Deep inside us, we likely feel an emptiness or a hole: something missing. What we’re likely doing, unbeknownst to us, is ensuring that this feeling of something missing stays with us.
Let me elaborate. Each time we get to a point where we want to do something (or the converse, to not do something), instead of going with it, a little voice in us says, “Oh, but what about this or what about that?” What we then likely do is not go with what we like doing. We even question whether what we’re stopping ourselves from doing as a result of the little inner voice—likely Factor-x’s voice—is indeed something we even like doing in the first place. And the bigger the threat to our Factor-x, the easier we’ll give up.
In this way, we then deny ourselves something we like doing. And in this way we perpetuate the emptiness, the feeling that something is missing, the emotional hole.
What is that “something” that seems missing? Well, with Factor-x always close on our heels until we recognize how it’s spoiling things for us, we invariably take a path which, in our view, is about disproving Factor-x’s existence and not the one we’d like to take: doing something we like doing. So something always feels missing. What is missing is that we’re forever giving up on ourselves. Thus, what we like doing is what’s missing from our lives. Thus, we are missing from our lives, because we give up on ourselves.
And as aforementioned, in the way we ensure the survival of Factor-x, we perpetuate Factor-x.
Instead, what is required is that we stop and recognize this pattern, and break out of its spell even though it feels risky and scary—this is indeed liberating. And over time, even if afraid, as we see Factor-x clearer and see its traits, and recognize when it attempts to spoil things for us, we take Factor-x along on our journey but do things we like doing instead of denying ourselves. Thus, we take Factor-x along with us by seeing it, but even though it’s there tugging at us, we continue with what we like doing. By going for what we like doing, we overcome what creates, ensures and guarantees the something-is-missing feeling. By doing this, we’ll slowly, ever so slowly, remove the hole, the emptiness, the feeling that something is missing.
This is worth repeating: What’s missing is that we’re forever giving up on ourselves. What we like doing is what’s missing from our lives. Thus we are missing from our lives, because we give up on ourselves. With us living by such a pattern, it cannot feel different; it can only feel that something is missing. Invariably, with our Factor-x–driven pattern, we take a route, a path, an option that treats the symptom. And as seen elsewhere in “Treating Symptoms and Addressing the Cause,” this pattern reoccurs until we take action by addressing the cause. Only this breaks us out of the cycle of perpetuating Factor-x. Only such actions liberate us.
For example: Say we’re living our lives mostly wanting to do the right thing. Say we meet someone, we meet their parents, and we get married. We settle into setting up house. We have children. In the meantime, we settle into our job. We might first have a few jobs just to see where our interests are, but eventually we settle. So now, we have the perfect setting. And as in the movies, maybe we even have the brookie lace front porch, even the picket fence. And, yes, in some cases pets. And during this time, what we do is to ensure that this perfect picture isn’t disturbed. We might have wanted something else, or to do more with our lives. We might not know what yet. But this perfect picture gets all our attention.
And at some point, we are likely to question whether this is really what our life is about. Perhaps we’ll ask this question during times like the following ones.
- ……Perhaps, as the person who does the cooking, we don’t feel like cooking on occasion (or many times).
- ……If we are the person who maintains the garden, we might not feel like doing the garden on occasion (or many times).
- ……Perhaps there is ritualistic visiting back and forth by friends or family that we don’t want to be part of on occasion (or many times).
- ……If we are the main breadwinner, we might not feel like working for the next few months.
- ……Or perhaps, on occasion, maybe we just want to spend a quiet evening in our own thoughts in the dark.
There might be several more examples we could add, but the main thing is, each time we do those things because we’re afraid to break up the perfect setting, that’s an occasion where we guarantee that our Factor-x survives.
The aforementioned examples are light in tone, befitting a seemingly healthy family life, part of the perfect picture. But imagine, in other lives where such a perfect picture doesn’t exist, how people give up on what they like doing.
- ……There might be abuse, where the abused person would like to get out, but is too afraid of being lonely, so they stay and take the abuse. Or it might be the reverse situation, where the abuser wants to stop, but can’t because of feeling inferior, and thus continues to abuse to feel the power they lack.
- ……Certain families have constraints on family members. One of those might be not allowing a family member to go out with someone outside their religion. What if you meet someone you like, but the person is outside your family religion? Or, say in your culture, your family arranges your partner. What if that goes against your preference, which is to choose your own partner?
- ……Then there is just plain old Factor-x influencing our every decision. Say we lead what might constitute a fairly regular life, one where we have monthly commitments we struggle to meet, yet we do. We live with the usual expectations. And we have dreams. Only thing is, we dare not go for our dreams. Perhaps we don’t know how. Maybe we feel we don’t deserve to. Maybe we’re just plain afraid of the consequences.
Whether it is minor or major, each time we give up on what we like doing, we perpetuate the feeling that something is missing, the feeling of emptiness, the hole we’re desperately wanting to fill. Only by stopping and not giving up on ourselves, by starting and doing the things we like doing, irrespective of whether our Factor-x interferes with that seemingly innocent quiet voice in our mind’s ears, do we heal ourselves. It is indeed a courageous set of acts to stop and to reverse the process, to go for what we like doing in spite of the fear of ending up alone, either through our own actions or by being ostracized by others, even those close to us.
The hole, the emptiness or feeling that something is missing, comes about through our running away from the cause—by our treating the symptom. Thus, we anchor ourselves to treating the symptom. Thus, we anchor ourselves to other things or other people. But what is required is that we address the cause: to be responsible, to be committed to our lives, and most importantly, to anchor us to ourselves.
A sure way to heal ourselves is to see this pattern in our lives, to acknowledge the existence of the pattern. When we feel threatened emotionally, we invariably address what threatens us as a likely symptom, so we don’t fix the hole or emptiness. Instead of running away, rather address the cause of what threatens us emotionally: sink into the threatening feeling, sink into the emotion, sink into the pain, feel the emotion, feel the pain, feel the fear, stop running or fighting, sink into it, feel it—irrespective of the pain, the fear, or how much it hurts. Irrespective of what transpires.
This happened in my own life. Sometime back, I wanted to stop work to have time to work on a milestone: developing a part of the accompanying website for this book. It was the first time I ever consciously and explicitly took time off for something that was important to me, while still taking care of myself financially. Being freelance, it meant that for the time I didn’t work, I wouldn’t earn any income. So I would need to delve into my hard-earned savings and possibly go into the red with my overdraft and credit card. This was a frightening prospect. I worked through it, saw how my Factor-x was interjecting, how it wanted me to instead just continue working and earning. Though haunted by the fear of ending up living in a cardboard box, I recognized this as my Factor-x, and stopped working and took time off for my project for the time I planned. Had I not been aware of the dynamic at play, I could just as easily have not taken that time for myself: time to do what I like doing.
What is of extreme importance, so I’ll repeat it here, is that when our Factor-x interjects, we usually run in the opposite direction of what we like doing. But if we sink into the feeling Factor-x brings—the anxiety, the desperation—when we sink into it without running from it, we give ourselves the chance to feel it, full-blown, and to overcome it so we can pursue the things we like doing. If we don’t sink into it, we’re likely to just run from it, and thus maintain the emptiness, the hole, the feeling that something is missing.
In this way, not running away but sinking into it, we provide ourselves with the opportunity to anchor ourselves to ourselves, as opposed to giving up on ourselves. This also breeds confidence. Each subsequent time we recognize that, the last time around, the consequences didn’t swallow us, we likely have more courage, albeit possibly just a minute amount more, for the next time. But that will suffice. As we do this more and more, our experience grows. Our confidence grows. We mature. And we experience more and more of our inner power. The more we have the courage to continue to anchor ourselves to ourselves as opposed to things and people, the more our confidence grows. We have less need for crutches, until eventually we’re able to walk away from crutches all together and stand on our own two feet, doing the things we like doing. And so the hole, the emptiness, the feeling that something is missing is eradicated, one slow but intentional step at a time.