Saturday, March 27, 2021
Must You Feel Empty and Lonely?
Usually inspired by J. Krishnamurti’s words, these excerpts from his teachings left me troubled:
People running away from emptiness, incompleteness, loneliness, are not different from what they seek to avoid; they are it. You cannot run away from yourself; all you can do is seek understanding. You are loneliness, emptiness, and as long as you regard the feelings as something separate from yourself, you live in illusion and endless conflict. Only when directly experiencing your own loneliness can there be freedom from fear. Fear exists only in relationship to an idea, and an idea is the response of memory as thought.
Having spent more than four decades practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapy, I thought most people, myself included, struggled with these emotions because of childhood trauma.
Feeling empty and alone?
You must’ve been unattended to in some way, ignored, rejected, neglected.
I struggled with this excerpt for weeks. He’s just a philosopher, after all, a writer-of-ideas, of Indian descent, thoughtful, reflective, intelligent.
But does he have some lock on the truth?
Of course not.
And, yet, I wondered, could it be true?
Couldn’t a secure attachment, as the scientifically-oriented psychoanalysts call it, ensure an inner feeling of peace and stability? Of the presence of others? Of some kind of an essential nature?
Readers following this blog know I’ve also resumed daily meditation, minimally one-hour per day, for more than a year now. It seems, to me, the practice only introduces you to greater levels of loneliness and emptiness.
Perhaps it’s just the true nature of things?
It seems that, in the final analysis, a wonderful, loving childhood, combined with a neuro-typical biology, will lessen these dark emotions.
It will not and, indeed, cannot eliminate them.
At most, I’d note, meditation, yoga, and similar practices simply accustom you to the lonely-empty feeling. Or, if on a deep, spiritual quest, you might begin to feel part of a greater whole, an endless one or a nothingness.
Either way, the sad feeling cannot go away.
That impossibly optimistic existentialist, Albert Camus (1956/1991), writes,
There is not one human being who, above a certain elementary level of consciousness, does not exhaust himself in trying to form formulas or attitudes that will give his existence the unity it lacks. (p. 262)
Try formulas or attitudes or religions or philosophies.
Psychoanalysis itself offers systems of belief, from the Freudian to the Relational. Religion offers more, as does politics, group identities, feminism, nationalism, ethnicity, geography, history, and so on ad infinitum.
Try one of these on for yourself—if you haven’t already.
See if the empty, lonely feeling vanishes.
I’m no nihilist.
I believe, instead, we must find our own truths, our own authentic way of being, of living.
Ideally, we learn to balance our desires with those of others.
We exist, kind of, as individuals, but always in a context. The air and water and food and civilization and humanity live inside and outside of us.
Elsewhere, Krishnamurti writes:
If one wishes to find that which is truth, one must be totally free from all religions, from all conditioning, from all dogmas, from all beliefs, from all authority which makes one conform, which means, essentially, standing completely alone, and that is arduous…
Are you kidding?
Camus, A. (1956) 1991. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. New York: Vintage.
Krishnamurti, J. (1964). Think on These Things. New York: Harper and Row.
Krishnamurti, J. (2007). As One Is: To Free the Mind from All Conditioning. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press.
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