Sometimes we feel an inner sense of emptiness. When we look within, it seems like nothing is there, so we distract ourselves with something on the outside, like food or television. And yet, these outer distractions take care of the emptiness only temporarily; they capture our attention only temporarily. When the distraction is over, the emptiness returns.
What is it about emptiness that makes us want to move away from it? Is emptiness really a bad sensation? When you consider the literal meaning of emptiness, how can it be a problem? Is it possible for “nothing” to hurt you? Is that sense of emptiness, that empty feeling, actually uncomfortable, or is the restlessness and activity of trying to distract yourself or avoid the emptiness what is uncomfortable?
This is an important distinction. We are so used to assuming that feelings of lack, emptiness, or something missing are a problem that we are uncomfortable when that is our experience. But is the emptiness the source of our discomfort? Or is what we do in response to the emptiness the source of our discomfort, including the stories we tell ourselves and the judgments about the fact that we feel empty? It’s not our fault that we tend to avoid feelings of emptiness. We were taught to do this by everyone around us who was doing it. In fact, there’s a good reason to avoid one feeling of emptiness—the feeling of hunger—since we need to eat when we’re hungry. However, we often interpret a feeling of lack as a need for food. Have you ever eaten when you weren’t hungry to try to distract or relieve yourself from a feeling? It’s possible to simply experience the sensations of emptiness or lack and discover that they aren’t so bad. Try it and see for yourself: