Updated: Oct 20, 2020
You can feel it, the oppressive, overwhelming angst...four walls closing in on you. Life itself seems to be coming in, bearing down, suffocating you. The questions swirl in your head: Is this it? Is there nothing more to look forward to? Will I be doing the same thing day in and day out? What’s the meaning of it all? Where do I go from here?
WHAT’S THE POINT?!
If you’ve never felt this way, I’m sorry if the last paragraph made you feel anxious. Consider yourself fortunate because it probably means that you have a good sense of what’s right for you and you’re living it. For many adults and for most of the women I work with, however, these feelings are not foreign, they creep up periodically and create moments of intense disquietude, feelings of emptiness, and overwhelming helplessness. It’s the kind of feeling that makes you want to run out of a room screaming. Sometimes it feels like there are no solutions, you just want to say “forget it” and run away.
What I am describing is not depression, it’s not an anxiety disorder, it’s simply what happens when you lose sight of the meaning, direction, or purpose of your life. I have been there and I’ve felt that urge to run away because where I was standing didn’t feel right. At the time I had no idea what right looked like for me; it was awful. But then I started to understand what the feeling represented, why it crept up and, why it was so unsettling. With that, I was able to figure out what I could do about it, and you can too.
I recently worked with a client who shared this sense of loss and emptiness. It rekindled those same feelings of helplessness, that same dread. I shared the story with a friend who (infuriatingly) reminded me that we have a choice in how we feel. You may not choose how you feel initially, but in so far as you can identify and modify your thoughts, you can reshape your experience and your feelings.
In the case of the angst surrounding the purposelessness of life, you can choose to be suffocated by it, or appreciate that it’s simply a signal that you need to rediscover or revisit what gives you meaning. I’m not saying it’s an easy task, but I’d rather work to understand what fulfillment looks like, than sit with the restless, skin-crawling cold sweat that comes from feeling like there’s no solution, no hope, and no direction.
If you recognize yourself in these descriptions, if you’ve felt the angst I speak of, take solace. You’re not stuck. As dreadful as it may seem when the fear envelopes you remember all emotions have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Emotions are simply an internal alarm, be thankful that your mind has such an effective warning system. When it fades away, and your brain has regained the ability to think with clarity you’ll start dreaming big again, and you can choose to make something of those dreams.
Dream about what you want life to look like. Be honest about which parts of the dream are missing in your every day and what choices you are making that contribute to the void. Make a change happen. For any dream you may have, there’s a real-life expression, a way you can touch upon the dream while taking into account all the barriers, roadblocks, and limitations of your actual life.
A feeling is just a signal, understand the signal and you can determine your course of action.