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“I’ve Done Everything Right! Why Do I Feel So Empty Inside?”

We can choke down the feelings of emptiness for only so long.  

There comes a point in life when many of us feel a gnawing emptiness inside. It’s not the “lack of something” kind of empty, it’s the type of emptiness that takes up all the available space until it can no longer be ignored. And when it is ignored, it manifests as anger and anxiety, and ultimately illness and disease

This emptiness isn’t “nothing”. It is everything, and then some.

Seems for many, this manifestation comes during the midlife point in our lives. It is at this point we have a decision to make. 

And as I see it, we have four options for the most part: 

  1. “Suck it up Buttercup”.
  2. Give up and numb out.
  3. Soldier on.
  4. Seek a new approach.  

The Set-Up

The pursuit of stuff and status, which are the only ways we appear to categorize and prize ourselves in society, often leaves us unfulfilled

“But I’ve done all the right things! 

I was a good girl. 

I got the degree. 

I got married. 

I bought the house. 

I bought the cars. 

I had the kids. 

I did the workouts. 

I avoided everything that tasted good.

I got the power job. 

I ran the company. 

I…. 

I…. 

I…. 

I did it all right and I feel nothing but emptiness within. 

What kind of B.S. is this??”

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Well my friend, you too bought into the game. I am right there with you.  

When midlife hit, I got my spiritual arse handed to me. 

It wasn’t pretty, but my God, it was so necessary. And I can honestly say now, that I am happy it happened.

I see it like this…that emptiness we feel is our heart’s heart attempting to draw us inside to ask her who we are at the core of our being. 

Not the labels to which we answer; “Mom”, “Honey”, “Boss”, “Neighbor”, “Volunteer”, “CEO”, etc. For even when planted firmly in the C-Suite, the emptiness persists. 

That emptiness is practically begging us to uncover why we are here, on this planet, at this time. 

There has to be some purpose for being here, right?  

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It’s as if some cosmic vacuum is created in midlife as a last-ditch effort to get our attention. This may be the last opportunity for our heart’s heart to be heard before we slip into the final stint on this ride called life.  Potentially finding ourselves on our deathbeds with a list of regrets miles long and fathoms deep. 

This vacuum is set to suck you inside of your inner self to explore your truths.  Independent from the external definitions you’ve been so good at acquiring.  

Soldiering on or sucking it up, though popular mantras of the modern-day hustler, are anything but successful means by which to fill the emptiness within. 

Dare I say, they are effective. I mean you’ll get through it, whatever “it” is, but you won’t be any closer to knowing who you are, what you really want, and why you’re here living THIS life. You won’t be any closer to exploring the emptiness within and asking your heart’s heart, 

“What are you trying to tell me?”  

 This exploration is exactly what is required. This is “life’s work”.

Enter the Enneagram

One exceptional means for self-uncovery is the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a tool to help us address the operating system of our egos. In other words, it helps us know what makes us tick and what makes us a ticking time bomb. And it gives us insights into how others operate as well.  

Each point along the Enneagram hones in on a specific fixation (a point of suffering) that we are more prone to experiencing. Consider it one of our personality’s default settings. I’ve also heard of this referred to as “the number we do on ourselves” that keeps us from being fully aware. Fully in tune. Fully present. A few of these fixation points are vanity, stinginess, flattery, and vengeance.  

It is these fixations that contribute to our feeling of emptiness and potentially our downfall as we pursue the type of success defined by stuff and status.  

We have a little bit of every Enneagram point in us, there are 9 main points total. The point from which we operate most deeply is our “type”. To put some structure around the Enneagram, it is helpful to think of it as the operating system for our ego, or our personality, if you will. Overall we exhibit dominant traits with tendencies to downshift into others when stressed, or level up as we experience personal growth.   

Unlike those data-mining social media quizzes your friends post ad nauseum, a well-reputed Enneagram test will give you insights into your core being. In other words, insights into how you tick and what makes you do it on autopilot.  

My Enneagram type is a “Challenger”, an Eight, as probably anyone who knows me well could have told you from reading up on it. I am self-assertive, self-confident, and strong. I stand up for what I believe to be right for myself and humanity. I am resourceful with a passionate inner drive. I take initiative and make things happen. I champion people and have championed many a cause from the frontlines. I am a natural-born leader. I am also the one people call when the proverbial stuff has hit the fan. This is my comfort zone as an Enneagram Type Eight.

Sounds pretty darn good, eh? 

It does, when romanticized. But when realized in actuality, and when I am not tending to my own needs as a primary responsibility, this romance turns to the type of Bad Romance a la Lady Gaga.  

Our triumphs and tribulations are the true tests of our character and mirror for us the emotional depths to which we can sink. When our ego runs amok in its “comfort zone”, unchecked and unsupported, it can result in disaster.   

I’ll tell you this…my previously uninformed and “strong” self sunk pretty darn low. Like looooww, low. And she narrowly escaped

Escaped she did, mind you. But not unscathed.  

Implementing the wisdom of the