Empathy and The Addict

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

― Henry David Thoreau

I used to watch a show called Charmed about three sisters who were witches with different powers. Alyssa Milano’s character “Phoebe” becomes an empath, meaning she could feel other people’s feelings. Being empathetic is not just a magical power. It’s something most humans are capable of. Well, perhaps sociopaths are incapable of being empathetic. Alcoholics and addicts can have a difficult time feeling empathy. We are generally self-centered during the time when this deadly disease is consuming our lives. A theory I’ve been looking at is that perhaps alcoholics and addicts are highly empathetic. We’re certainly a sensitive lot! I wonder if experiencing other’s feelings is too much for us. Just like pain and joy can be difficult to feel, we medicate all of the feelings, including empathy. In my quest to be more empathetic, I’ve begun a research project to better understand how empathy works. I imagine it could take years, perhaps decades, to complete this work but for now it’s a beginning.

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