21 thoughts on “Emptiness: The Un-Feeling Feeling

  • October 2, 2017 at 1:46 am

    I find this to be so true in my own journey thus far–people generally just don’t know what to do with emptiness!
    I have felt empty for a very long time. It is familiar enough so that much of the time I don’t notice it for any length of time while going about my day. Other times it seems so front and center that it overwhelms me. I KNOW that sounds contradictory and perhaps it is but it is the only way I know how to explain the emptiness, the sense of being numb while at the same time sensing that this is not normal–there SHOULD be feelings in there somewhere if I could somehow break through the outer surface that portrays everything as “all systems go.” I once told a therapist that I have “holes in my soul” as I was trying to explain some of these things.
    Mostly now I just accept that’s the way it is. I think if therapy were something that could heal that completely it would have by now! I DO firmly believe however that antidepressants are NOT a good choice for someone experiencing emptiness–unless of course, the depression is deep enough to put someone at risk. I think I’d better amend that to antidepressants aren’t good for ME! I find that yes it does ease the intense depression but since a medication can’t differentiate between easing sadness and easing other feelings, it seems to shut down everything and increase the emptiness. I wonder if any of your clients find that to be true?

    • October 2, 2017 at 7:53 am

      Dear Velveteen, thank you for your vivid description of what emptiness feels like. I understand what you are saying re: therapy not helping. It requires a specific kind of therapy that helps you break through your inner wall to access your blocked-off emotions. I hope you will go on my website and contact one of the CEN Therapists on my list. If there’s not one near you, you can talk with one who does skype treatment. Don’t give up on this, OK?

      • October 3, 2017 at 3:43 am

        Hi Dr. Webb,
        Thank you for your kind and prompt response… I AM currently in treatment via phone. She has been very helpful in many ways but I still feel a lot of emptiness.
        I also wanted to mention something I forgot to mention in my first comment and that is it seems like many professionals look at feelings of emptiness as a sure symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder! I have known several people who have been given that heavy diagnosis as a result of talking about often feeling empty. Issues around abandonment seem to often lead to that diagnosis as well.
        Thanks for continuing to write about these important issues!

      • October 3, 2017 at 7:58 am

        Yes, emptiness is associated with borderline personality. But I wrote a blog about how that is a different kind of empty feelings. I hope to help therapists become more aware of the CEN kind, what it means and how it’s different.

  • October 2, 2017 at 2:35 am

    I had the “chills” as I called them for years before I found out that the way I was treated as a kid was wrong and had stunted my emotional growth.
    Took a lot of hard work to accept this and take therapy, but once you get some sort of momentum, aided I must add by feeling better about yourself, a lot of headway can be made.
    Not quite sure whether there is an end stop to personal development, I don’t mean being perfect, but there seems to be more to learn and enjoy as time passes.
    Maybe this is Brave New World for a late developer, but whatever, as you say its worth the effort.
    Love the feeling of warm expectancy instead of a cold and empty void.

    • October 2, 2017 at 7:37 am

      Dear Sandy, you are clearly changing your life in such a good way. Thank you for describing the process of recovery for those who aren’t sure it’s worth it. You are not only making a difference in your own life, you are affecting all the people around you in some very important ways. Thank you for your comment Sandy!

  • October 4, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this here or not but here is a poem I wrote years ago talking about how I’ve felt emptiness as a result of undiagnosed BPD, and probably CEN.

    I Am The Shadow

    I am the shadow,
    I exist in a world of light,
    Blending into the darkness of night.

    My face you cannot see,
    My expressions, sometimes misleading.

    If you hear a whisper in the wind,
    It may be me.

    I am the shadow,
    I exist in a world of sounds, good and bad.
    Of laughter,

    You think that I feel nothing,
    No love,
    No hate,
    No anger,
    No fear,
    No pain.
    But you are wrong.

    You think that I do not cry,
    But I weep silently.
    You cannot see the tears that slide down my cheeks,
    But they are there.

    I am the shadow, you cannot touch,
    Always within sight but never within reach.

    I am the shadow, afraid to trust the light for it distorts me.
    Please forgive me if I trick you,
    I cannot control it.

    I long to live in the light,
    To be held and loved,
    But I am only a silent shadow,
    Watching but unable to take part in it all,
    What others do, I can only dream of.

    So I lurk in corners,
    Always waiting for the night to come,
    Always dying but never dead.

    I am the shadow, I have no friends,
    Even in a crowd, I’m all alone.
    Existing in somber shades of gray,
    A lonely shadow,
    I’m doomed to stay.

    By Joyce, 1990.

    • October 4, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Dear Joyce, thank you for sharing your beautiful poem with us. It is very sad, and expresses so much pain. I hope you will change the ending, to express the possibilities that are open to you. Keep working on yourself, because you are worth it!

      • October 4, 2017 at 7:17 pm

        Through a lot of therapy and hard work and time, I no longer feel like this poem expresses (usually). I am doing much better now and like to help others know that it is possible to recover from BPD (and CEN!) My passion and mission in life is to spread awareness of BPD and help erase the stigma surrounding it. I never knew about CEN until I read your blog. It makes so much sense. My parents parented me the best way they knew how, but they didn’t know how to cope with my intense emotions. I got the message that it was wrong to feel certain emotions, and wrong to feel them so strongly. I know now that there is nothing wrong with feeling things intensely. Some of us are just wired differently.

      • October 4, 2017 at 7:25 pm

        You are so right! There’s a good chance, in fact, that your feelings as a child were not unusually intense at all; it’s just how your parents experienced them based on their own histories and personalities. Keep up the good work.

  • October 4, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I find that mindful scrutiny of your thoughts can be powerful in naming your fears. Realizing that you also have the power everyday to say, I’m in charge of my thoughts… On a good day…. Others, the gripping loneliness of empty sucks.its a lifelong practice. I’m also a 59 yr old bipolar (psychotic episodes) I thank God for all the teachers in my life, including people on here. What a relief I’m not the only onee!

    • October 4, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Dear Kat, it is amazing how paying attention to what you are feeling and naming those feelings changes you. You are not alone, for sure! Keep up the good work!

  • October 4, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Wow, Dr. Webb, THANK YOU! For years I have written about the emptiness I feel in my journal. It has been hard to articulate, almost impossible to describe to others, and they rarely understand. On my hardest days I termed it the “infinite sadness.” Your article in itself was healing; like you said, just knowing someone else understands brings hope. I have made considerable progress recently as I have recognized my abandonment issues (from childhood as you described) and learned how to handle that and find healing in learning how to attach appropriately in my relationships. Thank you again for your work and generous heart to help others.

    • October 4, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Wonderful, Mike! I loved reading your comment. Keep it up!

  • October 4, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    As always, a good article. I have recently tried to express the empty emotions of CEN as “My emotions are broke.” Not grammarly correct but it is the best I can do. Of course, that confuses most people too.

    It is a little scary when the professionals put the empty feeling with BPD. I’ve known a couple people with that quite well and on the surface, that is the last term I’d associate with them. They seem to be ALL emotion.

    I’d think it would be more like general dissociation. I’m pretty good at that so it makes sense to me.

    I try to enjoy the awesome moments when they come. Today is a lovely day, fall blue sky, not a cloud, but warmer than average and the maples in the area have not changed yet. Yesterday, it was a young child holding on to a banner of TP from Homecoming, just letting it trail behind them. It is those flashes of emotion that are satisfying. It’s better than none at all.

    • October 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Dear Megalodon, watching for those moments of joy in life is so very important. They are everywhere, when you start to look for them. Sending you all my best wishes as you welcome more and more of your feelings into your life.

  • October 4, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    I totally resonated with your article as applying it to myself. Answered “Yes” to nearly all 20 CEN quiz questions. The problem is that I live in rural Montana and there are apparently no practitioners nearby. You mentioned seeing a therapist via Skype and I wonder how I can access a list of those people, especially those that accept Medicaid insurance. The “Find Help” page of this website doesn’t seem to give that option in searching.

    • October 4, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Denelle, go to my website, emotionalneglect.com, and under the SUPPORT tab is a link to the CEN Therapist List which has a tab for therapists who Skype. I hope this helps!

  • October 6, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    In my experience there is no way to make it okay. It is water under the bridge. You cannot relive your childhood and there is no one to make it all better. The pain is absolutely unbearable. It is a gnawing pain which is just there and nobody really knows or cares.

    • October 7, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Dear Nisey what matters is that YOU know and care. You are the one who can fill that empty space. Once you understand it you can decide to take it on. I hope you will.

  • October 10, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Emptiness is an unbearable, physical pain in your heart and in your mind


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