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Chronic Emptiness: Emotional Malady or Spiritual Remedy?

 

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to better understand depression, it’s causes, and how it can best be alleviated. It’s not that I’m depressed--in fact I’m happy to report that I’m rarely blue since I started a regular meditation practice some years ago. But due to current circumstances I’m in a position where it makes sense to take a deeper look at this incredibly powerful mind state because it has an incredibly strong hold over several important people in my life.
 
While googling “Recurrent Major Depression” (a diagnosis that a close friend of mine recently received) I stumbled upon the DSM IV criteria for this condition as well as another that often goes along with it: “Borderline Personality Disorder.”
 
One of the symptoms listed under the “Cognitive” category caught my eye immediately: CHRONIC EMPTINESS.
 
It’s fitting that a word like “emptiness” is devoid of any one inherent meaning. Of course the emptiness being described in the DSM IV is the “I feel like nothing matters...life has no meaning...I don’t want to do anything...everything is too hard...” sort of emptiness. Then there’s the Buddhist version of emptiness, which isn’t quite as easy and straightforward to define.
 
Emptiness as described in Buddhism is often mistaken for nihilism which couldn’t be further from the truth. Usually it’s best to refer to it in it’s original sanskrit form: “sunyata” but for the purposes of this article I’m going to use the standard “emptiness.”
 
From a Buddhist perspective, having an experiential and intellectual understanding of emptiness is key to relieving our constant dissatisfaction with the way things are, and the distorted way we go about experiencing ourselves, other people, and the world around us.
 
I wish psychiatrists and psychologists would start to promote chronic emptiness as a remedy for emotional distress rather than just a symptom. And we could all benefit from cultivating a borderline personality instead of our customary solid one.
 
If we all truly experienced chronic emptiness we wouldn’t feel the need to crap all over our daily experience with the habitual narrowness that results from our fixed thinking. There would be no solid “I” that would have to be at odds with “you” and “them” and “the world outside” of Myself. By experiencing chronic emptiness we could gain more insight into the nature of our minds and realize that all of our emotional states are temporary and fluid and based on a constantly evolving set of circumstances and conditions.
 
By stressing the inherent interconnectedness of all things we can gain an insight into our emotional maladies and eventually have more openness and space in which they can run there course without having to take us over and paralyze us with fear and anxiety.
 
There are some severe forms of depression that absolutely need medication in order to be dealt with appropriately: meditation and understanding emtpiness aren’t a one-size-fits all answer to every issue in every instance. But we can meditate on emptiness and eventually realize how amazingly liberating it is once we get a glimpse of what it truly means.
 
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Comments

emptiness/fullness

 I would say that the emptiness of depression is the sense that life is empty of possibility. things are frozen, including the mind state that nothing can/will ever change. you are sad and you can't really remember not being sad or believe that you ever will not be sad.

Buddhist emptiness I see as fullness -- you're not locked into any one possibility. everything changes, for good or bad. and whatever comes, you can ride that wave, not be swept away.

some people need medication to get up to a level where they can get any benefit from meditation and not just dig themselves into a deeper hole.

thank you for your kind and interested tone, lawrence, and for not prescribing a particular antidote.

emptiness

I think the emptiness talked about in the depressed person is a 'perceived' emptiness. They perceive that their life is empty of meaning. So really, that is just another heavy mental construct that they carry. The Buddhist emptiness reminds me of one that has no baggage....isn't weighed down by a heavy self and thus is truly liberated.

exactly

I agree with you and indicated that here:

<<It’s fitting that a word like “emptiness” is devoid of any one inherent meaning. Of course the emptiness being described in the DSM IV is the “I feel like nothing matters...life has no meaning...I don’t want to do anything...everything is too hard...” sort of emptiness. Then there’s the Buddhist version of emptiness, which isn’t quite as easy and straightforward to define.>>

Thank you-

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