There are times in life where expectations fall short, loved ones pass away, or changes leave you needing more.
Feeling empty can mean different things for different people, but is generally characterized by a lack of emotion or disinterest in things that once brought you joy.
While going through these tough times, you can take solace in knowing you are not alone, and that there is a way out of the rut.
Kaitlyn Slight, a marriage and family therapist from Raleigh, NC, has seen another culprit for feelings of emptiness as well.
She warns, as reported on Psych Central, that it could be from “slowly abandoning ourselves”, and “not listening to our hopes and desires.”
Often times, these things happen “unintentionally” and “unknowingly”, Slight says. You can abandon yourself by focusing on other factors in your life, like children or a career.
Abandonment can also be physical, such as when people neglect their health in lieu of tangible rewards.
Slight’s clients who report being numb or alone, also feel unsatisfied in work or their relationships.
If this describes what you are going through, handle the situation with care. Call a therapist that can help rule out depression, and provide you with some tools to work through this tough time.
In the meantime, here are some tips to get you to begin moving toward a place of fulfillment and peace.
Remember, any advice in this article is not to replace the opinion or direction of a medical professional.
- Identify the Emptiness
Ashely Eder, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO, describes on Psych Central how to acknowledge when you are feeling empty:
“If you’re experiencing emptiness that’s more like a gaping hole, acknowledge it, and be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way. Don’t try to dismiss or change your feelings.”
Whatever you are going through should be addressed, not overlooked. Feelings that aren’t dealt with come out in other areas of your life.
Feeling empty and alone is hard on you, and you should show yourself the same compassion you would give to someone else.
- Take Time Out to Work on the Issue
Many individuals look for ways to fill the void they are experiencing with things of the world, like drugs and alcohol.
Avoid a downward spiral by searching yourself for causes and solutions to your dilemma. Don’t be afraid to try various approaches to dealing with the feeling of emptiness until you find something that works.
Slight says to set time aside to see what your desires, fears, hopes, and dreams are; to make “more meaning in your life and your future.”
Try exercise, writing in a journal, taking up a hobby, or just committing to an hour of therapy a week to focus on yourself.
- Dig Deeper
Pause throughout the day to narrow in on what you are feeling in the moment to begin getting in touch with yourself again.
Feeling empty may make this difficult as you search for a word to describe what you are going through.
Eder suggests searching the internet for a “feelings list” that will give you insight into naming the different emotions.
If an emotion doesn’t come to mind, focus on bio-feedback, or what is happening physically at the moment. Are you cold? Is your neck tense? Are you hands clenched or open?
Noticing that you have physical sensations going on, even if you are feeling lost inside, helps to begin the process towards discovery.
- Try to Find the Root Cause
Slight offers questions that can be written down, meditated on while driving to work, or looked over while drinking your morning coffee.
- Have I been judging myself or comparing myself to others?
- Do I tell myself positive things?
- Or do I tend to notice failures or call myself ugly or stupid?
- Are my feelings being considered in my relationships, or am I minimizing what I am feeling?
- Am I actively tending to my physical and health needs?
- Have I turned toward behaviors or addictions to avoid my feelings?
- Am I focusing solely on the needs of another person or people?
- What am I trying to prove or win?
- Am I blaming myself or feeling guilt about things that are out of my control?
- Am I showing myself compassion like I would with a close friend or family member?
- Am I asserting myself in my decisions and respecting my personal opinions?
Thoughts have a way of getting the better of us without us even being aware. Pinpointing where our current state originates can give us direction on where to mend it.
Working on the things that bring us pain takes a lot of bravery and strength. Recognize those positive qualities yourself.
Taking the first step toward fulfilling the emptiness is the hardest part. You may lack motivation to give yourself the care you need.
Don’t forget there are resources available through private and group counseling, hotlines, and your support system to give you the push you need to get through this.
You are worth it. And there is no better day than today to begin filling that void you have been living with.
(h/t Better Change Project)