6 Ways To Satisfy a Hungry Heart

“…emptiness can never be eliminated, although the experience of it can be transformed.”
-Mark Epstein

Ever feel out of control?

Ever feel so empty you can’t be satisfied?

A couple of weeks ago, that’s how I felt.

It was the wrong kind of emptiness, when you ARE filled, but you either don’t know it, or worse, don’t accept it.

Snoring Emotionally

I had talked with my long-time, wonderful therapist, someone I trust, about a series of very important things.

Yet, somehow, I didn’t feel the release I expected to feel, so I was psychologically “hungry”.

Because I was unconscious of the real problem, I was “sleeping” in an emotional sense, but noisily, as if I were snoring.

I walked away from the conversation feeling frustrated, as if I’d hit a wall. I wanted to wrestle with something or someone, but no partners were available.

1-Take an Emotional Inventory

The next day, in the car on a half-day trip, I still grappled unsuccessfully with my unsettled state.

Fortunately, since I’m a veteran of these kinds of feelings, I knew that, to feel better and more at peace, I had to be an observer
I listed the feelings I was experiencing. Anger. Loss. Resentment. Frustration.

2-Turn Down the Volume

Now that I’d slipped back into observer mode, I experienced more balance, more ability to manage stress, more peace.

I realized that I had to relax before anything else, otherwise I couldn’t return to the health and stress hardiness that I’d learned to experience and bring about over years of difficulty.

Now that I was a bit detached from the negativity, I could not be taken over by the power of that state.

I didn’t have to be a prisoner of the emotional volume of that negativity. I could turn that volume down and observe it, but not be subject to it any longer.

3-Surrender “The Demand”

As I drove those quiet roads, and my observer self began to assert itself, injecting more calm into the situation, I realized what the problem was.

For starters, when I’d gone to see my therapist that day, part of me demanded that she “take care of it”, that negativity, implying that I had no control over it.

But, that wasn’t my normal behavior, nor my normal mindset.

I’d accepted long ago (after long and difficulty years), that my therapist was only a surrogate for the strongest part of myself.

All she did was mediate and facilitate a conversation “between me and me”.

As anyone who has experienced therapy knows, when I say, “all she did”,

I’m really expressing an enormous service that this trained and caring practitioner provides, not so much by doing, but by being, and most of all, being present.

4-Listening to the Parent INSIDE

Turning down the volume of the unhappy child allows the observer to manage what’s going on.

That fertile quiet and emptiness allows a renewed conversation between the inner parent who is always present, always available, but not always listened to and that child.

But, I already knew this. Why had my child turned up its volume angrily, sucking at the air to find a satisfaction beyond satisfying?

Because part of me was ready to relive an old trauma that I had been talking about, but not experienced.

In fact, I had to re-experience it, in all its ugliness and pain, in order to move past it.

5- The First Clue

One day before my session, I had brought out bag after bag of trash from my house to be picked up.

It was raining, and I felt dreadful, that somehow, I didn’t deserve to release these old things to the curb and the disposal they deserved.

I had thought I’d feel great about getting rid of the stuff.

After all, it was from a quarter century earlier, the unhappiest time of my life, when I’d moved near my parents after living away from them for over a decade.

They hadn’t been nourishing parents.

My father had treated me in all the ways that a kid could want.

Then, after working away from home for a couple of years, He’d come home,

He looked just the same, but now abused me every way he could, and my mother, for no apparent reason, encouraged his negative behavior.

This about face and my inability to 1) find a reason for it; and 2) let go thinking that I had to be to blame caused a lifetime of searching for answers and release through therapy.

While I lived away from them, in therapy, I not only figured things out, but I quickly accepted my own parenting role. I worked consistently to be the external parent I had known only too briefly.

But, when I moved up to be near them, the child inside me reared up, like a confused and agitated creature.

That creature, demanded that they fulfill what I expected of them.

6-Surrendering to the Pain of the Past

I’d worked through some of the earlier traumas over the past decade, and I knew that I had rounded several corners. But maybe this was the hardest challenge yet:

I had to overcome the pain of the move near my parents and the disillusionment that came with it.

This was the disillusionment of age eight, now repeated by someone over thirty with children of his own, and now experienced a quarter century later.

When my children left the house, and their voices no longer a familiar presence every day, I was free to take up the challenge again of parenting myself.

I simply needed to apply the same constant compassion and attention and selflessness to myself with which I had parented them.

As I drove over those quiet roads, I sighed with sudden understanding and release.

I finally experienced the emotions I’d hoped for a day earlier, but was incapable of achieving, because I expected someone else to give them to me.

Now, alone with the steering wheel, I found I could drive myself to this place of peace, re-accepting that ever-present parent inside.

Now, I knew that the pain of twenty-four hours earlier could subside.

Now, I knew that pain could be replaced by fertile emptiness and big thoughts and the skill to manage my psychic space.

Remember, some emptiness cannot and should not be “filled” or “satisfied”.

Sometimes it is simply necessary to accept that emptiness with the right inner parenting such that the emptiness becomes fertile.

Lars Nielsen has decades of experience helping individuals and businesses discover and share their core message. Whatever your message or audience, grab his “Make YOUR Message Matter Cheat Sheet” (http://www.makemessagematter.com/) and put his time-tested techniques to work immediately.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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