“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:
- “Suck it up Buttercup”.
- Give up and numb out.
- Soldier on.
- Seek a new approach.
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 did it all right and I feel nothing but emptiness within.
What kind of B.S. is this??”
(CLICK IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE)
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?
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 Enneagram in my life has changed EVERYTHING for me. And I suspect it will help broaden your experience as well. Especially if you’ve hit that midlife station on the ride of life.
Prior to embracing the Enneagram, I was what I would have considered well-versed in many things “self-development” or “self-improvement”. I’ve attended seminars, sat through many an online course, and have even studied knee-to-knee with a “guru” or two, but never had I ever learned as much about myself as I have from diving in head-first to the Enneagram.
Despite my previous best efforts to thwart an existential crisis (of sorts) through all my studying, I had “my arse-handing-to” moment. I have to think that had I not been on my path already, my low may have been low enough to take me out.
It is scary how close we can be to self-destruction when we reflect upon life’s experiences.
I believe with my whole being that I was just drawing from incomplete works.
Most “transformation” and self-development systems, books, programs, courses, seminars, etc. are good and they work on some level when applied, but they are incomplete. They don’t dive deep into who YOU are, what makes YOU tick, and how to defuse the ticking time-bomb that continually derails YOU from what you really, really, really want in life. These three aspects are the clinchers. And they are uncovered in doing the work. That work is rooted in mathematics and brought to life in the Enneagram.
Just as darkness is the absence of light, this emptiness inside is the absence of meaning. We must uncover that meaning and give to it the essence of life, to then nourish that emptiness into being whole again.
We are not born empty. We have a wholeness that the world chips away at from the moment we have our first conscious thought.
The Enneagram holds so many answers for you and me.
Our vision of ourselves gets hazy over time. The filters through which we assign meaning and worth to ourselves, our world, and our place within everything therein are constructed by our experiences. The more painful the experience, the stronger the filter’s effect. The ego is what designs and builds these filters.
“If we observe ourselves truthfully and non-judgmentally, seeing the mechanisms of our personality in action, we can wake up and our lives can be a miraculous unfolding of beauty and joy.”
~ Don Riso in The Wisdom of the Enneagram.
Oh Don, you were so correct.
Don has since passed, but his invaluable contribution to the Enneagram work lives on. And this gal has picked up what he laid down to run with it in my community for rebellious midlife women, Unraveling Together. The Unraveling Together community is for women who seek to unravel their truth and honor the power in doing so with others of like mind and spirit.
Taming the Monkey Mind (AKA The Ego)
Word of advice. Don’t go about the Enneagram like you do those quizzes on Facebook or Instagram. You’re much more than a color, or a fruit, or an animal, or a Greek Goddess, or a … you get my point.
Do this with intention, on purpose, or don’t do it at all. Deal?
Your habitual thinking will try to derail you at every bend in the road. Trust me, mine had a field day with me during my venture.
I’d doubt that it would help me work through all my junk.
I’d put it aside to work on when I had free time, which I conveniently never had…so, I didn’t have to put in the work.
See what that darn Monkey Mind does to us?
She tries to think for us and keep us stuck, for stuck is safer than the unknown according to the ego and safe is the ego’s J-O-B.
Since you’ve stuck with me thus far you’re obviously curious and seeking something to help make sense of something in your life.
Like many times in life, when I have been ready to be a student, the teacher appeared. Quite possibly this will apply to you too, especially if you’ve hit that midlife station on the ride of life.
Notice that I’m not making any mention of “filling the void”, or that emptiness you feel. In my heart of hearts that would be the absolute worst advice I could give. Though most of what we see in our programming from society tells us that the “cure” for all that ails us is more stuff, just bigger and better stuff. A bigger, better house. A faster, sleeker, and of course bigger vehicle. A bigger closet for all the stuff we “should” have. Bigger. Better. More. Consume. Consume more.
Buying into that advice, literally and figuratively, is what excavated that emptiness within.
So let’s not just shove stuff in it. Make sense?
Listen To Your Heart’s Heart
Let’s uncover what your heart’s heart is trying to tell you. Listening starts with determining what language, so to speak, you are speaking to yourself. This starts with a simple Enneagram exploration. I’ve boiled down the process to four simple steps for you to follow. Grab that checklist HERE.
I leave you with this. The emptiness (AKA the cosmic vacuum) holds within all the answers. She knows what is missing. Deep down, she is your sage guide. It is my aim to help you interpret what she is saying as you seek a new approach. XOXO
If you want to explore the Unraveling Together community, you can do that through this link: https://www.unravelingtogether.com/