Facing the Emptiness Inside
How do we confront the vicious “wolf” of emptiness inside?
There have been times when we’ve experienced that strange feeling of routine survival. We become used to meeting up with friends, co-workers, family. We talk about our lives as if we were someone who could glide across water without drowning, saying things like: “Sure, it was bad, but it’s ok, I’m already over it” or “I wasn’t able to achieve what I wanted, but hey, I’m still going to get by.”
On the outside we look like small soldiers, hiding the weight of our regrets and sorrows, marching forward with resignation while saying things like, “this is just the way things are.”
We share our words of support and have that mutual understanding of tactical silence. But in the background, within the deepest parts of ourselves, an invisible enemy lives, feeding on our emptiness, pain and loss.
But what do we mean when we talk about loss? We aren’t just referring to the physical loss of a loved one. After all, there are many different types of loss that exist and define specific types of emptiness. Some of these losses refer to frustration, disappointment, any type of fear, failure and that bottomless pit known to us as “existential emptiness.”
So, what is the most effective method for confronting these different levels of personal loss? How do we defeat these internal wolves that ruthlessly devour us little by little? Let’s take a look at some of these methods:
Accept our losses and understand our emptiness
Just as the Polish sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman frequently explained, many of us are living in a type of “liquid society” where immediate pleasure and momentary gain are most valued. Nothing seems to last, even personal relationships.
It’s as if our society only looked on the bright side of things, but as soon as something difficult happens or requires a deeper level of implication, the “human cloth” weakens and falls apart. For example, think about that friend or family member who had been diagnosed with depression. We offer a pat on the back with the consoling words that “this will pass” along with a reminder to, of course, take their medication.
Pain surprises us. We don’t understand it, so we run from it. What if we were put face to face with that friend or family member and asked them to tell us about the pain that they were experiencing or the emptiness inside of them? Or what if we let them vent to us with their words and tears?
In order to survive in this complex world, we have to confront our enemies face to face, we have to know how to understand and accept them. That is how we truly grow as people because sadness and pain are not a pile of waste in the corner of our souls, nor in the darkness of our minds.
All existential emptiness has a shape and we must know how to understand this in order to stop running from this internal wolf and more safely transit by knowing what it is that we really need.
Steps for confronting our personal emptiness
It’s worth keeping in mind something that almost all of us tend to think that life is going to be just as we want it to be or “almost” as we have imagined it to be. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but we need to be prudent and accept the possibility that we won’t attain everything that we desire.
But does this mean that we are inevitably condemned to be unhappy? Certainly, true happiness doesn’t lie in achieving everything we desire, but in learning to be happy with everything we have accomplished and, also…with what we have lost.
Surprised? Hopefully not! But it is best that we understand these dimensions, these steps for confronting each one of our personal losses.
- When you discover that life has brought you things that you were not expecting, don’t give up. Instead, take the first step of accepting your place in every dimension, including your suffering and pain. If you need to cry, cry, if you need to get upset, allow yourself to feel it.
- Second step: never force things to be exactly how you want them to be. Doing this will only make the problem more chronic. If your partner tells you that they don’t love you, come to terms with it, don’t obsess over it. If you haven’t gotten that promotion at work that you’ve wanted, don’t complain about this perceived failure, there may be another way to achieve what you want.
- Accept what happens, understand what it is and, although this may seem incomprehensible, try to be grateful for what you were able to learn. Maybe the pain you are experiencing now will help you to not make the same mistake in the future. It could even be that this existential emptiness is pushing you to look for new areas in your life that are truly going to make you happy. Why not try it?
- Move forward, forgive, turn the page, let go of the weight and integrate everything you have learned into your life. After all, there is not better way to enrich your life than filling the emptiness with knowledge.
Image courtesy of: Colin Blogue