What Causes Inner Emptiness? (And What To Do About It)

Co-Founder of Inner Bonding By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator.

Image by Kirstin Mckee / Stocksy

"I feel empty."

I often hear this response when I ask clients to tune inside and notice what they are feeling.

Most of the time, they believe they feel empty because they feel they're lacking love or attention, or because their work is unsatisfying, or because they don't have a certain thing they just have to have. In other words, they believe that their emptiness is being caused by something external to them that they want and don't have. At core is the belief that fullness has to come from getting what you want—a relationship, a better job, more money, the car they always wanted, having a baby, and so on.

Why you feel empty inside.

Inner emptiness does indicate a lack of something, but it's not a lack of something external to you. Inner emptiness indicates a lack of love within, but it's not a lack of love from others. It's a lack of your heart being open to receiving the love that is always here for you from spirit, a lack of loving yourself and a lack of loving others. People feel full inside when they are giving to others from a full heart and soul.

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How to address inner emptiness and actually feel full:

1. Finding spirituality.

Spirit is whatever works for a person—God, a guardian angel, their own higher self, energy, light, nature, or any other spiritual source. It's the love, peace, wisdom, and joy that is what the universe is. You may know how to tap into spirit in the religious sense, but there are also many other beautiful, meaningful ways to practice spirituality, which is food for a full, content soul.

2. Giving to others.

One Christmas, one of my clients, who generally felt empty even though he was the CEO of a large and successful business, decided to give sizable bonuses to his top employees. "Wow, that made me feel so good!" he told me. "For a whole day, I felt full inside!"

He felt full because it was loving to him to be loving to his employees. The more we give love to others, the fuller we feel inside.

To clarify, this isn't at all the same thing as caretaking. For example, caretaking would be going to a movie you really don't want to see to avoid conflict or having sex when you don't want to, giving yourself up to avoid your partner's anger or keep them pleased. Caretaking is giving to get love and approval or avoid disapproval and rejection, while giving from a full heart is giving purely for the joy of giving without any agenda of what you will get back.

But we don't have this love to share with others unless we are loving ourselves.

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3. Loving ourselves—truly.

We hear a lot about how important it is to love yourself, but most people have no idea what this means. It's not about getting your nails done or even taking a great vacation. Many people feel empty the whole time they are on vacation. This is because rather than loving themselves while on vacation, they are continuing to abandon themselves, just as they do when they are not on vacation—which means that they:

  • Continue to stay focused in their mind rather than their heart and soul. They are always thinking and analyzing or focusing on the past or future rather than being present in the moment with their partner, their children, the beauty of where they are, or enjoying having fun.
  • Continue to judge themselves rather than learn to value and accept themselves.
  • Continue to use food, alcohol, drugs, sex, TV, or other activities to avoid feeling their feelings and taking responsibility for them.
  • Continue to make others responsible for their feelings of worth rather than learn to value themselves.
  • Continue to treat themselves the way they were treated as a child or the way their parents or caregivers treated themselves.

No wonder they feel empty! There is no way to feel full inside when you continue to dissociate from yourself and your real needs in any of the above ways rather than learn to love and value yourself. And it's challenging to consistently share love with another or others when you continue to abandon yourself.

Loving yourself means learning how to compassionately listen within to the information that all your feelings are giving you and taking responsibility for taking the loving actions that make you feel safe and worthy within.

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The meaning of fullness.

Fullness is a natural feeling that results from having an open heart to love and being guided by spirit regarding what is loving to you rather than being guided by your limited, ego-programmed mind that wants to avoid your feelings.

You will continue to feel empty as long as you avoid your feelings in any of the above self-abandoning ways, and you will feel full when you learn to compassionately open your heart to your feelings, take the actions guided by spirit that are loving to you, and give to others freely and joyfully.

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