Mindfulness and psychotherapy – As people pursue the journey toward “losing control” and to face sources of emotional pain, and mindfully penetrate deep within inner space, whether through emotional surfing or other emotional exposure exercises, they may find themselves facing a very daunting place, a “hell” realm, which I refer to simply as “The Hole”. The hole is often described as a “pit”, “chasm”, “cave”, “abyss” , “void” , “vortex” and so on. It is frequently experienced in one’s abdominal/umbilical region. This inner realm is often extremely frightening to encounter and is described by many as equivalent to “hell”. The feelings described in concert with the hole are a deep sense of “emptiness”, “meaninglesness”, “alienation”, “separation”, and is often described as producing significant anxiety, panic and a deep sinking feeling. Certainly, not everyone is likely to encounter this realm in their healing journey but a significant enough number does such that I feel it is important to discuss such that people are not unduly frightened or disturbed if they encounter it. I also believe that many do experience it but had no words to describe it. When I searched the internet for other references to this experience, I was shocked to find no references to it, at least that I could find.
So what is this place? As I describe in the book, just as there are black holes in outer space, so too their are holes in inner space. As with astronomical black holes, I see the inner holes as creases or folds in our inner psyche that were formed by disruptions or threats to our earliest and most formative attachments. Thus, it is not surprising, that this tear in our fabric is experienced around our umbilical region, where our earliest connection to the world resided. When our primary attachments are threatened or poorly formed, it leaves in its weak a “tear” in our psychic structure.
From a psychobiological level, I believe the hole may represent a separation or firewall between our limbic or reptilian brain, and our fore-brain structures that contain our cognitive/evaluative functions. This separation probably served an adaptive function during our formative stages of development since it protected us from affective experiences that were to powerful to integrate.
I have also found that certain elements of ourselves may be contained within that hole. It can include critical memories, feelings and sometimes whole parts of ourselves. This is even more the case in those who were subjected to trauma and abuse when young. On occasion, aspects of one’s autobiographical memory are tucked deeply into the hole.
Many people go to great length to avoid this hole and I believe it helps provoke a lot of avoidant behaviors. The need to stay frequently busy and distracted may often be a means to distance ourselves from this inner void. Many choose to stay in relationships, even destructive ones for fear of facing this part of themselves. Food, drugs, alcohol, smart phones and so many other things can be used to sooth the pain of the hole. Ultimately, we will have to face this region if we really want to grow, otherwise we will be destined to dwell in “the land of the hungry ghosts”.
I cannot recommend that people face this hole without some professional support. Not that I feel that it is dangerous. I don’t believe any part of ourselves is dangerous. However, it can be frightening and confusing and a steady hand can help guide one through.
Some questions to ponder extracted from the book: Answer “True” or “False”
– There are places inside that I dare not go.
-Sometimes i feel a great sense of emptiness inside of me.
– I often feel that I am not connected to the world around me.
– I absolutely can’t stand being alone.
-Sometimes I am aware of a feeling of a hole in my gut.
More on facing the hole in the next blog.
As always, please feel free to post comments, personal experiences, observations, objections, or even bad limmericks.