"I feel empty," said Andres in a Skype session. Andres is the CEO of a large manufacturing company. He’s married with three children and, from the looks of it, has all a person could ever want.
But it's hardly a new problem. Regardless of my therapy clients' external status, emptiness is a common complaint.
"Andres, do you remember the last time you didn't feel empty?"
"Yes, it was last week. We were giving awards to our top people and I felt really good — really full inside as I handed out the awards and spoke to each of the recipients."
"Do you know why you felt full?"
"I'm not sure."
"Andres, how often are you loving and giving to others?"
"I am with my kids."
"Do you feel full when you are giving to your kids?"
"How about with your wife and friends and other family members?"
"No. I feel empty with them and I mostly feel empty when I'm alone."
"Andres, emptiness is your inner guidance — your inner child — letting you know that you are not being loving to yourself or with others. Emptiness indicates a lack of love. When you were giving awards to your employees, you were being loving to them, which is also loving to you.
When you are with your children, you are being loving to them, which is also loving to you. That’s why you feel full inside. But what are you doing when you are with your wife and friends and other family members?"
"I think I'm always trying to get their approval."
"There's a pattern here. When you try to get approval from others, you end up feeling empty inside, but when you are giving love, you feel full inside. The bottom line here is intent: When your intent is to be loving to yourself and to others, you feel full.
When your intent is to get love and approval, you feel empty, because you are abandoning yourself. You are making others responsible for your good feelings — your self-worth. By helping others, you help yourself, even if you are not aware of it. Being kind to others is one of the major ways of creating positive feelings within.
Many people believe their emptiness is the result of something missing externally. They think if they had more money, a partner, or children, then they would feel safe, worthy, and full inside.
But inner safety, self-worth, and fullness are the result of focusing on loving yourself and others rather than trying to get love, approval, or attention.
When you try to get approval, you are ignoring your own feelings and trying to get someone else to take care of them. The very act of trying to get love rather than give love is self-rejecting, which will always result in emptiness.
The next time you feel empty, ask yourself what intention is guiding your choices. Are you trying to contrive love or approval? Are you judging yourself, ignoring your feelings, turning to various addictions, and/or making others responsible for your self-worth? You will always feel empty when your intention is to control others and outcomes rather than to learn about loving yourself and others with no expectations.
Emptiness always indicates that you’re trying to control rather than to love. The more you become aware of this, the better your chances to shift from controlling to loving — and the more full of love and worthiness you’ll feel.
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
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