The Eternal, Internal Black Hole of Need


There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You will never succeed in filling that hole, because your needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss closes.

“Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it. There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom

There are so many different thoughts you could focus on within this short meditation. And while I hesitate to distract you by talking about my own focus, I do, however, have a question:

What do you suppose he means by telling us to “work around it”?

~ by Kimberly Mason on September 17, 2009.

7 Responses to “The Eternal, Internal Black Hole of Need”

  1. I think he means to not let it suck us down into the abyss. Keep praying. Keep communing with others. Keep doing your daily tasks. The hole is there – you can’t ignore it or you’ll fall in – but you can work around the hole.

    My hubby has such an abyss right now & he’s doing the distraction thing. We both know that’s not the answer – his distraction method will end up being destructive to him. I think I’ll share this quote with him – but maybe not my comment about it 🙂

    • I found Nouwen book in it’s entirety (I think so, anyway, though I do know there are typos, so….) online: I’m going to buy a copy, but I got started here. Apparently Nouwen wrote this during a deep depression, read the “Introduction” and see if you (and your hubby) don’t feel a bit less alone on your own journey….gee, if ol’ Henri has troubles, who am I to think I can be without them??!!

      • Thanks – I’ll check it out. I was introduced to him (well, actually both “hims”) in seminary – I think it was a book about parables maybe? Love his style…

  2. To be swallowed by the abyss or distance ourselves from it is to depart from the place where we will find who we are. Wounds are a part of us. To me he is saying that life goes on in the presence of the abyss, acknowledged while not giving power to it. To live with it, side by side, is to overcome its power, and its presence so familiar that we no longer see or feel it. In time we find that, by God’s grace and healing, we are able to traverse the very center of where it once gaped.

    That is what I think he means.

    • Dang that’s deep, girl. You and your pathway through the forest are really speaking to me today.

      I am reminded of the “righteous indignation” (aka being completely absorbed into my pain) that I used to allow it to overtake and overwhelm me. Now (I suppose that this is maturity) I am able to feel that emotion without the accompanying stress and anxiety. I either do something about it or I don’t (or can’t).  And the things I use to distract myself, well, we know THAT doesn’t work — thought that doesn’t keep me from trying anyway…

      I really do think that you said it all here:

      “Creating an inner path draws on the same guidelines as an external one: respect for the terrain and what exists there; recognizing which inhabitants are ripe for removal and which are guardians of the landscape; responding to the uniqueness of each portion of the path as it uncovered, and honoring its gifts while proceeding; not losing the opportunity offered by the present moment for the sake of the larger goal of creating a path. And along the way, the awareness that the mysteries of life and love infuse the effort with purpose.” (Reverent Irreverence: blazing trails)

  3. I think he means we can’t fill the hole, and so we have to find ways to learn not to let the abyss be so dark and all encompassing. It’s easy for me to equate this with my former relationship with food. Food can never “fill the hole” (emotional pain/anger/resentment/stress) and so we have to learn other ways to deal with those things in our lives more constructively. But, the key also is to dig deep and find out why the hole is there in the first place and why it is so very sad and deep. Only then can we see it become smaller and smaller.

  4. […] or what is your Inner Sanctuary? How are you caring for that Inner Sanctuary? Do you remember the Abyss of Need we talked about a couple of weeks ago? Are you tending to or are you being absorbed into the Abyss? […]

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