Feeling Empty Inside

Ever feel a painful emptiness inside your chest?  It can happen in various places, but most noticeably when you are alone with nothing to do, nowhere to go, in a quiet space with no distractions.  This "feeling empty" is real and overwhelming.  It may be manifested by feelings of loneliness, lack of motivation or existential thinking.  It may last for a few hours, a few weeks, months, or years.

So what is the underlying cause of "feeling empty?" It comes from your lack of understanding and validating your own emotions.  Usually, this is the result of what we call "emotional under-nourishment" or "emotional neglect" beginning from childhood.  It is overlooked because you cannot point to it as "emotional neglect" is elusive.  Also the thought of your parents not providing adequate emotional nourishments often gets misinterpreted as not loving, but these two things are separate.  Your parents can love you and be loving to you, but at the same time they can also have emotionally neglected you.

Emotional neglect has many causes--both parents trying to make ends meet, one parent or family member with a chronic illness requiring all the focus/attention, parents who quarrel a lot, or  just parenting the way their parents parented them, thus passing this type of parenting from one generation to the next.  Most of the time emotional neglect is unintentional though not always.

When one grews up in an emotionally undernourished household, whatever the reason, one starts to believe "Maybe my emotions don't matter," and on a subconscious level one thinks "Maybe I don't matter."  This results in one developing various patterns of thinking--a self-parenting tool for the purpose of trying to protect onself.  However, the self-critical thoughts can turn to self-deprecating thoughts that cycle through one's mind over and over and over again and become all consuming.  This results in a the desire to numb one's mind through various types of addictions. 

Sitting still and spending time by yourself should be one of the most enjoyable things while you are alive.  This can only happen if you get to know your feelings and process them with a close friend or therapist.  The more you do this, the more you are getting to know who you are and what makes you upset, happy, jealous, sad, lonely, etc.

Remember, you are not your thoughts.  You are a container and you have various types of thoughts in your container.  You have a choice.  You alway have but never knew it.  You get to choose which thoughts you will allow to course through your mind and which to set aside.   It will be tough at first, but over time it will get easier.

If "feeling empty" is something you experience on a regular basis and want this to stop, establishing care with a therapist that you have a good rapport with is key to getting you to the right path.

 

Author
Yung Park, M.D.

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