Over a decade ago I used to suffer from severe depression.
It all started from a series of negative events in my life.
Those events triggered negative thoughts and feelings, which then led to behavioral changes, which eventually made the depression worse and worse.
Now, at the time, I had no clue. I didn’t actually realize I was holding on to a certain state of mind indefinitely. I just thought it was “life being unfair” or something.
Subconsciously, I got stuck in a vicious cycle where the happier version of myself could no longer exist, where I no longer had the ability to be great and feel great.
It was a dark, sinister, devastating emotional black hole. It took me at least a year to escape from it, and at least two years to fully go back to normal.
Now, emotional black holes don’t need to be that serious. They don’t have to be linked to a mental health issue. They don’t have to last for months — it could be only a day or so.
And I think we all get stuck in emotional black holes from time to time (often without realizing).
The bigger the emotional black hole, the more we feel powerless and hopeless. However, there is always a way to get out.
My definition of “emotional black hole”
An emotional black hole is a state of mind which sucks in all your positive feelings. What’s left is either apathy or toxic emotions. When you are in an emotional black hole, you turn into a different person and lose control over your own thoughts and feelings.
Typically, emotional black holes are triggered by an external event. An unexpected phone call, a series of bad news, an argument with your partner.
It could be literally anything. It doesn’t have to be a serious issue, and it doesn’t even have to affect you personally. What makes it an emotional black hole is your own reaction.
If an external event triggers negative thoughts or emotions, that itself is a reaction. But then you get to choose — you can either hold on to the reaction indefinitely, and be consumed by it, or let it go.
When you exaggerate the importance of an issue in your own mind, when you focus all your energy on it to the point where it becomes the only thing in your life, that’s an emotional black hole.
It all starts with the trigger and our own reaction to it. But then that reaction can turn into a vicious cycle — negative emotions which lead to negative energy, which leads to behavioral changes, and so on.
The trick is to break the cycle, to simply stop the endless rumination, to shift your focus on something else. Which is easier said than done.
But I have found that awareness itself helps. If you get sucked in by an emotional black hole and you are not aware of your own thought pattern, it’s easy to feel powerless.
By contrast, someone who understands what happens in their inner world after a certain trigger, knows that while they may not be able to control the immediate reaction, what happens after it is their own creation.
Signs of an emotional black hole
1. Guilt, shame
When you are stuck in an emotional black hole, you may experience feelings of guilt all of a sudden.
This could be guilt linked to the trigger (e.g. “I shouldn’t have made that mistake”) or your own life in general (e.g. “I am worthless”).
In reality, you only feel guilt because of the emotional black hole. You are blind and no longer see your strengths and good traits — you only see weaknesses and negative traits.
The second potential sign of an emotional black hole is if you tend to isolate yourself from others.
You may rationalize your behavior and say to yourself that you need time to deal with the issue. Which may be true to a certain extent.
But the truth is that 99 percent of the time it’s nothing but our enthusiasm, energy, and vitality being sucked in by the emotional black hole. And isolation is rarely helpful.
3. Toxic self-talk
There is always some sort of inner dialogue, some conversation with yourself going on in your mind. Most of the time it’s subconscious.
The inner dialogue itself is totally normal. It only becomes an issue when you stop being your own best friend and turn into your own worst enemy, and use toxic words and phrases.
If you are in an emotional black hole, you may say to yourself that you are a failure, that life is unfair, that you can’t do anything, etc. Which is obviously inaccurate.
Procrastination. Inactivity. Apathy. Low energy. Overthinking. Emotional black holes steal your emotions and your energy.
Often to the point where you find yourself doing nothing at all. It’s like being in a limbo.
You may stop exercising or engaging in the activities you’d normally do. Which makes your energy even lower, which makes you even more depressed, and so on. That’s the vicious cycle.
The fifth potential sign you may be in an emotional black hole is if you only seem to focus on the negative and then find ways to justify it.
For example, there may be a million reasons (your) life is pretty good, yet you only focus on the two or three reasons life is unfair.
People around you may be kind, fun, smart, and have all these good qualities, yet you only seem to notice their mistakes or imperfections.
Emotional black hole: what to do
- Reach out ASAP. I mentioned I used to suffer from depression, which is probably the worst type of emotional black hole. Chances are it’ll never be that bad for you, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help. Whether it’s therapy, or a conversation with a loved one. Don’t bottle up; don’t be proud.
- Break the cycle. Easier said than done, but it’s doable. As soon as you catch yourself ruminating and holding on to those negative thoughts and emotions, just stop. Make the conscious decision of going back to a healthier state of mind. Focus on something else, whatever it is.
- Know you are wrong. We get a high out of being right, and we think we are always right. We don’t like to question our own thoughts and beliefs. When it comes to emotional black holes, this clearly works against us because we no longer see the obvious truth — that those negative thoughts are simply inaccurate.
- Silence the mind. Meditate. Or go for a walk. Or focus on a task that requires all your attention. Whatever you do, make sure you silence the mind. Don’t listen to it. It’s very easy for your mind to come up with reasons as to why the emotional black hole has to go on forever. Break free from the mind.