What you will learn from reading this article:
- Internal reasons for feeling empty although we may be well-off externally
- 3 ways disconnection from ourselves lead to feelings of emptiness
- How to overcome feeling empty and find your joy in life again
Internal Disconnection: The Real Reason Why We Feel Empty
As therapists, we see many clients coming to us with the challenge of feeling a deep sense of emptiness. They feel “dead inside” or that they are “just going through the motions”.
It is difficult for them and others around them to understand why they feel this way because they seem to have ticked all the boxes of what society says is needed for a happy life – family, partner, friends, successful career, house, car, etc.
However, from our experience, the feeling of emptiness has nothing to do with external things. It is an internal state of disconnection that can be experienced by anyone no matter how much money, career success, social support, popularity they have.
You may ask, “how can I be disconnected from myself? I am still me, right?”
The reality is that we all wear masks. The disconnection is between the person we show others, and the person we truly are inside.
The feeling of emptiness is an invitation for us to come back to who we truly are, so we can live more authentically.
3 Types of Internal Disconnection
Let’s explore 3 ways disconnection from ourselves cause us to feel empty inside:
01. Disconnection from our emotions
This could happen because:
- We could not process the pain of something that happened to us (for example, loss, grief, heartbreak or rejection), so our mind disassociated from that emotion and stored it in a compartment, so we can be mentally functional.
- We were conditioned from a young age to believe that certain emotions are “bad” (for example, anger, shame, sadness, jealousy, hate). So in order to gain approval by our parents and community, our mind disassociated from these emotions to present a more likeable personality.
However, the emotions our mind compartmentalised do not go away. They just move from our conscious to our subconscious mind. The more our mind disassociates from those emotions, the greater the disconnect within us, and the greater our feeling of emptiness.
02. Disconnection from our needs
We all have needs. When our needs are not met, it triggers certain emotions. For example, when a baby is hungry, they cry; when someone is not appreciated, they get angry.
Besides physical needs such as oxygen, water and food, we also have emotional needs which are just as important. Some of the most important human needs are: stability, safety, validation, recognition, affection, connection and growth.
However, because of our culture of dismissing negative emotions and “focusing on the positive”, we reject our emotions even before we find out what needs in us are not being met. Thus, when we dissociate ourselves from our emotions, we also end up disassociating ourselves from our needs.
The gap between what we currently have and what we actually need is what causes the feeling of emptiness.
03. Disconnection from our purpose
Each one of us is born with unique strengths, interests and purposes in life. However, society presents narrow definitions of success and paths to success.
In our quest to fit in, we chase “branded” education, prestigious jobs, high salaries, “likes” and “follows” on social media, etc., and in that process, we lose sight of our true strengths and interests.
Many people are in jobs they have little interest in, doing things they are not naturally good at, and chasing goals they do not actually want.
The gap between the part of us that tries so hard to fit in, and the part of us that knows our true purpose is what causes the feeling of emptiness.
How To Overcome Feelings of Emptiness
How do you deal with feelings of emptiness? You do it by connecting deeply with yourself.
Here are three steps we suggest:
Step 1: To connect to your emotions, bring your awareness from your mind into your body, and sense where in your body you feel the most dominant feeling. Be unconditionally present with that feeling, with the intention of getting to know it better – what does it feel like for example pain, anger, tension, etc? Does it have a colour, shape, image?
Step 2: Identify the unmet need underlying the emotion. Why do you feel that way? What does the feeling want to say, especially about what you are looking for but did not receive?
Step 3: Explore ways to address your unmet needs. Many people try to fill their emptiness with money, sex, status, intoxicants, holidays, etc. But they still feel empty. That’s because they have disconnected from their emotions and needs, and do not know what their actual needs are.
Once you have clarity on your actual needs, find ways to address it, for example, find out how to be more self-loving, reach out to others for support, take considered steps in the direction of your interests and strengths, etc.
When External Support Can Help
Sometimes we may face challenges in this process as there is information buried deep in our subconscious that we are unable to access on our own. This could make us feel confused and unclear about what the root cause of our predicament is. In such cases, it helps to work with a professional who you trust, who is able to provide a safe space and guide you.
Having gone through this process ourselves, we know it is not an easy journey. You will face your greatest fears and painful emotions. But you will come out of it feeling more whole, more alive, and more present. We have tried running away from our pain so many times, only to find ourselves stuck until we faced our pain. If there’s anything we’ve learnt, it is this: THE ONLY WAY OUT IS IN.
Reach Out to Us
Kavitha’s and Kester’s work is grounded in our own life experiences overcoming pain and emptiness, and finding ourselves again after feeling lost chasing external ideas of “success”.
If you are currently going through a period of reckoning, and seek mid-life crisis therapy or mental health therapy, learn more about our services by clicking here.