Feeling empty inside? Here’s what to do

Feeling empty - Counselling Totnes and Newton Abbot; Matt Fox

As the day ends, you start to notice a gnawing inside. The busy-ness of chores, work or meetings ebbs away to be replaced by a growing sense of dread. Who are you when you’re not busy?

Whether alone or with family or friends, you feel like you are going through the motions. It’s difficult to feel connected or present, because inside, you feel a deep emptiness. This is an emptiness which can say many different things:

I’m lonely
I don’t like or love myself
I don’t feel loved
I have no deeper purpose or point to my life
I feel unfufilled or frustrated
I’m struggling to connect in my relationships
I’m exhausted
I feel ignored or disrespected
I’m not keeping my boundaries firm

When that emptiness becomes too painful to bear, you can find yourself acting out all sorts of behaviours to avoid it, such as working too hard, or developing obsessions with the TV, internet, shopping, porn, sex, alcohol drugs. In extreme situations these can become addictions.

Or on a lesser scale, maybe you end up fixating on exercise, food or take up a new practice to an extreme, such as exercise, yoga or meditation. These things in themselves can all be helpful for not feeling empty but when they become the end rather the means to an end, then it can be a sign that you’re avoiding what’s difficult rather than embracing it.

So what can you do, if you’re feeling empty inside?

1 Befriend the emptiness

This is easier said than done, but you might imagine the emptiness as a space wanting to be filled with a gentle loving kindness. What does it need to be filled with for you to feel less empty?

You could view the emptiness as a symptom, which is asking a question of you. So this first step, of just noticing and being with the emptiness is already an important one. It’s showing it that you notice it and are aware of it.

2 Listen to the deeper feelings

Often, the feeling of emptiness is a mask for deeper, unnoticed or unvoiced feelings. You might want to get curious about what isn’t being noticed or listened to in you.

Is there some fear or anxiety blocking you at the moment?

Are you angry but can’t voice it?

Is there sadness around but it’s too much to acknowledge?

You might want to write about what’s happening to see what emerges, listen to music which moves you, meditate, do yoga or walk in nature to help you get in touch with these deeper feelings.

3 Take care of yourself

In your exploration of your emptiness, you might also reflect on what you can do to be gentle and self-supporting, noticing:

Are you being too hard on yourself or self-critical?
Are you getting enough good sustinence and rest?
Are you taking care of others before yourself?
Are you avoiding something difficult because it’s too scary?
Are you asserting your needs?

You may see that you’re giving yourself a really hard time. If that becomes habitual, self-persecution can really erode your sense of wellbeing.

4 Give yourself credit

How do you talk to yourself about what you’ve done and how you’re coping? If now is a really difficult time and it’s hard to connect with your successes, can you remember times in your life when you have connected with others, felt empowered, and capable. Remembering these experiences can be a powerful tonic for the feeling of emptiness.

A simple tool for you to use to step away from your emptiness

If you become overwhelmed by your emptiness, a quick and easy tool you can use is the following mantra. First take a few deep breaths to setlle yourself. Keep your feet planted on the ground and take stock of how your body is right now, what feelings and thoughts are around. When you’ve done this, say to yourself with clear intent, three times:
I have my emptiness and I am more than my emptiness

If you’re struggling with feelings of emptiness

and you’d like a safe space to explore what is happening and how you might be able to change, why not get in touch for a first appointment?

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