How do you gently direct your loved one to be less self-focused?



I find when I am with my son, the conversation tends to revolve around his life, what he’s trying out, new approaches he is taking to be healthy and set goals. It reminds me of being with someone who is chronically ill - the focus tends to stay on him and his efforts/struggles.

How can I gently expand the focus of conversation and perhaps get my son more interested in how other people, other family members, and the like are doing?


I know this exact feeling @Julie_Smith! My dad does this - all focus on him all the time. It’s so frustrating! Something that helped was a talk-therapy session together with his therapist where I found it helpful to speak my mind about how this behavior is frustrating with the safety of a professional mediating our conversation. We had never done something like this before, and while I was very hesitant to his suggestion, I’m glad we did it. Of course I want to hear about how/what he is doing, but I also want our conversation/relationship to feel more balanced. It hasn’t changed his behavior entirely, but I can tell that he’s at least going through the motion of asking/“listening” (I’m not sure he’s actually listening) to me before speaking.


I love that answer @katie maybe talk therapy would help talk it out of him :wink:

@Julie_Smith I hope this doesn’t sound off-point, do you think he’s just not ready to get to that stage yet? Does he need to be so self-focused right now? Just wondering.

I remember when my husband came out of rehab he really didn’t have bandwidth to focus on much else. It was a bit tough to be around. Now he’s more flexible though.

Barring that, would it help to incorporate others into activities together and make them activities - what fun out of mind type things are available. Maybe rebuilding some social connection and grounding in nature or other ‘pure fun’ activities might help get him out of his head? And start shifting some of those thought patterns.

With my husband when he gets stuck in his head he’s anxiously ruminating and can’t wind down. But this doesn’t sound like the same thing.
Sending <3


Talk therapy is always a good option @katie if available, so happy you shared that! It allows for someone to really help parse out each persons needs and facilitate a safe space for communicating what’s on your mind. @polly I have a similar situation with my brother, when he gets in his own head there’s nothing I can really do to get him out.

But in terms of gently directing them to focus on things outside their own world, this is certainly a tough one @Julie_Smith! Sometimes in early recovery what our loved ones really need is someone to listen. Real change happens over time, because habits take a while to form and the brain needs time to heal to be able to rationalize effectively, this helps conceptualize the fact that not one conversation will make all the difference, but rather the ongoing connection and conversations over time that can slowly shift things. That can put us in a tough position where we are trying to connect and support, but have valid feelings about the lack of interest our loved ones show in our lives. One suggestion other than therapy could be to gently ask how some of his friends are, or share how your family members are doing, “Aunt Jenny just got engaged, let’s writer her a congratulations letter together from the both of us” is an example of how you could communicate that a world exists outside of his own head. Hopefully this can create a shift, even if it’s a small one.

If you want to try this out let me know how it goes :slight_smile:!


This is something that I struggle with my husband. I noticed that when I say something about myself he doesn’t even respond… he is completely quiet and will not engage. I am having such a hard time, his addiction fills every space, their is no room for me. I really want to try the therapy.


Welcome @April - there is room for you here.

A few thoughts:

  • You might find something helpful/related in either this post or this post (or maybe you want to contribute your own perspective!),
  • If therapy is something you’re interested in trying, Psychology Today has a great Therapist Finder tool,
  • You might also consider a complimentary coaching call with our Village Coach @erica (link in the upper left corner).

Thank you for sharing with us - here we believe that addiction doesn’t have to feel so isolating. :hugs:


I actually had somewhat this conversation about addressing the ego driven mentality that comes with addictions and recovery with my boyfriend. He is in the process of living at his parents place but we still talk almost every day since I kicked him out. He is in the process of getting help for his addictions and that is why I kicked him out of our apartment. He was asking me how I was doing and I told him about how I wasn’t doing so well. I told him about my friend who has he own problems with her addictions and trauma and how she had called me asking me to get my boyfriends number for a coke dealer. I told him I wasn’t upset really at the fact that she was asking me really it was more the fact that she calls me out of the blue without even a inquiry to how my life is going really. My friend knows all of the struggles and issues I’ve had in the past with my boyfriends addictions but she has been in her own volatile road through her addictions and mental health she has not really been involved in my life throughout the bulk of the my relationship breaking down. I do not hold it against her because she is ‘allowed’ to be selfish throughout her recovery and I told my boyfriend this.

As my boyfriend is 30 days sober he is AA oriented in his thinking. He was agreeing with me but he made an important distinction between his sobriety and her precontemplation towards recovery. He said that of course she isn’t thinking about you or how asking you for connections to drugs would be handled after I have been so active in her finding the help she needs. My boyfriend was saying all of this and I sorta think he wasn’t really acknowledging how selfish he has been in the past year since he really started falling off the wagon. Especially within the past month of his recovery I have sort of made a rule for myself that unless he asks me direct questions like how did your exam go or general questions like how are you doing I will not divulge what is happening in my life.

Interestingly enough we have whole conversations where he doesn’t ask me a single thing and after 10-20 minutes of talking about himself and me asking him questions he’ll want to get off the phone. So my friend 2 weeks ago was put on suicide watch and just the other day she asked me for a drug connection which she knew I would get from my recovering boyfriend. Sad thing isn’t just that she has no clue because of her own selfish ego driven addictions but I find myself even more hurt that 2 weeks go by, he and I talk every day and it’s not brought up at all. It’s not till I sighed on the phone and started sounding upset that my boyfriend asks me how I am. When I finally tell him about my friend and her battles with mental health and addictions and how I’m upset she was acting selfishly my boyfriend almost defended himself to thinking the addict in the throws of addictive behaviour is more selfish than those recovering from the addiction.


Hi @April, welcome and thanks for sharing! You are certainly not alone in your struggles. Question that could help me help you: is he is active use, or is he in some type of recovery? If he is in active use the substance becomes the number 1 priority, and as a supportive loved one that can leave us feeling like there is no room for us in their world. We’re here to empower you to know that there is room for you, and your role is important, just like @katie said!

If you’re interested in talking about this further, feel free to message me and we can schedule a call.
You’ve already made a great first step in sharing here and already, see, you’re not alone! And we’re so happy you’re with us :slight_smile:


Thank you for sharing @EMM89. In my experience, it feels really lonely when my dad focused only on himself. You share the same here.

You mention:

I’m curious, genuinely - is that working to direct your boyfriend to be less self-focused? Does he notice? How does it feel for you!?


@EMM89, thank you! Just like @katie I’m curious too. Is your boyfriend noticing you not sharing so much with him? And how is he reacting?

This is a great example of ways we can all learn new ways to interact with our loved ones based on feedback from new members :slight_smile:!