man thinking

Empathy 101: Understanding Ourselves, Understanding Others

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch teaches his daughter Scout a lesson about getting along with others. There’s a “simple trick” for her to learn, he says. She has to learn how to see the world from the other person’s perspective. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus speaks a tremendous truth here. We cannot understand someone, and all of the millions of life experiences which have shaped them, until we really get an understanding of what it is like to be them- their thoughts, their feelings, and their beliefs, in addition to their experiences.

As men who have lived under the control of addiction, we might not even really know ourselves. Drugs and alcohol have kept us so detached from ourselves that we haven’t lived within our own skin in quite some time. We’ve been walking around, but detached from the world. Behind a haze of intoxication, we haven’t been fully present in ourselves or in the presence of other people. Getting sober is a harsh introduction to empathy for ourselves. We’re thrown into presence with our mind and body- and it is nothing short of uncomfortable. The emotions are overwhelming as we detox from substances, realizing what it is we’ve been putting our body and the rest of ourselves through. As we come back to life, we realize we haven’t been living life at all. Settling into ourselves and our own skin again is a challenge. We have to develop enormous empathy toward ourselves in order to make peace with the damage we caused in addiction.

The more we can learn to empathize with ourselves, the more we can learn to empathize with others. Addiction can cause us to feel like we can’t relate to others until we realize that everyone is having a shared experience- the human experience. How we have our human experience varies. Once we learn how to experience our own lives, we can step into the lives of others. In doing so, we step out of our self-focused world and become more universally minded, compassionate, and willing to participate in everyone’s lives.


Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premier men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate, and that recovery isn’t a sprint– it’s a marathon. By showing our men how to celebrate each day’s victories, we show them that self love isn’t about what we have or haven’t done. It’s about getting a little closer to where we want to be. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138.

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