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Is Empathy a Universal Trait?

Empathy is a universal language of recognizing in others what we are able to recognize in ourselves. If I have been through an experience you are describing, I am able to emotionally and intuitively relate to what you are saying. Not only do I understand, I have a deep comprehension of where you are. So to speak, I have walked a mile in your shoes.

One of the most basic human needs, especially in recovery, is to feel understood. Without being addicted to drugs and alcohol, it is hard to understand the depth of addiction. Family members and friends struggle to truly grasp the experience of addiction their loved ones are witnessing. Compassionately, they acknowledge how their loved one suffers, and they sympathize with their experience. Yet, they struggle in developing the empathy needed for validation.

Being in treatment or the rooms of 12 step fellowships offers solidarity in these departments. Walking into a room of like-minded, like-lived people is a sense of relief to many addicts in recovery. In all the world, there is at least one place where they know they will be understood. Someone, at some point in their life has lived through similar trial, tribulation, and even triumph. This sort of fellowship is a keystone in the continuum of recovery.

Is Empathy a Universal Trait?

Is everyone so kind? Research shows that the answer is conditional according to perceived struggle. It might be expected that the people who have suffered the most would have the greatest empathy. Quartz did a social experiment revealing that, at times, those with recent relevant experience were less inclined to have compassion and more inclined to show contempt. For example, one study examined bullying. Participants in the study reacted to two types of people who had overcome bullying. The first coped with the bullying in a way that was defined as successful. The second coped with bullying through violence and lashing out. Compared to people who had not experienced bullying, the people who had were most compassionate toward the successful subject. Yet, for the subject who reacted in violence, people who had experienced bullying themselves were the least compassionate, comparatively. Researchers believe it is a combination of forgetting what it was like, and the ability to overcome such hardships, that turn people cold.

Conclusively, the study reveals an important part of recovery: remembering what it was like. There is no need to stay haunted by one’s past, but rather embrace the humility of recognizing the hardships we have faced. It is important not to lose sight of how far you’ve come because of where you started. We remember that each person’s journey is unique.

Enlightened Solutions offers a spiritual solution to the problem of pervasive drug and alcohol addiction. Our multidisciplinary program offers a holistic approach to healing rooted in twelve step philosophy. It starts with hope. Start your journey to recovery with us. For more information on our treatment programs please call 833-801-5483.

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