Many clinicians and treatment programs are talking about empathy these days. So what’s so important about this? I see a few values to empathy. First, it fuels connection with others. Connection increases a person’s sense of well-being and belonging. If you are going to community meetings and focusing on how you are different from others, it will be a lot harder to have success than if you are focusing on having empathy for others. And having empathy will allow you to notice your similarities rather than you differences.
Not only that, but empathy is the antidote for lasting hurt and anger. When anger builds, and when it is fueled by a sense of hurt or betrayal, it can become like a time-bomb that makes people very vulnerable to relapse or other destructive behaviors. I am sure I am missing many other benefits of empathy, but the huge benefit that I see is it just feels better than not having it. Feeling empathy allows people to get out of themselves, out of their own heads and into a world where people are connected.
No one person stands alone. Everything that each of us do affects others, and vice versa. Truly experiencing this means letting go of irritation and anger, letting go of judgment, and easing any sense of loneliness or “other”-ness, to realize that you are human just like everyone else.
Kirsten Helgager PsyD
AToN Center 888-535-1516