We have seen in other articles posted on this site that those who suffered significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing conditions such as depression, anhedonia and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). One of the main symptoms of all three of these disorders is chronic and intense feelings that life has no meaning or purpose and a sense of emotional deadness / sense that one’s feelings have ‘shut down’ (sometimes referred to by psychologists as having flat affect). In short, a feeling of absolute emptiness.
Feeling like this can lead the individual into a desperate search to at least feel something, even if that ‘something’ is negative ( in terms of its effect on self and others).
This drive to feel something rather than nothing is generally fueled by an unconscious motivation.
Because it is so hard for an individual suffering from this pervasive sense of emptiness to feel anything, the experiences that s /he may seek to pursue (to at least feel something) may be ones that are intense (whether they be emotional or physical experiences).
Such experiences may include:
– provoking others into angry and aggressive arguments
– provoking physical fights
– impulsivity/thrill seeking/risk taking (eg. high stakes gambling)
– extreme use of alcohol/street drugs
– being cruel to animals
– testing others to their limits ( to see if they remain loyal)
Above: This may explain why some people self-harm
– compulsive shopping
– compulsive eating
– mirroring : the individual who experiences feelings of emptiness tends to have a very weak sense of his/her own identity and feels hollow as a person. In extreme cases, this can lead him/her into taking on the persona of someone else in order to fill this vacuum. In so doing, s/he may imitate the person’s mannerisms, behaviour and style of dress and take up the person’s interests and hobbies. In very extreme cases s/he may take on the person’s name and pretend to have their past.
More healthy ways of strengthening one’s sense of identity include:
– voluntary work for a cause one supports and believes in (eg. Amnesty International)
– taking up a new hobby or resuming an old one
– getting a pet
– developing spirituality
– going to adult learning classes to study a subject that interests one
– training for a new career
Therapies that can potentially help people suffering feelings of emptiness include:
– existential psychotherapy
– humanistic psychotherapy
– logo therapy (this therapy was developed by Frankl, the writer and holocaust survivor)
FIND THE MEANING OF LIFE (self-hypnosis MP3) : Click here.
FIND YOUR IDENTITY (self-hypnosis MP3) : Click here.
David Hosier BSc; MSc, PGDE(FAHE).