As you go through life, you may occasionally experience a sense that you’re missing something. There’s a hole in your existence, and you’re not quite sure how to fill it.
You try all sorts of things. For some people, it’s a hobby. For others, it’s food. But no matter what you do, you still have this gnawing sensation that there must be something more for you.
What is this feeling, exactly? How do researchers, psychologists, and mystics explain it? And is there anything you can do to get rid of it permanently?
Theory #1: It Is Your Existential Angst
In the middle of the 20th century, a bunch of philosophers – mainly from France – noted that humans have the unique problem of dealing with why they exist. Most animals go about their lives, running on instinct and impulses, never thinking about why they have a subjective experience of the universe. But humans aren’t nearly so lucky. Our massive brains and fabulous intellect leads us to ask the most basic of life’s questions.
The problem is that getting answers to these is horribly complicated. Nobody knows for sure why the universe is here at all. Some people will say that God created it, but then that begs the question of how an all-powerful came to be. It doesn’t really help answer the question.
This lack of answers to ultimate questions leads to what thinkers call “existential angst.” It’s this strange sensation that your life needs to have a purpose, but there’s nobody out there to give it one.
Yes, it sounds deep, but it is something that can affect people, especially those at high risk of anxiety. Ruminating thoughts swirl around looking for answers, but there are none. When you come up short, you seek out distractions and diversions – anything you can to take your mind off the brute fact that your existence is a complete accident. If the universe is purely physical, there seems to be no underlying narrative to your life. You’re just going about your business with no direction or purpose, and that feels a little odd.
Please note that we’re not saying that life is meaningless. The point here is that now knowing why you exist is a big problem for a lot of people and can cause them to feel like there’s a void in their life. They want direction from on-high but don’t get any.
The good news is that there are a couple of solutions to this problem. The first is to join with the mystics and find meaning in that direction. There are plenty of faith traditions out there that do offer ultimate answers to life’s fundamental questions.
The other option is to create your own purpose. Find a passion and go for it. When you believe in something, it makes all the hard work and sacrifices worthwhile.
Theory #2: You Don’t Understand Your Place In The Universe
However, much science may present itself as the arbiter of truth; there are some things that it just doesn’t know. For instance, it is unlikely that researchers will ever come up with a compelling answer to the origin of the universe. The reason for this prediction comes down to how science works.
A basic rule in science is cause and effect. You have to have something to bump into something else through time. Nothing cannot cause something, so researchers will probably never answer the question of why there is anything here at all.
Science has problems in other areas too. For instance, there’s nothing in the laws of physics or chemistry that can explain our subjective experience. Consciousness is fundamentally impenetrable by science, and yet we rely on it to carry out the scientific method in the first place.
Researchers like to point out that our place in the universe is marginal. We occupy a small planet that orbits an average star in an infinite void populated by trillions of galaxies. We seem hopelessly insignificant in the physicalist worldview.
But what if the physical paradigm isn’t central? What if there are parallel realities that interact with the physical world?
If our subjective experience is something in the physical world, but also separate from it, it could mean that we’re more important than we think. It could also mean that we have a link with the universe that runs deeper than currently believed.
Ascendant signs, for instance, predict a person’s role in life based on the alignment of the planets at the time of their birth. If consciousness is something that permeates the universe, then theories like these become more plausible. They could also contribute to filling the void in your life. The more you understand your place in the universe, the less empty you feel, and the more fulfilled.
Theory #3: You Don’t Have Enough Love
Psychologists and therapists believe that the feeling of emptiness in life comes from a lack of love, mainly during childhood. Children of absent parents will often look to others for love and approval. They need a life full of affirmation and praise to compensate for the absence of tenderness when they were young.
The symptoms of the inner emptiness can be quite harmful. Many people, for instance, don’t understand their purpose in life, and negative thoughts wrack them. They continually seek approval from friends and family. And they find it challenging to explain their feelings.
When you don’t get enough love, you come to believe that you’re not worthy of respect. You experience a traumatic imprint that stays with you for the rest of your life, making relationships uncomfortable.
Many people experience this type of sensation in their life. But if you leave it untreated, it can lead to chronic conditions, such as depression. Many people who experience this lack of love in their lives turn to external sources of distraction, such as drinking and drugs.
The good news, though, is that you can overcome these feelings with the help of a therapist and psychological retraining. There’s no need to spend your entire life feeling like you’re missing something.