Addiction Recovery: How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Empathy

Some people wonder how to trust a person going through addiction recovery after feeling burned in the past, betrayed and used. You can effectively communicate empathy for a stranger or loved one going through addiction recovery while still maintaining personal boundaries. When it comes to setting healthy boundaries and supporting your loved one’s addiction recovery, your No. 1 goal is to protect your safety. Revealing personal information that could hurt you isn’t necessary to demonstrate concern and empathy for another human being. In an idealistic world, you could trust anyone. However, the best approach as a trustworthy person is to keep appropriate boundaries. Some people don’t understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Expressing sympathy and empathy differs in that sympathy is about feeling compassion but not expressing the idea that you have “been there” or are currently experiencing the sensations of being in that situation. In other words, an empathetic person might cry with you.

Addiction Recovery: How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Empathy

Using your body language, voice

To communicate empathy, make every effort to mirror the person if you are together in person. If you are talking on the phone, be sure to speak at the same speed or pace and with a similar tone. To help them change states into a more positive one, slowly become more positive or happier until the other person reaches a happier level. If they sound depressed use the same depressive monotone voice, but gradually become more upbeat. In person, you can mirror their body language by remaining slumped down or eyes cast down. Gradually, bring them up by looking up and smiling.

Making uplifting comments

You can show empathy by letting a person know you have been through something similar or experienced the same emotions under different circumstances. Tell a positive story about how a similar situation occurred with a happy ending. Most movies in American have a happy ending because people like to go home on an upbeat note. Focus on times when your loved one or friend accomplished a goal, overcame a problem or helped you through a difficult time. Encourage them by reminding them of their past successes instead of talking about failures.

The way to maintain your boundaries is to act in a compassionate way without revealing personal information that could hurt you. You can show empathy without sacrificing your own safety or security. Some people will use your empathetic state as a door to ask for a favor, money or sex. Make it clear you aren’t able to help with anything other than a listening ear.

At Family Restoration Counseling Services, we help people in the Greater Dallas area get in touch with their authentic self. For more strategies on how to communicate empathy and counseling services, please contact us.

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