Existential Psychology

Internal Feeling Of Emptiness

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All of the external indicators of success in the world, indicators like wealth, power, popularity, and prestige, can’t make up for the internal feeling of emptiness. Actually it’s exactly this internal feeling of emptiness that compels many to chase after those external indicators in a desperate attempt to fill up the existential hole where Self should be.

The response is usually bafflement when people who seem to have everything complain about their lives, when they’ve achieved those external indicators of success yet report being deeply unhappy. There’s no great mystery here though when we employ psychoanalysis to see that unconsciously the goal all along was to acquire an integrated sense of Self through the acquisition of societal markers like wealth, power, popularity, and prestige. It’s no wonder then that when these various markers finally get checked off the list and the internal feeling of emptiness remains the result is profound disillusionment.

Chasing those external indicators of success to fill up the internal feeling of emptiness is running a race that can’t be won. The irony is that it’s the people who feel the emptiest who tend to run the fastest and the furthest. Is it such a surprise that malaise is so common among people who seem to have achieved so much?

From the existential point of view meaning and fulfillment come through actualizing inner potentialities. External achievements are byproducts of this inner process, they’re welcome friends, tangible manifestations of having moved along the continuum, but they’re not the main focus of attention and they’re not strictly necessary to prove that growth is occurring. It’s this growth, this actualizing of inner potentialities, this exercising of individual powers, that creates the integrated sense of Self, the sense of Self that people who feel empty inside are so desperate to acquire.

The problem of course is that they have the process backwards. Unconsciously they hope that an integrated sense of Self will be the byproduct of their external achievements. But it won’t. Those external achievements are meaningless on their own, they’re only meaningful when they act as manifestations of the inner journey, of the uniquely chosen path of self-actualization.