I believe the yearning for love, meaning, engagement, and contact with others is there from the beginning of our lives. It is part instinct – a part of our genetic makeup… but it is shaped by our environment. Consistent loving parents from an early age can make this “hole in our soul” a positive manageable thing. Inconsistent, absent, or ever changing situations at a young age can create an internal beast that can never be satisfied. Sometimes the size and intensity of a person’s hole in their soul can not be explained. Regardless of how perfect your childhood or your adult life, the hole is there! Sometimes the happiest people you know can become the most yearning, lost, confused people you know when those things they have filled the hole in their soul with are lost. Just look at how people act after a divorce, or when they lose a job, or have a crisis of faith.
What do we fill the hole in our soul with. If we are very lucky, we fill it with a full life, fit/healthy living, a strong sense of the meaning of life, a wonderful loving companion, close friends, a terrific family, and a rewarding job. Unfortunately, the reality is that most people are missing some or all of these things. If we are very unlucky or make bad choices we fill this hole in our soul with “less uplifting things”… alcohol, drugs, obsessive behavior, sex, get rich quick schemes, compulsive spending, irresponsible debt, selfish… self serving behavior, and other self destructive habits. But for most of us we end up somewhere between very lucky and very unlucky. We have a partial fill for the hole in our soul, and we alternate between feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Sometimes the unbalance is minor, but sometimes it can overwhelm a person’s life. A person can have a wonderful partner and family and become a homebody… these people are susceptible if they lose this to becoming needy, smothering those they love. A person focused on fitness can set very challenging fitness goals, but still maintain some balance, but if they experience problems in the other parts of their lives, the fitness can evolve into their only focus… leading to excessive exercise. Any health issue or injury can seriously upset their lives.
I started thinking about these things about seven years ago when I went through a divorce after a long marriage. We had been mostly happy up until the last few years… but I had let my life become almost completely about family and work. As things went bad I focused even more on it. After it was over, I rushed back into a new relationship. I wanted to fill the void that I was now feeling with an intensity I had never experienced before. Before my marriage I had felt driven to be more successful, to start a family, but I had other things in my life too. Over time the family relationship filled more and more of the hole in my soul. I did almost everything with them. I don’t regret any of the time spent with my family… I do regret not having other interests. After my second divorce I found myself in a familiar situation, but this time I wanted to do things differently. But I didn’t really know how. I found myself drawn to people who had taken a different path in life. People who had other interests, a more rounded existence, and in a few cases women who had lived exactly the opposite of me. Women who had no children and had not been married. I wanted to understand how they looked at life. Was it different? How did they find meaning in life. The meaning in life for me had always been my family and friends. I found for many of them it was definitely their friends and for some their work. The ones who seemed happiest also were living very full lives. So I decided to give more of my focus to living a full life and less to recapturing what I had lost. I decided not to fill the hole in my soul with a replacement for what I had lost.
The more you put “all your eggs in one basket” the more susceptible you are to the hole in your soul becoming a beast if things go wrong. The key is to recognize areas of your life that are out of balance, and to not give up on things that have disappointed you in the past. Don’t let those things become unimportant to you just because you have not had success before. If you find yourself in a situation where your life is not only out of balance, but a loss has left you confused, unable to live a normal life… be sure to focus as much on the other parts of your life as on finding that new thing to replace the fill you lost! Get divorced… breakup with your girlfriend (or boyfriend) don’t just jump into a new relationship… focus on the rest of your life. If you don’t have a “rest of your life”, get one! Fill that hole in your soul with a full life and you’ll be able to regain your clarity, get back to a normal life, and you’ll be able to approach a new relationship with a much healthier attitude.