Empathetic Joy in Recovery

Joys of Recovery
Giving up an addiction means that the individual improves their life. As they build a life away from alcohol and drugs they are sure to experience a great deal of joy. While in the midst of their addiction it may have been impossible for the individual to understand how somebody could be sober in happy. In sobriety they learn that the addict doesn’t even know the meaning of the word _happy_. Those who dedicate themselves to the sober life can not only experience joy at their own successes and accomplishment, but they can also feel pleasure at the successes of other people. This is a vastly different attitude than the addict who is often full of negatively and [Schadenfruede](http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2000/05/10.html).

Empathy Defined
Empathy can be defined as the [ability to understand another human’s situation](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/empathy-in-recovery/). In order to get a proper understanding it is necessary for the individual to _put themselves in the shoes of the other person_. It differs from sympathy which is only about identifying with certain feelings; with empathy the individual is attempting to understand what it is like to be this other person. This is an important skill for people in recovery because it allows them to understand that despite external differences humans are very much in the same boat.

Empathetic Joy Defined
Empathetic joy can be defined as [experiencing pleasure due to the accomplishments or success of other people](http://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/dimensions-of-metta). The individual feels happiness because somebody else is doing well. They are not likely to benefit directly from this success, but they just feel happy because somebody else is feeling happy. This type of joy is also known as [Mudita](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudita) and the ability to experience is a sign of great spiritual and emotional development.

Benefits of Emphatic Joy in Recovery
The ability to experience Mudita is beneficial in a number of ways including:

* When people experience joy at the achievements of other people it means that they will always have something to feel good about.
* Many people suffer because they spent too much time focused on their own needs and concerns. Spending more time thinking about other people is the perfect remedy to this.
* The ability to appreciate the success of other people can help the individual deal better with their own life.
* It means that people will be less likely to experience negative emotions such as resentment, jealousy, and bitterness.
* This is a highly attractive character train and it makes the individual more appealing to other people. Those who experience Mudita usually find it easy to establish meaningful relationships.
* It is good for both mental and physical health.
* It is a sign of [emotional sobriety](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/emotional-sobriety/), and this should mean that the individual is less likely to relapse back to addiction.
* It helps people sleep better at night.

Dangers of Schadenfreude in Recovery
_Schadenfruede_ is the complete opposite of empathetic joy. This is a German word that means to take joy in the misfortune of other people. It means that the individual actually [gets a pleasurable feeling when they hear that somebody else is doing badly](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude). This type of joy is viewed negatively and it can actually be harmful for the individual. The [dangers of Schadenfreude for people in recovery](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/dangers-of-schadenfruede-in-recovery/) include:

* It is usually a sign that people are dealing with [low self-esteem](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/addiction-and-low-self-esteem/). In order for people to find happiness in recovery they will need to build their self-esteem.
* This is an unattractive personality trait that other people tend to find a bit repulsive. If the individual frequently engages in Schadenfreude it may mean that they struggle to build meaningful relationships.
* The individual will use the failures of other people to justify their own lack of progress. So long as they are able to find somebody who is worse off than them they can feel superior.
* Schadenfreude is a type of [stinking thinking](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/stinking-thinking/) that prevents people from making progress in recovery.
* Many of the individuals who engage in this type of behavior also experience guilt because of it. Deep down they know that what there are doing is not healthy.

Empathetic Joy and Loving Kindness
Empathetic joy is closely related to [loving kindness](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/metta-meditation-in-recovery/). It is often used to refer to [acts of kindness that are motivated by love](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving-kindness), but it can also mean feelings of goodwill towards the rest of the human race. It is possible for people to deliberately cultivate loving kindness, and this will mean that they will find it easier to develop empathetic joy.

How to Develop Metta and Empathetic Joy
There are a number of things that people can do to develop empathetic joy and loving kindness including:

* The most effective means of developing metta is to [practice loving kindness meditation](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mett%C4%8). This practice involves cultivating good feelings toward other people until the individual begins to do this naturally.
* Empathetic joy can become a habit. The individual can begin by deliberately trying to feel happy about the accomplishments of other people until eventually they begin doing this naturally.
* Devoting time and energy to helping other people can also increase feelings of loving kindness and empathetic joy. This type of voluntary work is also good for strengthening recovery – particularly when it involves helping those who are still struggling with an addiction.
* Listening to other people and try to find out more about their lives is also a great help. The individual should learn how to listen empathically to what is being said.
* It is also beneficial to focus on the things that all humans have in common rather than the things that make them different.
* Sometimes people have to _fake it to make it_. This means that even though they might be struggling with negative emotions they still try to develop positive thoughts.

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