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Avoid the Empathy Trap with These Helpful Tips

Avoid the Empathy Trap with These Helpful Tips

Empathy is what makes people human, it also makes us understand one another better if we can feel and recognize the challenge of each others’ circumstances. More importantly, empathy is being compelled to help someone else in need. It can also get us in trouble when a loved one struggles with addiction. Our initial response is to help but may do more harm than good for them. Find some ways to avoid falling into the empathy trap before you both get stuck.

What is an Empathy Trap

Simply put, an empathy trap is when our empathy turns into enabling. A family member is not able to pay rent or take care of bills so we hand them money. Even if we suspect they are not going to use it for rent, we feel for their situation and get easily manipulated to hand over money to help when we shouldn’t.

Empathy Double Standard

Addiction has many ugly faces but nothing seems more common than addiction’s ability to manipulate. Manipulation is playing a person’s own emotions against them. Empathy provides fertile ground for manipulation. A person with addiction may not full recognize their manipulative patterns. Addiction can actually dull the brain’s ability to feel empathy. Even as our empathy meter is off the charts, a person with addiction may not be able to empathize with you (or recognize their own manipulation). The double standard of one-way empathy is an empathy trap that is difficult to emerge from in a healthy way.

Avoid the Trap

People with addiction do deserve help and empathy. Empathy helps us be human and we must help our loved ones. Everytime we fall into the trap, we feed into addiction to embolden the manipulation. These three ways can help you avoid being victimized:

  • See the addiction for what it is. Let go of denial and start to realize what you need to do to actually make a difference. Assert your recognition of the situation so you can climb out.
  • Stop enabling your loved one. Empathy is not enabling but if we care too much that we let them take advantage of us then it becomes a situation where we cannot say no. Recognize the addiction so you are better equipped to approach situations with more mindfulness.
  • Tough love can be defined as an uncaring way to care for others. It may be hard but necessary step to help someone with addiction stop doing what they are doing.

Once you can stop falling into the empathy trap, you can begin to recognize the need for a better way of doing things. A better way of supporting that loved one with addiction with tough love that is empathetic but not keeping you trapped with them. In the end, it will help you both better.

The struggle with addiction is knowing when to let go. It can be hard to see a loved one suffer but seeking help for addiction starts with their admitting a problem exists. If you need help for a loved one, call us. We will share the ways we can support their recovery journey if they are ready to take the next step. We will help you find what you need. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401