Feeling Empty? Don’t Try Filling the Void

Feeling empty is viewed negatively in the west. We constantly distract ourselves not to have to deal with boredom. For some people though, the feeling of emptiness can’t be turned off. It becomes predominant, no matter what they do.

In eastern philosophy, feeling empty is a spiritual milestone. It’s seen as a blessing, a doorway to freedom. When you feel empty, you become receptive. I know, it doesn’t necessarily feel good. Don’t worry, feeling empty isn’t the final destination. It’s a vehicle for growth.

Your life is governed by subconscious desires and assumptions. The moment you decide to take responsibility for them, you start living consciously. Walking as the leader of your own existence is rewarding, but also challenging.

To stop living as a victim of the circumstances, you need independence ; freedom. And you’ll never be free unless you learn to deal with feeling empty. The feeling of emptiness can be disconcerting at first, but developing a healthy relationship to it will lead to an empowered life.

Feeling empty

Thanks Roberto Trombetta from Flickr

Emptiness is the space that takes over when you stop distracting yourself. It is what you wake up to in the morning. It is the last thing that happens before you fall asleep. It usually goes unnoticed, but is always in the background. It’s the fundamental state you return to when you stop doing stuff. When emptiness comes to your attention, you’ll start feeling empty. And if you can’t deal with this feeling of emptiness, your whole life will be affected.

In a world that encourages activity, emptiness is considered a waste. The more productive you are, the better you feel. Every unoccupied minute has to be maximized. No space left. Our mediocre school system teaches you that if you don’t get stuff done, you’re worthless.

By filling our time with commitments and distractions, we tend to forget what’s behind them. We condition ourselves to despise the space between our activities. Our inactive default state – space – becomes something to get away from. We try to escape from feeling empty inside. We might learn to meditate, but even this can be reduced to an activity. Ten minutes of meditation are added on the schedule. Another element on the to-do list.

This habit of constantly filling up space makes us dependent. Since we can’t deal with lack of movement, we lower the bar for what we accept in our actions and thoughts. Everything becomes better than nothing. We readily accept mediocrity. At least when doing mediocre activities, we don’t feel so empty.

Emptiness grocery

Ever went for groceries when starving? What happened? You ended up buying too much junk. Because of your hunger, you lowered the bar and bought food you normally wouldn’t have. You were victim of your own discomfort.

What about people who seek an intimate relationship no matter what? They lower the bar and end up with the crappiest people. They tolerate poor relationships because it’s better than feeling empty and alone.

Your life is dominated by similar patterns. Every action you take arises from a desire to change the way you feel. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, when you’re uncomfortable with feeling empty you’ll constantly act out of neediness, like a hungry animal. You’ll seek to fill your half-full cup with external events. Your actions will be reactive, and your whole environment will reflect that.

It’s possible to reverse the conditioning and live from a ground of satisfaction and peace. A feeling of emptiness could become your refuge. Ever wondered how life would be if you were comfortable with … nothing? Imagine how simple it would be. No more need to fill up your free time. No more fear of waiting anywhere. No more anxiety of being alone.

You wouldn’t tolerate bullshit anymore. Your actions would be authentic and clear. You would be confident, knowing that you can always deal with the worst ; feeling empty.

Life exists outside of doing stuff. Stop covering it and let emptiness break you and shine through. You’ll see that space is the gateway to creative living. Emptiness will break the boundaries of your mind. Use the feeling of emptiness to liberate yourself, and walk out as a free human.

Feeling empty inside is fine. Don’t escape. Go all the way down.

See how empty you can get.

Meditation is a key practice to help you when feeling empty. With this guided meditation, you will discover what lies beyond emptiness.

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17 thoughts on “Feeling Empty? Don’t Try Filling the Void

  1. Sumedh

    Really like this blog post. I also feel like in “emptiness” I can find and hear my true voice and nature – whereas with a constant focus on the external world and thought objects I tend to become more reactionary and lose myself to the world around me.

    Reply
  2. Maya

    I was searching for ways to fill up my void and came across this blog. Excellent thoughts, not what I was expecting but love it. Very insightful and enlightening, can’t thank you enough for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  3. Marg

    I really agree with everything you’ve said. Nothing good ever comes out when acting out of needines. The bad thing is you learn it from experience and even worst is that, even though you know it, you often can’t stop doing it.

    I’ve caught myself many times when I’d try to do anything to get rid of that feeling, and nothing really worked out. Even if you do get to the point where you’ve sucessfully reduced the feeling of emptines, sooner or later you seek more of it and so it’s a bottomless pit. One has to somehow find peace in their “default” state (I like that expression!) of there won’t be any peace of at all really.

    Reply
  4. Edu

    I understand the reasoning behind the article but not the conclussion. So what does the final solution means exactly?
    “Feeling empty inside is fine. Don’t escape. Go all the way down.”

    When I feel empty I get anxious. Is this feeling of wanting to do something but not knowing what, cause nothing that you can think conveys is going to fill you up inside. This leads to a feeling of seeing everything as dull and boring. Not feeling passionate about anything in particular.
    So the thing would be just to stay with this feeling and anxiety? Eventually will go away on its own?

    Reply
    1. Gabriel Rocheleau Post author

      Hello Edu,

      The feeling of emptiness itself is not the problem, but your relationship to it is.

      Emptiness is nothing more than lack of “stuff”. Your whole self, with its ideas, thoughts and feelings are painted on the blank canvas of emptiness. Noticing the background of reality – emptiness – is like watching TV and remembering that you’re only watching pixels on a screen. Suddenly, the activity seems bland and pointless. GOOD! IT WAS POINTLESS ANYWAY!

      You mention that you get anxious when a feeling of emptiness arises. Anxiety arises from a desire to control or escape an experience. In your case, the experience is a feeling of emptiness. What I suggest is not that you try to manage the emptiness, or your anxiety. You’ve already seen that it doesn’t work. It makes the anxiety worse. Simply let it be. This is why I say “Don’t escape”.

      Of course, this is easier said that done. The mind has a tendency to constantly react, and it’s conditioned to constantly “do stuff”. It reacts to emptiness by searching for things to “fill it” with. Yet, nothing you can get or achieve will fill this Void. Instead of directing your attention to these external objects, watch closely how you are feeling, from moment to moment. Don’t think about it, don’t label it with statements like “oh I’m getting anxious again”, just feel. This is why I say “Go all the way down”.

      You may find yourself “alone” in emptiness. That’s a great milestone, but that’s not really emptiness. If “you” are still there to witness emptiness, it’s not really 100% emptiness, is it? Is ultimate reality “emptiness + you” ? Keep gently investigating this puzzle.

      Don’t try filling the leaking bucket. Don’t hold onto falling curtains.

      Don’t worry too much, you’ll be fine.
      Cheers,
      Gabriel

      Reply
      1. Priyam

        very well said….we should not label it,just see emptiness without judging it with our senses and labelling it as bad or good or something to fill it with.And eventually you will enjoy it and it will make you independent in a longer run,your decision making will improve as you will be confident,stronger.

        Reply
  5. Julia

    I agree that accepting emptiness brings a degree of peace. But sometimes the emptiness might be there because you’re isolating yourself from other people. Don’t we need people? Where do you draw the line between spending time connecting with other people and accepting the emptiness?

    Reply
    1. Gabriel Rocheleau Post author

      Hi Julia,
      A feeling of emptiness can be caused by innumerable factors, and I certainly don’t think that all these factors are invalid and should be ignored. However, I think that emptiness has important lessons to teach us, and that we can all benefit from looking at it directly, instead of escaping it at all costs.

      For example, feeling hungry doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat. However, if you’re overwhelmed by hunger, you’ll make bad decisions. A healthier process is to deal with the hunger face-to-face, realizing it isn’t actually so bad, and then acting out of a baseline of sanity.

      A feeling of emptiness caused by social isolation is quite common, and I don’t think isolating oneself further is the way to go. Accepting the emptiness doesn’t mean you won’t act to change it; it simply means know you’ll be fundamentally fine if you can’t. I believe in dealing with feelings the same way we deal with a puppy. Unconditionally accept them while still making efforts to change their behavior when necessary.

      Some people tend to get caught in a pattern of escaping their feeling of emptiness (a natural element of life) at all costs, which tends to lead to all sorts of addictions/destructive behaviors/bad results.

      Reply
  6. Helen

    Thank you for this. I’ve been struggling with this feeling my entire life and thought there is something wrong with me. The “empty feeling” and fear of it comes from looking at my schedule and seeing that I have nothing planned. I’ve been trying to escape this feeling my whole life- and I think it’s time I face it.

    Maybe emptiness is not a waste. I have to re-train my relationship with it.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Kerry

    For weeks I’ve been researching into this feeling, and I saw this article and noticing it was different than others, decided to give it a read. It wasnt a traumatic ancient event or neglect, but instead one week, I just noticed I lost my connection to experiences. My whole life, I’ve put heavy value on experiences and was happy that way. I felt I got the most out of life, and I found beauty and awe in every little corner of the world. For the monthes I’ve felt empty, I felt robbed of what made me myself. Going out and conversations with friends suddenly, with no meaning, didnt give me joy when I settled at the end of the night. The websites I’ve read act like neglect from parents or trauma is the only reason one can be lacking emotion. But the thing is, I’m still a teenager. I havent gone through anything major that would rock me as described. I just want to have something happen to me to either shake this off, but I never even thought of using it to my advantage. But whats the conclusion, what do I do next? Accpeting this big of a concept when you’re not even legal sounds more difficult than squeezing jello through a keyhole.

    Reply
    1. Duncanz

      The moments when you are alone are the moments when your have to focus on yourself as this article says you really don’t have to escape. you have to use that time to think.In real life there is time for everything for loneliness to work to eat to love to cheerish to celebrate to cry and to smile.and in life we reach our goals when we learn how to appreciate each and every one of them.in loneliness we become wiser,stronger,spiritual and super creative.In emptiness we become human beings because emptiness normally appears after a disappointment and in silence we appreciate the beauty of life and the whole world!! 🙂 never regret anything unless it was harmful for your soul !!

      Reply
  8. Karolina

    It’s gonna be a downer probably…
    I don’t even know if there will be any reply, or, assuming there will be, if it will help me in any way, but heck… If there is a chance of something poking me in a good direction, I’m taking it.
    I’m not sure I “liked” the article. It seems to come from a place where my thoughts wander oftentimes. And I don’t really like when they do.
    I realise now, in my twenties, that I’ve been feeling emptiness and… pointlessness of life throughout my life – or at least from the time I was capable of abstract thoughts. It was horrible. I couldn’t enjoy anything or establish any real relationship because of that. It was all deprived of meaning and so I was seeking “truth,” something “more,” something “real.”
    You are probably going to call it “feeling the void.” Maybe it was. Although I associate feeling the void with distractions. With methods of forgetting that there is emptiness.
    In my case, the emptiness was constantly in front of my eyes.
    You say it’s like watching TV. You realise for a moment that what you’re watching is really a mass of pixels and then you focus on the whole picture again. I feel like all my life I saw pixels, with just a few glimpses of the picture they created.
    The idea of “taming the emptiness” by realising how liberating it is (life has no meaning and so you can just enjoy it without worrying about higher goals; simplification, I know, but I guess you get the idea) is nothing new to me, but it never really worked. Maybe it’s the result of, as you mentioned, conditioning: at school, by society, by parents who tell us that life SHOULD have SOME meaning. Maybe it stems from biological factors, like depression can.
    The point is, it feels to me like I am on the other side of this theory: instead of distracting myself, I gaze into the abyss, eyes wide open, and I can’t stop seeing the void.
    You seem like an insightful, intelligent person. Any ideas how I can “go back?” How to see and enjoy the picture instead of attempting to understand the chaos of pixels?

    Reply
    1. Gabriel Rocheleau Post author

      Hello Karolina,

      I can empathize with your frequent experience of the pointlessness of life. Even though it looks like you’re suffering, you seem to be quite lucid, and that’s a very good thing. These kinds of experiences are hard to describe in words, and “emptiness” can point to a lot of phenomena. However, the “emptiness” I’m speaking about in this article is far from a depressed/dis-empowered/nihilistic state.

      Of course, vague psychological quotes such as “life has no meaning so I should create my own and enjoy” have never really worked for anyone actually feeling the pointlessness of life. If you truly want to break out of a psychological pattern, you need a deeper level of realization than mere “intellectual insights” that sound good on the surface but never truly impact the way you feel about the world. If intellectual games led to true insight, then all psychologists and philosophers would be sages.

      Now obviously, people are going to tell you that you “need” meaning in your life, but that’s easier said than done when you see how empty their worldly pursuits are. It’s hard to get a good grasp on what you’re specifically going through at the moment, but the key to “going back” to enjoy life is not to repress the feeling of emptiness, as you have probably already seen.

      Have you ever tried meditation?

      Reply

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