The empty rooms of the mindThe unsatisfied needs of the past are like traps: you cannot go back to satisfy them and so they remain there as empty spaces that create turmoil in the present.
The unsatisfied needs of the past create indelible empty spaces: the empty rooms of the mind.
In our mind there are many empty rooms, they are those places where we are afraid to enter so much that to avoid them we tell lies, we build stories about us and the world. The empty rooms of the mind are formed already at an early age. They are occult, dark and silent, they are the ones that leave room for a much deeper emptiness, the emotional one .
The problem with empty rooms of the mind is not their existence but our willingness to fill them at any cost . So, as we grow up, we end up filling them with anger, grief, stopgap relationships, alcohol or food . All because we don’t understand the nature of that emotional emptiness, all because we don’t know how to recognize an empty room.
The metaphor of the empty rooms of the mind
If you were more romantic, you probably talked about the empty rooms of the heart … however the emotion does not lie in the myocardium, but in the brain. The connection between mind and brain is as fast as the synaptic one. Thus, the empty room of the mind is an emotional hole, a deficiency, a lack …
Our emotional hunger is proportional to the depth of our empty room. As adults we act in every area of life driven by the desire to fill a gap, to fill that empty room, so we desperately try to satisfy our emotional hunger through addictive relationships, disproportionate ambitions, perfectionism, obsessive or immature bonds. The tragic implication is that this rush to “fill” is completely unconscious.
We do not know what we are missing, we do not know what we want to fill… we just know that we need it. The need for fulfillment is so strong that too often it becomes the main theme of life, it becomes the substitute for true intimacy, true ambitions and the most authentic needs. The problem with empty rooms of the mind is that we try to fill them with something external, while we should fill them with what we already have inside us.
How these emotional gaps arise
The empty rooms were born due to a lack of elaboration: that recognition never had, that lack of attention, that emotional invalidation, that feeling superfluous, without an adequate location. A parent’s duty is to look after the offspring, to make them feel safe and desired . Sometimes parents fail in their arduous task, so a child can end up feeling a burden and doing everything to not bother, to do everything to become an adult soon. Other children engage in gratifying their parents and still others, feeling left out, rely on outbursts of anger for attention.
The cognitive resources of children are very limited, therefore, in the event of an emotional deficiency, the processing will have to arrive later. If a mom is absent, anaffective or depressed, the baby will put aside her need for love and build her own empty room. If a parent is over-demanding, the child will put aside his need for unconditional acceptance and build his room empty. Again, if a mom is hyper-pushy, the child will put aside her need for autonomy and individuality and build her own empty room.
Those of acceptance, autonomy, individuality and love are just a few examples of unmet needs . A sidelined child will struggle to develop an adequate sense of belonging and this gap will be his empty room, an empty space that will lead to marginalization, closure and distance.
There are as many empty rooms as there are pending needs
The empty rooms of the mind can become real chasms . Thus, the child who has felt discredited, sidelined, debased and unwanted , could, in compensation , try to fill his empty rooms with pathological perfectionism , set high standards and chase success. The higher the standards imposed, the deeper the wound from which they generate.
The child who has not been able to develop a healthy sense of autonomy, due to a hyper-vigilant and intrusive parent, will try to fill his empty room by distorting the concept of autonomy and bringing it closer to absolute self-sufficiency (I don’t need anyone). As an adult, he will develop bonds based on emotional / emotional distance . When the empty room of autonomy approaches the empty room of acceptance and missed love, the adult will develop a strong ambivalence: he will be afraid of “close ties” but will not be able to help but look for them. Only hardly will he be able to form rewarding relationships.
The latent conflicts
Those who are not aware of their empty rooms, rather than explore the emotional labyrinths of the psyche , decide to move within rigid and ephemeral certainties and always follow the same paths, already beaten. It is in this context that latent conflicts arise .
When we are unable to identify the source of a malaise or reject the idea of having some “lack”, latent conflict can take us away from any form of gratification. At the root of the latent conflict there are emotional resistances. We want something intensely, but out of fear of not being able to get it we refuse to fight for it and we put in place a series of cognitive distortions, dissonances and defense mechanisms.
Let’s take a practical example. Maria has many empty rooms but she doesn’t know she has them. The fear of looking into those rooms led Maria to believe that all stories are destined to end . Maria lives alone, has a divorce behind her and constantly states that she loves solitude … however when she motivates her choice, she does not base the answer on the positive aspects of life as a star but replies that it is good to be alone because all couples are unhappy, they don’t respect each other and betray each other.
How to fill the empty rooms of manta rays
A psychotherapeutic path could help you identify what are the “empty rooms of the mind” and how to fill them. Each of us has the power to fill our emotional gaps. Sometimes it is done with acceptance, others by reinforcing one’s sense of personal identity, still others by learning to nurture love for oneself.
For a practical exercise in introspection, I recommend that you read my article on personal identity.
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