At some point in our lives, we all experience a sense of emptiness inside, an awareness that we are, in fact, alone and separate beings. We often feel this at times when we feel we are running on empty, lost, clueless, unfulfilled, lonely, sad or downright depressed. To avoid actually feeling these feelings, we try to fill that void by whatever means possible. Often, mistakenly trying to escape looking outward, instead of turning within.
We place incredible expectations on people or things, hoping they will fulfill us and our needs. Common crutches are a relationship, a car, a job, shopping, anything that feeds us in some way, even food. Some of us escape these feelings through the abuse of drugs or any addictive substance or activity that will distract us from our feelings, in this way avoiding the responsibility of dealing with how we actually feel.
Unfortunately, all those escapist activities that temporarily soothe us are short-lived fantasies. Wherever we go, there we are and running from our feelings is not the answer. People and things cannot fulfill us, they can only enrich and add to our lives. We must find healthy ways to face that existential void and learn to live without any unhealthy crutches.
Who experiences the empty void?
We all do at one time or another experience an existential void, but some people are more prone than others. Those who spent their childhood in abusive relationships, feeling unloved or abandoned, usually grow up starving for love and approval they didn’t get as children. These people are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the loneliness they feel and emptiness inside. In addition, people who’ve suffered a loss or gone through a traumatic experience in adulthood may feel empty more often than those who have never had such drama in their lives.
How to cope with the emptiness inside
As Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” First we must know ourselves to understand our limitations, expectations and aspirations. Once you acknowledge what your shortcomings are and where this void you are experiencing comes from, you can seek to fill it appropriately only after feeling your true emotions. You can learn to deal with it in healthy, nondestructive ways.
It boils down to existentialism. Psychotherapist John Tsilimparis, in an article in the Huffington Post, mentions that, according to existential thinkers as Jean Paul Sartre, “we are born into a cold and empty universe with no meaning.” Living existentially means defining the essence of who we really are and accepting our unique place in the world. We can look within and find our own meaning for our existence.
You must find out what drives you, what motivates you, what you are passionate about and go for it! Helping people, creating new inventions or even a hobby like running may be what fulfills you. The key is not escaping through your life’s activities, but being aware that the void exists and then finding meaning in life so as not to fear that emptiness. Getting involved in life and being aware that your time is finite removes pressure and allows us to be more fully present to experience the joyful, honesty and healthy experiences that enrich our lives.
Taking responsibility for your own happiness
Try not to place too many expectations on your loved ones to make you happy. Take responsibility for yourself and your own feelings. Try to accept that a person cannot complete you and don’t blame your unhappiness on someone else. Be proactive and find those things that money can’t buy and enjoy them.
Mindfulness and meditation
Practice mindfulness by being present and experiencing the moment. If you are reading, read. If you are cooking, cook. Try not to allow your thoughts to wander elsewhere. Meditation (from the Latin mediato and the verb meditari, which means to think, contemplate, ponder) is used in many religions, traditions and beliefs worldwide.
The main idea is to clear your mind, and as with mindfulness, cultivate awareness of your feelings and emotions. Meditation and mindfulness help us to reach a state of calm and wellbeing.
Practice your faith
Some people find relief in prayer. If you have a faith and believe in a power greater than yourself, this will bring you strength and solace in those moments you feel alienated. I’ve run fast and furiously from my emptiness in self-destructive ways and at the end I not only got nowhere but landed in much worse places. Sitting down and facing my loneliness and accepting my hunger to fill that empty void, has made me more accepting and understanding of what life truly is. I have come to see life as a journey to be enjoyed, emotions (good and bad) and all. There is no escaping life, so why not make the trip worthwhile, experiencing and embracing every single emotion as painful as it might be. If it is emptiness, feel it. The more you want to escape it, the greater it becomes and then you’ll never move on to truly enjoy the awesomeness of everything else!