Excerpt About Deficient Emptiness

Two Separate and Distinct Experiences of Emptiness

From our study in this book so far we see that it is not merely a matter of different reactions to emptiness, but rather of the presence of two separate and distinct kinds of experience of emptiness. The Great Void of the Taoists is not the impoverished emptiness of the schizoid, and the compassionate Nothing of the Buddhists is definitely not the restless and angry emptiness of the narcissistically structured personality. More accurately, we can say that the subjective experience of space is felt as completely different from that of the experience of deficient emptiness, although both experiences have in common the sense of voidness. The obvious and intriguing question, then, is: are these two types of experience related, and, if so, how? In investigating whether there is a relationship between these two types of experience, we turn towards what we already know in terms of what precipitates each. We saw in Part I, “The Void and the Self,” that the experience of space is precipitated by the dissolution of self-boundaries. And we saw that these selfboundaries—which are self-images—form the sense of identity or self. Our confusion could become compounded when we find out that similar processes lead to the experience of deficient emptiness. In fact, it is the prevalent understanding at the present time in psychoanalysis, and specifically in object relations theory, that it is the loss or absence of self-boundaries that leads to the experience of deficient emptiness. The sense of emptiness and depletion is seen as the loss or lack of part of the psychic structure. For pathological narcissism it is seen as due to the loss or weakness of the sense of self itself.

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