Empathy is a vital skill that you need to develop as you work through your reboot.
It’s a key emotion to work on as you develop emotional reboot capital. Empathy is something that everyone is capable of cultivating but it works just like a muscle: it atrophies if you don’t use it. However, you can also build it up with consistent training and practice.
What is Empathy?
In a nutshell, empathy is your ability to recognize and embrace another person’s point of view. It’s the practice of putting yourself in their shoes, experiencing what they’re experiencing, and understanding what they’re going through.
There are three different kinds of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy. Knowing the difference between these three forms of empathy can help you create good responses depending on context. You may not need all of them at every moment but it’s useful to learn which situations require which form of empathy.
Cognitive empathy means knowing what the other person is going through. You’re able to put yourself in their shoes while maintaining some distance. For example, when someone feels hurt or ashamed you intellectually embrace what they’re going through while keeping an appropriate distance, or “staying out of the problem.”
Emotional empathy means sharing another person’s experience with them. Think about the ways people describe physical manifestations of their emotions, like a feeling in their gut or a pain in their chest. In this way, emotions are almost contagious. Emotional empathy occurs when you tap into these deep emotional experiences.
Finally, compassionate empathy is a combination of both cognitive and emotional empathy. It’s a perfectly balanced empathy that allows you to use all available information to relate to another person. It’s the most effective and emotionally intelligent way to empathize with those around you. It limits the emotional distance of cognitive empathy but lessens the intensity of emotional empathy.
Empathy vs. Sympathy
Before you can develop empathy it’s important to distinguish empathy from sympathy. While sympathy sounds like a nice characteristic, it can actually cause a lot of harm. Too many people use sympathy as a way to enable someone’s excuses. It often turns into feeling sorry for the person which keeps them stuck in the perpetual victim state.
No one can grow when they’re sitting in this position. They believe everything is happening to them, not around them. They think the world is out to do them wrong. They insist they have no power or control over the situation they’re in. And sympathizing with this type of person will only make their problems worse.
However, empathy offers a clear perspective on their situation. It allows room for understanding while leaving no room for excuses or stagnant behavior. Empathy accepts and acknowledges a person’s starting point but then holds them accountable for moving forward and taking action to change their circumstances. It shows you want the best for them.
Empathy and Accountability
Empathy is an especially important skill to develop when it comes to accountability partnerships. If you lack empathy while working with an accountability partner you limit your capability to be helpful. If you only have sympathy then you enable your partner’s poor behavior and excuses.
You’re most effective when you develop a strong sense of empathy. You can listen to your accountable partners and relate to their difficulties while still holding them to a higher standard.
You’re in a unique position to empathize with your brothers in the porn addiction recovery program, too, because you understand exactly what they’re going through. You know how challenging it is to overcome your out-of-control behavior. At the same time, though, you also know it’s possible and can keep your brothers on track.
How Can You Develop Empathy?
Years of porn addiction problems and compulsive sexual behavior likely destroyed your capacity for empathy. You may feel incapable of love, kindness, and understanding. If you’re in this position you’re far from alone. Many brothers share the same struggles when they first arrive at the Porn Reboot program.
Like I said earlier, though, empathy is like a muscle. While it may have atrophied over the years you can begin to build it back up through intentional practice. Developing empathy is possible as you learn to control your behavior and end your pornography addiction.
The best way to begin your practice is to start with yourself. Focus on cultivating compassion and empathy toward yourself before attempting to turn it outward. It’s like every airplane safety video you’ve ever heard: “In the event of an emergency, please affix your oxygen mask before helping others around you.”
I have a simple practice you can use to begin developing empathy. First, think about a problem you’re dealing with right now. Put that problem into words. “I’m really worried about __________. I feel __________.” Learn to identify the feelings you experience as a result of this particular situation.
Now, remind yourself that other people likely experience similar feelings during similar situations. There is always someone who understands and has gone through whatever it is you’re going through. Think about the ways you’re feeling and recognize that someone else feels the same way. Don’t you want to offer them the reassurance you’d like to feel?
Next, call to mind three to five people in your life whom you admire and respect. Consider the things they may say to encourage you through this struggle. They might tell you to be kind to yourself, to take care of yourself, to nurture yourself, to love yourself, and so on. Hear these people you care about telling you these things in your mind and begin embracing them.
Another way to develop self-compassion is to see yourself through the eyes of a loving grandparent. They’re somewhat removed from your upbringing and therefore have a more gentle view of you. While your parents deal with your every difficult attribute, your grandparents are less inclined to focus only on the negative. Try to view yourself the way your grandparents may see you.
Reach Out For Help
Developing empathy doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Sure, you may make some progress without leaning on others. But true compassion for yourself and those around you happens when you bring the practice into the real world.
I suggest joining us in the free Porn Reboot Facebook group and finding some men who are working to cultivate empathy. It’s a bunch of regular guys just like you who struggle with the same exact things. They know what you’re dealing with and can walk you through their own experiences with developing empathy.
It’s not something that happens all at once but I guarantee you it’s worth the effort. The benefits of cultivating empathy expand far outside yourself and your immediate circle; they impact everyone you come in contact with each day of your life.