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A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Borderline Personality Disorder ~ What is Emptiness?

DSM-IV-TR criteria 7 for Borderline Personality Disorder:
chronic feelings of emptiness.

What does emptiness feel like? It is described by professionals as boredom, loneliness, social alienation and apathy.  I find these definitions lacking the proper words to describe what emptiness feels like to me.  It is actually difficult to describe, but is related to self- identity difficulties.

This is very simplified. But, what is supposed to happen when you are a young child is that the primary caretaker responds to a child's needs and mirrors back the child's feelings in an appropriate manner which includes love and comfort.  As for myself, I was responded to with abandonment, aggression, abuse or ambivalence.  So, the message I received basically was hostile or abandoning which is what I do now.  I'm either full of self-hatred and/or abandon my needs.

With abandonment, as a child I am left to feel empty inside...someone please tell me who I am.  Yet, it isn't the same feeling as abandonment.  I feel like there is nothing inside of me just a hole in my gut and heart.  Like a hole in my soul. A hollowness. Distressful.

Yet, it does not seem void of feeling.  If I allow myself to feel it, it is extremely painful.  But, very difficult to describe. I do know that the words above do not fit, at all.  I am not bored, lonely, feel isolated or apathy inside. I can feel empty in a room full of people and can even be engaging with others.

As a Christian, it isn't the "God shaped hole" for Him to fill...I already know that emptiness.  Despite what other Christians think, it isn't about just letting God fill it.  It doesn't happen that way with everything. I know that the majority of it is filled with self-hatred and self-destructive.  As those layers are given up or healed in my life, my emptiness feels more real.

If I allow myself to feel empty, I feel like I'm going to die. Maybe, it is that hole that was supposed to be filled with love, comfort and care.  If that is the case and I never received it on any consistent basis than I am truly left with a hole that needs to be filled with love, comfort and care.  This time, not from the outside but within which means I need to provide this for myself.  This is what God does provide and is an example of.  It is difficult to learn how to do this for myself.

The alternative for many people including myself often leads to numerous addictions in an attempt to fill the emptiness. Addictions to eating disorders, alcohol, drugs, television, shopping, sex, busyness, work, gambling, self-injury and falling in love  are all used to fill the emptiness or to distract us from the pain.  But, they don't work...you just end up needing more to fill the emptiness again and again...they become true addictions.

So, the question remains what does emptiness feel like?  What are your thoughts, feelings and experiences?


Just Be Real said...

Clueless, I can relate so much to what you have written. Each of us has our own story and our own level of feeling empty. I just know, as you do, how very painful emotionally it is and how we can wake up to the pain.

Nikki (Sarah) said...

I totally get this...right on post...

Clueless said...


I'm glad that you can relate. Nice to know that others feel the same.


Thank you!!

Grace said...

I relate SO much! At night, if I allow myself to feel the pain of the abuse and abandonment I am overwhelmed -and feel as though I have no soul. But it is certainly not *painless*.

Unknown said...

I agree with you that feeling emptiness isn't the same as feeling bored or isolated. It's more of a internal void. Sometimes if feels like a big rock fills me where I should have a soul. I think it's totally inacurate to assume it has anything to do with being bored. I rarely ever feel bored. In fact, I'd like to be more bored. And, I don't think it's much at all like feeling isolated. I actually really enjoy being alone. But I still feel empty in a big way.

Anu Lal said...

Thought provoking post.

Clueless said...

Grace, thank you so much for leaving a comment. You describe my experience as well...it is quite painful.

Stacy, I agree, I think the DSM should investigate a bit further into their criteria.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I've certainly been a filler of emptiness, the unfillable space. Yet I have always had a little different experience with my own emptiness. There is this place inside I know resides this person waiting to get out. The image I conjure is a cave. At the very back is a small lighted jail. Behind the bars is the person I'm looking for. Sometimes I can see her standing there, but she rarely speaks, asks for my help to get her out. Other times she begs, but I have no keys. So the emptiness inside is not completely vacant but what is there is inaccessible.

The struggle seems more painful sometimes knowing there is actually a person who has something to contribute, but no matter what or who I've sent to keep her company, aid her, she doesn't seem to be able to use any of it to free herself, makes the pain more difficult to bear. The result is often emptiness multiplied.

Good question. Good post. TY


Clueless said...

Thank you Barbara. You description was quite vivid and sounds quite painful. I emptiness is you in the jail. It sounds like a place that is inconsolable.

Take care,

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