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Far too many of us grow into adulthood with a pervasive feeling of emptiness, borne of a lack of self-love. This may be due to physical and emotional neglect while growing up, or other childhood traumas. If we grow up emotionally or physically alone, with no close attachments to people who see us, understand us, value us, and respond helpfully to our distress, we may develop a pervasive sense of empty “Aloneness.” It is a feeling of alienation, of emotional disconnection with the rest of humanity. In our empty, emotional isolation from others, we fee unwhole. Our sense of self-worth is damaged. We feel unlovable. Just as others may have abandoned us, so we now abandon ourselves. We fail to take care of ourselves.
Every one of us has a core human need to feel whole. The cravings for drugs, alcohol, and other objects of our addictions are equivalent, on a low level, to the spiritual thirst for wholeness and a sense of union with Life. Until we find a non-addictive way of filling our emptiness, we will be vulnerable to relapse and cross addiction, using our addictions to numb the painful emptiness within. Since our addictions take on a God-like quality in our misguided belief that they will bring us salvation, they overshadow and drown out our spirituality. Getting high on drugs, or sex, or food, or thrills, or any other addictive process prevents us from getting high on life. Addictions prevent authentic wholeness or connection with a higher life force.
The only antidote for our emptiness, born of a lack of self-love, is Love. Love is the key to filling the emptiness once and for all. Love for ourselves, and the generous, unconditional love we give others, without expecting anything in return. Love fills us and makes us whole. We love for Love’s sake alone.
To love is to enhance the well-being of life, whether it be ours, or another’s. Love is an action, not a feeling. Love is an unconditional commitment to life. It is deeper than feelings. Loving is relatively easy when we are feeling affectionate, warm, and caring. Loving is more difficulty in the face of anger, hurt, or even hatred. It is in these moments, such as when we feel self-hatred, that Love is tested. To fill the emptiness, we need to learn to love others and ourselves regardless of any negative or destructive emotions, because loving is simply the right thing to do.
We begin to love ourselves in many ways. We start by getting sober. Then we insure our safety and take care of our basic needs. We remove ourselves from destructive people, places, and things. After we are safe and stable, and are free of self-destructive behavior, we then move beyond our bodies to our minds and spirits. We begin the process of healing, with the help of others. We face our self-hatred with kindness, acceptance, and forgiveness, made easier by our taking ownership for our destructive actions. We free ourselves from our hatred of others and ourselves by seeing it clearly and accepting it. With time, the loving light of acceptance dissolves away our hatred. We begin to love. We shift from a feeling of unwholeness to wholeness. We transition from self-hatred to self-love. We stop emotionally abandoning ourselves. We commit to our lives. We accept our vulnerabilities while appreciating our basic, innate goodness.
Yet clear seeing and acceptance are not enough. Healing the emptiness within requires outward action in the world. In addition to taking care of ourselves emotionally and securing our safety, stability and basic needs, we need to develop a daily life discipline of continuing to nurture both our lives as well as the lives of others, as this is the purpose and meaning of a life of Love.
We tend to the garden of our lives with a thousand daily tiny acts of kindness—to others and ourselves. If we have a thought to do something kind for someone, we should immediately act on it. We love others without conditions or expectation, for if love has conditions attached, it’s not love; it is barter.
To love is to love all of life, not just ourselves. We are part of the one great web of life that arises from some unseen ground of being. We are part of the One Life. Once we experience our incredible interconnectedness with others and our interdependence upon others, we realize this life is not just about us. Life is about life. For us to be in harmony with this truth, we too need to be about all of life. This is why we need to devote ourselves to a life of service to life. Our purpose, for example, may be to make great art. Yet we sing our song of life not for ourselves alone to hear, but for the benefit of others. The artist’s art is not for the artist alone. With the realization of our connectedness, we see that it isn’t about “me.” It never was. It was always about “Us.”
Healing our emptiness means embarking on a program of generosity. We give. Giving is one of the most useful practices to take us from negative self-preoccupation to the fullness of Love. Giving is a gift we give to ourselves. It involves focusing away from our preoccupations and worries. Though we still care for our needs, we also forget ourselves in the giving. In the end, we feel rejuvenated, energized, and full of joy. Indeed, our most selfish act is the act of selflessness.
This is why some say Love is a “selfish program.” Acting with love in all our daily affairs not only heals our emptiness, it brings us straight in to the joyful fullness of life.