropriateness for family therapy as opposed to only individual counseling for now. An effective family system requires two-way streets regarding understanding, communication, and patience. When people are in a place to both give and receive, they are able to reach greater levels of stable recovery.