Feeling Empty? Don’t Try Filling the Void

Feeling empty is viewed negatively in the west. We constantly distract ourselves not to have to deal with boredom. For some people though, the feeling of emptiness can’t be turned off. It becomes predominant, no matter what they do.

In eastern philosophy, feeling empty is a spiritual milestone. It’s seen as a blessing, a doorway to freedom. When you feel empty, you become receptive. I know, it doesn’t necessarily feel good. Don’t worry, feeling empty isn’t the final destination. It’s a vehicle for growth.

Your life is governed by subconscious desires and assumptions. The moment you decide to take responsibility for them, you start living consciously. Walking as the leader of your own existence is rewarding, but also challenging.

To stop living as a victim of the circumstances, you need independence ; freedom. And you’ll never be free unless you learn to deal with feeling empty. The feeling of emptiness can be disconcerting at first, but developing a healthy relationship to it will lead to an empowered life.

Feeling empty

Thanks Roberto Trombetta from Flickr

Emptiness is the space that takes over when you stop distracting yourself. It is what you wake up to in the morning. It is the last thing that happens before you fall asleep. It usually goes unnoticed, but is always in the background. It’s the fundamental state you return to when you stop doing stuff. When emptiness comes to your attention, you’ll start feeling empty. And if you can’t deal with this feeling of emptiness, your whole life will be affected.

In a world that encourages activity, emptiness is considered a waste. The more productive you are, the better you feel. Every unoccupied minute has to be maximized. No space left. Our mediocre school system teaches you that if you don’t get stuff done, you’re worthless.

By filling our time with commitments and distractions, we tend to forget what’s behind them. We condition ourselves to despise the space between our activities. Our inactive default state – space – becomes something to get away from. We try to escape from feeling empty inside. We might learn to meditate, but even this can be reduced to an activity. Ten minutes of meditation are added on the schedule. Another element on the to-do list.

This habit of constantly filling up space makes us dependent. Since we can’t deal with lack of movement, we lower the bar for what we accept in our actions and thoughts. Everything becomes better than nothing. We readily accept mediocrity. At least when doing mediocre activities, we don’t feel so empty.

Emptiness grocery

Ever went for groceries when starving? What happened? You ended up buying too much junk. Because of your hunger, you lowered the bar and bought food you normally wouldn’t have. You were victim of your own discomfort.

What about people who seek an intimate relationship no matter what? They lower the bar and end up with the crappiest people. They tolerate poor relationships because it’s better than feeling empty and alone.

Your life is dominated by similar patterns. Every action you take arises from a desire to change the way you feel. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, when you’re uncomfortable with feeling empty you’ll constantly act out of neediness, like a hungry animal. You’ll seek to fill your half-full cup with external events. Your actions will be reactive, and your whole environment will reflect that.

It’s possible to reverse the conditioning and live from a ground of satisfaction and peace. A feeling of emptiness could become your refuge. Ever wondered how life would be if you were comfortable with … nothing? Imagine how simple it would be. No more need to fill up your free time. No more fear of waiting anywhere. No more anxiety of being alone.

You wouldn’t tolerate bullshit anymore. Your actions would be authentic and clear. You would be confident, knowing that you can always deal with the worst ; feeling empty.

Life exists outside of doing stuff. Stop covering it and let emptiness break you and shine through. You’ll see that space is the gateway to creative living. Emptiness will break the boundaries of your mind. Use the feeling of emptiness to liberate yourself, and walk out as a free human.

If you’re faced with long-lasting and overwhelming feelings of emptiness, you should also get professional counselling. Here’s an article on feelings of emptiness that provides more info on the topic.

Learn to meditate today with our free meditation resources. Our technique is simple and effective: you'll see benefits after the first sit!

Gabriel Rocheleau

I'm a meditation teacher, writer and live to grow at all costs. My goal is to help you develop an effective and profoundly rewarding meditation practice.


  1. Sumedh on August 10, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Really like this blog post. I also feel like in “emptiness” I can find and hear my true voice and nature – whereas with a constant focus on the external world and thought objects I tend to become more reactionary and lose myself to the world around me.

  2. Sunny Lim on October 14, 2015 at 1:05 am

    Only 23 with an incredible drive for insight!! Thank you for all articles; interesting read.

  3. Emmanuel Chibuzor Kanu on December 6, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    love it

  4. Maya on December 8, 2015 at 12:40 am

    I was searching for ways to fill up my void and came across this blog. Excellent thoughts, not what I was expecting but love it. Very insightful and enlightening, can’t thank you enough for sharing 🙂

  5. Marg on February 5, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I really agree with everything you’ve said. Nothing good ever comes out when acting out of needines. The bad thing is you learn it from experience and even worst is that, even though you know it, you often can’t stop doing it.

    I’ve caught myself many times when I’d try to do anything to get rid of that feeling, and nothing really worked out. Even if you do get to the point where you’ve sucessfully reduced the feeling of emptines, sooner or later you seek more of it and so it’s a bottomless pit. One has to somehow find peace in their “default” state (I like that expression!) of there won’t be any peace of at all really.

  6. Edu on May 24, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I understand the reasoning behind the article but not the conclussion. So what does the final solution means exactly?
    “Feeling empty inside is fine. Don’t escape. Go all the way down.”

    When I feel empty I get anxious. Is this feeling of wanting to do something but not knowing what, cause nothing that you can think conveys is going to fill you up inside. This leads to a feeling of seeing everything as dull and boring. Not feeling passionate about anything in particular.
    So the thing would be just to stay with this feeling and anxiety? Eventually will go away on its own?

    • Gabriel Rocheleau on May 24, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Hello Edu,

      The feeling of emptiness itself is not the problem, but your relationship to it is.

      Emptiness is nothing more than lack of “stuff”. Your whole self, with its ideas, thoughts and feelings are painted on the blank canvas of emptiness. Noticing the background of reality – emptiness – is like watching TV and remembering that you’re only watching pixels on a screen. Suddenly, the activity seems bland and pointless. GOOD! IT WAS POINTLESS ANYWAY!

      You mention that you get anxious when a feeling of emptiness arises. Anxiety arises from a desire to control or escape an experience. In your case, the experience is a feeling of emptiness. What I suggest is not that you try to manage the emptiness, or your anxiety. You’ve already seen that it doesn’t work. It makes the anxiety worse. Simply let it be. This is why I say “Don’t escape”.

      Of course, this is easier said that done. The mind has a tendency to constantly react, and it’s conditioned to constantly “do stuff”. It reacts to emptiness by searching for things to “fill it” with. Yet, nothing you can get or achieve will fill this Void. Instead of directing your attention to these external objects, watch closely how you are feeling, from moment to moment. Don’t think about it, don’t label it with statements like “oh I’m getting anxious again”, just feel. This is why I say “Go all the way down”.

      You may find yourself “alone” in emptiness. That’s a great milestone, but that’s not really emptiness. If “you” are still there to witness emptiness, it’s not really 100% emptiness, is it? Is ultimate reality “emptiness + you” ? Keep gently investigating this puzzle.

      Don’t try filling the leaking bucket. Don’t hold onto falling curtains.

      Don’t worry too much, you’ll be fine.

      • Cara on June 30, 2016 at 11:42 pm

        This is really good stuff. Thank you. 🙂

      • Priyam on August 20, 2016 at 4:30 am

        very well said….we should not label it,just see emptiness without judging it with our senses and labelling it as bad or good or something to fill it with.And eventually you will enjoy it and it will make you independent in a longer run,your decision making will improve as you will be confident,stronger.

    • Quentin on October 21, 2017 at 3:09 am

      You have to try to live with it until it goes away

  7. Julia on June 2, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I agree that accepting emptiness brings a degree of peace. But sometimes the emptiness might be there because you’re isolating yourself from other people. Don’t we need people? Where do you draw the line between spending time connecting with other people and accepting the emptiness?

    • Gabriel Rocheleau on June 3, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Hi Julia,
      A feeling of emptiness can be caused by innumerable factors, and I certainly don’t think that all these factors are invalid and should be ignored. However, I think that emptiness has important lessons to teach us, and that we can all benefit from looking at it directly, instead of escaping it at all costs.

      For example, feeling hungry doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat. However, if you’re overwhelmed by hunger, you’ll make bad decisions. A healthier process is to deal with the hunger face-to-face, realizing it isn’t actually so bad, and then acting out of a baseline of sanity.

      A feeling of emptiness caused by social isolation is quite common, and I don’t think isolating oneself further is the way to go. Accepting the emptiness doesn’t mean you won’t act to change it; it simply means know you’ll be fundamentally fine if you can’t. I believe in dealing with feelings the same way we deal with a puppy. Unconditionally accept them while still making efforts to change their behavior when necessary.

      Some people tend to get caught in a pattern of escaping their feeling of emptiness (a natural element of life) at all costs, which tends to lead to all sorts of addictions/destructive behaviors/bad results.

  8. Helen on September 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you for this. I’ve been struggling with this feeling my entire life and thought there is something wrong with me. The “empty feeling” and fear of it comes from looking at my schedule and seeing that I have nothing planned. I’ve been trying to escape this feeling my whole life- and I think it’s time I face it.

    Maybe emptiness is not a waste. I have to re-train my relationship with it.

    Thank you!

  9. Kerry on June 10, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    For weeks I’ve been researching into this feeling, and I saw this article and noticing it was different than others, decided to give it a read. It wasnt a traumatic ancient event or neglect, but instead one week, I just noticed I lost my connection to experiences. My whole life, I’ve put heavy value on experiences and was happy that way. I felt I got the most out of life, and I found beauty and awe in every little corner of the world. For the monthes I’ve felt empty, I felt robbed of what made me myself. Going out and conversations with friends suddenly, with no meaning, didnt give me joy when I settled at the end of the night. The websites I’ve read act like neglect from parents or trauma is the only reason one can be lacking emotion. But the thing is, I’m still a teenager. I havent gone through anything major that would rock me as described. I just want to have something happen to me to either shake this off, but I never even thought of using it to my advantage. But whats the conclusion, what do I do next? Accpeting this big of a concept when you’re not even legal sounds more difficult than squeezing jello through a keyhole.

    • Duncanz on June 11, 2017 at 6:37 pm

      The moments when you are alone are the moments when your have to focus on yourself as this article says you really don’t have to escape. you have to use that time to think.In real life there is time for everything for loneliness to work to eat to love to cheerish to celebrate to cry and to smile.and in life we reach our goals when we learn how to appreciate each and every one of them.in loneliness we become wiser,stronger,spiritual and super creative.In emptiness we become human beings because emptiness normally appears after a disappointment and in silence we appreciate the beauty of life and the whole world!! 🙂 never regret anything unless it was harmful for your soul !!

  10. Priyanka Naib on July 20, 2017 at 5:18 am

    Really like this blog post. Such a refreshing perspective! Thanks a lot!!

  11. Karolina on July 22, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    It’s gonna be a downer probably…
    I don’t even know if there will be any reply, or, assuming there will be, if it will help me in any way, but heck… If there is a chance of something poking me in a good direction, I’m taking it.
    I’m not sure I “liked” the article. It seems to come from a place where my thoughts wander oftentimes. And I don’t really like when they do.
    I realise now, in my twenties, that I’ve been feeling emptiness and… pointlessness of life throughout my life – or at least from the time I was capable of abstract thoughts. It was horrible. I couldn’t enjoy anything or establish any real relationship because of that. It was all deprived of meaning and so I was seeking “truth,” something “more,” something “real.”
    You are probably going to call it “feeling the void.” Maybe it was. Although I associate feeling the void with distractions. With methods of forgetting that there is emptiness.
    In my case, the emptiness was constantly in front of my eyes.
    You say it’s like watching TV. You realise for a moment that what you’re watching is really a mass of pixels and then you focus on the whole picture again. I feel like all my life I saw pixels, with just a few glimpses of the picture they created.
    The idea of “taming the emptiness” by realising how liberating it is (life has no meaning and so you can just enjoy it without worrying about higher goals; simplification, I know, but I guess you get the idea) is nothing new to me, but it never really worked. Maybe it’s the result of, as you mentioned, conditioning: at school, by society, by parents who tell us that life SHOULD have SOME meaning. Maybe it stems from biological factors, like depression can.
    The point is, it feels to me like I am on the other side of this theory: instead of distracting myself, I gaze into the abyss, eyes wide open, and I can’t stop seeing the void.
    You seem like an insightful, intelligent person. Any ideas how I can “go back?” How to see and enjoy the picture instead of attempting to understand the chaos of pixels?

    • Gabriel Rocheleau on August 3, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Hello Karolina,

      I can empathize with your frequent experience of the pointlessness of life. Even though it looks like you’re suffering, you seem to be quite lucid, and that’s a very good thing. These kinds of experiences are hard to describe in words, and “emptiness” can point to a lot of phenomena. However, the “emptiness” I’m speaking about in this article is far from a depressed/dis-empowered/nihilistic state.

      Of course, vague psychological quotes such as “life has no meaning so I should create my own and enjoy” have never really worked for anyone actually feeling the pointlessness of life. If you truly want to break out of a psychological pattern, you need a deeper level of realization than mere “intellectual insights” that sound good on the surface but never truly impact the way you feel about the world. If intellectual games led to true insight, then all psychologists and philosophers would be sages.

      Now obviously, people are going to tell you that you “need” meaning in your life, but that’s easier said than done when you see how empty their worldly pursuits are. It’s hard to get a good grasp on what you’re specifically going through at the moment, but the key to “going back” to enjoy life is not to repress the feeling of emptiness, as you have probably already seen.

      Have you ever tried meditation?

  12. Dan on November 9, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Completely agree, the most transformative thing anyone could do, and remembering that even meditation can be filling the void.

  13. chris on January 16, 2018 at 2:17 am

    Id like to embrace the feeling of emptiness as a tool to be able to switch a button on the remote and find another reality, such as you would do when switching from dream to dream. I think there is a lot of help here on this blog, bottomline is that people are feeling this way and you may be able to turn something uncomfortable to your advantage. Id like however to say that even feeling terrible from eating all that junk food or all those individual pixels are amazing in their own right, meaning that suffering is amazing in its own right. Its all a matter of perspective and facing the void may help you switch. Sitting here writing this at 3 in the morning is really helping, its really all about connecting, knowing there are individuals that think this way help me, its like a type of knowing…maybe even in the void there is a type of knowing without traditional forms of intellect.

  14. John on February 18, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    i am feeling lost.
    I read loads of books on buddhism, taoism and such, listened to alan watts… and I cant remember when I was feeling happy now. Somehow I was “happy” months ago, but I am afraid that it was only arrogance combined with consuming stuff (movies, addictions)….

    I meditate. Anapana Sati meditation. Sometimes Vipasanna..
    So I know the feeling a bit, I touched it, seen through the keyhole. Bits of light.

    But. BUT!!

    Now, when I am alone, I feel this darkness. Or emptiness.
    I have not been doing what I wanted to do in my life for some months now (studying a major I dont want, Computer Science (how is it so common for it guys to feel fucking depressed? IT just sucks away your soul that is why, you think like a fucking robot, 0,1, dualistic mind, if-else..)

    I have a loving girlfriend. I have a good job… I should feel at least OK.

    The thing is, I have been feeling the emptiness.
    And what I feel is definitely different from the stuff I “touch” while meditating. That stuff is pleasant.
    But this stuff I feel when alone……. it causes me panic attacks, “what is life? what am I?” and spawns suicidal thoughts and heart ache.

    I am ripped apart. Sometimes I feel like I am loosing my mind. Getting schizophrenic.
    From this article I feel like those two sensations (meditation Sunyata “Void” and the darkness I feel) should be the same thing… but it is not.

    What is your view on this, is it the same thing? Because I dont feel that way at all and I dont know what to do anymore.

    • Elle on February 28, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      John, just wanted you to know you’re not alone. I can relate to a lot of things you stated- feeling lost, reading various books about eastern philosophy/religion, having a good relationship and being in a good place in life externally. I still feel empty, confused, have racing thoughts, panic attacks, depressive episodes. Sometimes it feels truly like my soul aches. I feel like I’m going crazy. Meditation hasn’t helped me… only made my anxiety and depression worse.

      • Paul on August 14, 2018 at 4:39 pm

        I can’t do meditation either. I have tried and I can’t do it. It’s not for me.

  15. David on April 24, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I have BPD so my chronic emptiness is very painful. Any thoughts?

    • Gabriel Rocheleau on April 26, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      I can’t give you any medical advice, and would recommend following the advice of your doctor. As far as I know, meditation has also been shown to tremendously help people with various conditions, including BPD.

  16. Paul on August 14, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    There’s a lot of crap talked about emptiness. It’s basically do anything other than face the truth. On the one hand we have the advocates of aversion therapy, which is basically distract, distract, distract, and on the other are the advocates of meditation, which is basically more emptiness. Both approaches fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which is that you have evolved to a level where you can see through the sham of this life, and how meaningless it is. In short, you’ve reached the last stop on the line in human existence: nihilism. Because at this juncture you realise how absurd human systems are and how they all ultimately fail in the end. Take religion for example. In the Christian religion, we have the spiel of ‘God loves you’, but it is all tied up in a very nasty self-perpetuating system of guilt, fear, and shame. The reality is that such things are untestable, and if they are untestable they have to be taken on faith, which nicely preserves the system and the business of spirituality, and perpetuates fear and shame. Many people who thought God loved them died a nasty death at the hands of a conflicting human system with beliefs that differed. Or take Capitalism, which uses the same carrot and stick system to persuade people to be part of the herd: the spiel here is be productive and fit in, and if you try to stand up for yourself you risk losing your job over it. Fall out of either system and you can consider yourself a pariah.

  17. JOANNE YOON on December 29, 2019 at 9:03 am

    So positive… thank you.

  18. Varun on February 26, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Hi, I understand that our reaction and judgement of our emptiness leads to more misery, but if accepting it is the way to go, how does a person who finds everything empty and pointless engage with life?

    • Gabriel Rocheleau on February 27, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Hi Varun,
      First, I must mention that if someone finds everything empty and pointless, I would make sure they’re seeing someone trained to help keep darker thoughts at bay.

      That being said, accepting one’s current state does not mean renouncing to change it. What I’m pointing to in this article is that there’s a feeling of “never enough” seated deeply within ourselves, of always “being hungry” for the next experience. We’re constantly chasing something that’s right around the corner, but when that desired thing finally comes, it never truly satisfies. Attempting to fill that psychological void with more experiences does not work, so we need another way of approaching the problem.

      That dissatisfaction should be observed for what is is, and if one can manage, it should also be accepted. Strangely, embracing the urge to fill without acting on that urge seems to greatly reduce the suffering associated with it. This is my understanding of what the stoics were teaching and practicing, and it seems to be a much more sustainable and joyful way of living. And it also enables a way of life that’s less “needy” and therefore more proactive.

      Hope that helps,
      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  19. Daniel on April 12, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    For me (and many other people like me) this feeling or sensation of emptiness is a symptom (one of many symptoms) of my emotional neglect (CEN) and Complex PTSD and although many years have passed since I got it, I have yet to find a way to overcome it …

  20. DeJuan on February 5, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Thank you for posting this… yesterday, I found myself fascinated with receptive perspective while I was digging deep for motivation to do my math homework (university). I found that if I tried instead to feel the void of what I want (because I don’t have it), I can more easily receive it. I didn’t understand what it meant but the insight was so true to me that I couldn’t let it go. It feels like a void but it isn’t negative. Pure space… and it is so relaxing. I have ADHD so I have a lot of issues with concentration and while I’m feeling this vastness. Anyway, thanks for clarifying this for me.

  21. Erwan on May 6, 2021 at 7:44 am

    This feeling of emptyness have showed up when I was only 14 and now it’s been almost 4 years that I’m dealing with it plus a mental hyper activity that makes me insomniac, a little paranoïd and insecure any where/any time (especially at night). I’ve never thought about it like a helpful way to grow up but more like a curse that forced me to not feel while everyone around me was talking about their feelings. Sometimes I just think that I’m crazy.

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