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2: The Theory of Holes
we will discuss a fundamental idea used in our work here. It's called the
Theory of Holes. Under usual circumstances, people are full of what we call
"holes." What is a hole? A hole refers to any part of you that has
been lost, meaning any part of you that you have lost consciousness of.
Ultimately what we have lost awareness of is our essence. When we are not aware
of our essence, it stops manifesting. Then we feel a sense of deficiency. So a
hole is nothing but the absence of a certain part of our essence. It could be
the loss of love, loss of value, loss of capacity for contact, loss of
strength, any of the qualities of Essence. There are many of them. However to
say we have lost parts of Essence does not mean they are gone forever; they are
never gone forever. You are simply cut off from them.
take, for example, the quality of value or self-esteem. When you are cut off
from your value, the actual experience is a sense that there is a hole inside
that feels empty. You feel a sense of deficiency, a sense of inferiority, and
you want to fill this hole with value from the outside. You may try to use
approval, praise, whatever. You try to fill the hole with fake value.
walk around with lots of holes, but we usually aren't aware of them. We're
usually aware of desires: "I want praise. I want to be successful. I want
this person to love me. I want this or that experience." The presence of
desires and needs indicates the presence of holes.
holes originated during childhood, partly as a result of traumatic experiences
or conflicts with the environment. Perhaps your parents did not value you. They
didn't treat you as if your wishes or presence were important, didn't act in
ways that let you know that you mattered. They ignored your essential value.
Because your value was not seen or acknowledged (perhaps even attacked or
discouraged), you got cut off from that part of you, and what was left was a
hole, a deficiency.
you relate to someone in a deep way, you fill your holes with the other person.
Some of your holes get filled with what you believe you're getting from the
other person. For example, you may feel valued because this person appreciates
you. You don't know consciously that you're filling the hole with their
appreciation. But when you are with that person, you feel valuable, and
unconsciously you feel the other person is responsible for your value. Whatever
this person is giving you feels like a part of you; it is part of the fullness
that you experience.
unconscious does not see that part of the person that makes you feel valuable
as separate; you see it as part of you. When the person dies or the
relationship ends, you don't feel that you're losing that person; you feel
you're losing whatever is filling the hole. You experience the loss of a part
of yourself. That is why it is so painful. It feels like you're being cut and
something is being taken out of you. That's what the wound and the pain are
about—the hurt of loss. You may feel as if you lost your heart, your security,
your strength, your will—whatever the person fulfilled for you. When you lose
a person close to you, you feel whatever hole that person has filled.
one thing people are talking about when they say that we "fit" each
other. Each person fits the other's holes. This fits into this hole, that fits
into that hole. When two people live together, they may feel full and complete
because they feel themselves as complementary; together they make a unified
is rare that another person fills all your holes. You have many people and
activities in your life, and still they don't fill all your holes. There will
be some holes left, and this keeps the dissatisfaction going. And, of course,
holes don't get filled perfectly. The moment the other person changes a little
or says something that makes you feel bad, you feel the hole again. "Oh,
he doesn't think I'm worth anything after all." You feel angry and hurt
because the hole is getting exposed. So the dissatisfaction continues because
the person is not always filling your holes perfectly, especially if he's
wanting you to fill his holes.
When you change relationships, or a person in your life changes, then there
must be a change in the holes involved.
Right. If there's any change, there's a jiggling around of holes. Some holes
become empty and some get filled. The person has to adjust and find other ways
to fill the holes. This usually means they have to deal with some of these
holes. They have to feel their presence and maybe understand them.
now you know why the loss of somebody who has been very close to you, very
intimate with you, is so painful. After being with this person a long time,
you're so accustomed to the fit, you believe that other person is part of you.
Losing the person is losing a part of yourself.
you experience this loss and separation directly, you have the possibility of
seeing that what was filling you wasn't really you. If you stay with the hurt
and the pain of loss without trying to cover it with something else, it is
possible that you will feel the emptiness. You will feel and see the hole.
Then, if you allow yourself to feel the deficiency, the emptiness, you may find
the essential part of you that will fill the hole from the inside, once and for
all. It's not even filling; it is the elimination of the hole and the
identifications with the deficiency. In that way, you regain part of yourself.
You connect with the part of your essence that you lost and that you thought
only somebody else could provide for you.
people feel a loss of self-esteem when a relationship ends, which is why I'm
using the particular example of value. To begin exploring the loss, you can
stay with that feeling and ask yourself, "How come I feel so worthless?
How come I feel like a nothing just because that person isn't around any more?
Why do I feel I'm so much less valuable?" If you stay with that feeling
without trying to change it, just paying attention and trying to understand it,
then you will experience the deficiency and the hole. If you understand the
deficiency and its source, you might even remember the actual event or pattern
of events that brought about your loss of value.
hole is usually filled with the part of the personality that has the memory of
what was lost, the situation that brought about the loss, and the hurts and
conflicts associated with it. We have to go through the hurt at the deepest
level and get close to the hole itself to see these memories. When we see the
memory of what was lost, the aspect of Essence that was lost will start flowing
any deep loss is an opportunity to grow, to understand more about yourself, to
experience holes that you believe can only be filled by someone else.
Unfortunately, people usually defend like crazy against deeply feeling these
losses. This is primarily to avoid feeling the hole. People don't know that the
hole, the sense of deficiency, is a symptom of a loss of something deeper—the
loss of Essence, which can be regained. They think the hole, the deficiency, is
how they really are at the deepest level, and that there is nothing beyond it.
They think something is wrong with them, but this feeling that something is
wrong is an unconscious knowledge of the presence of the hole.
will do anything to not feel the hole. They believe that if they get close to a
hole, it will swallow them up. If they are coming up to the hole of love, for
example, they might feel threatened by a devastating loneliness or emptiness.
Other holes will bring up what feels like a threat of annihilation. No wonder
we don't want to go near these holes! But in our work here we have seen a
surprising thing: when we stop defending against feeling a hole, the actual
experience is not painful. We simply experience empty space, the feeling that
there is nothing there. Not a threatening nothingness, but a spaciousness, an
allowing. This spaciousness allows Essence to emerge, and it is Essence and
only Essence that can eliminate the hole, that deficiency, from the inside.
a hole manifest as anger?
You might have anger as a result of a deficiency, especially as a defense
against feeling a hole. Most feelings, specifically those that are automatic
and compulsive, are the result of holes. When there are no holes, there are no
such emotions. Sadness, hurt, jealousy, anger, hatred, fear—all of these are
the result of holes. If you have no holes, you don't have these emotions. You
have only Essence. That's why such emotions are sometimes called passions,
false feelings, or pseudo-feelings.
whole society is set up to teach us that we should get the outside to fill our
holes; we should get value, love, strength, and so on from outside. We talk
about how wonderful it is to do things for other people, or to fall in love, or
have a meaningful profession as if these activities are what give life meaning.
We attribute the meaning to the person or thing we think is responsible for it
rather than to Essence, which is really responsible. Our whole society is
arranged so that people fill each other's holes. Civilization as we know it is
built around filling holes. It is a product of the personality. It is also the
home of the personality. It is what sustains and nourishes the personality.
Has it always been this way?
I don't think so. I think it happened gradually. It took a while for the
personality of civilization to become so dominant. The more mechanical we
become, the more culture is a matter of filling holes. Many people say that in
the past there was more love and presence, more recognition of reality, and
that people were more in touch with their essence than they are now. You've
heard of the Golden Age? In the Golden Age, people experienced their essence,
no holes. The Silver Age began as Essence diminished and the holes began to
appear. Then came the Bronze Age. Now we're in the Iron Age. It's the darkest
and heaviest. Iron is nothing but defense. We can sometimes feel the quality of
iron in our hardness and determination to protect ourselves. So this is one way
of viewing the present time—all defenses against holes.
ourselves to tolerate the holes and go through them to the other side is more
difficult now because everything in society is against this. Society is against
Essence. Everybody around you, wherever you go, is trying to fill holes, and
people feel very threatened if you don't try to fill your holes in the same way
they do. When a person is not trying to fill his holes, it tends to make other
people feel their own holes more. It's becoming more and more difficult to do
the Work, and the Work is becoming more and more needed. That is why it is
important to have a group like this where there is a community of people
involved in the task of self-understanding. You have the support of many people
who are allowing themselves to feel the holes instead of filling them. It is
very difficult—almost impossible—for one person alone to do this because
everything in her environment is against it.
You said something about the connection between holes and emotions and that
Essence doesn't have any emotions. I don't understand.
If you understand your feelings, you'll get to your essence. But that doesn't
mean that your feelings are your essence.
Does that mean that if I am my Essence all the time, then I won't feel anything?
No, it doesn't mean that. There are real feelings, and there are
pseudo-feelings. The pseudo-feelings are attempts to fill the hole, which is
the absence of the real feelings.
So what's in the hole is a fake feeling?
Yes. If you lose your value, for instance, if at some point you get cut off
from it, there will be a hole left. The hole will be experienced as a sense of
inferiority or a lack of self-esteem. But that is not a real feeling. It is the
absence of the real feeling of value or self-esteem. This inferiority will
often be covered by an attempt to feel superior as a defense. But that's not a
real feeling either. It's an attempt to hide, a pseudo-feeling. If you get
angry when somebody does or says something and you feel inferior, that again is
a pseudo-feeling. All these pseudo-feelings are coming up because you are not
in touch with your real value. They are compensations. They are real in the
sense that you do feel them, but they are not real in the sense that they are a
consequence of losing what is real. This is an important difference. When you
have been cut off from a real feeling, something else tries to take its place:
the emotions. By feeling the emotions, you can see what it is you lost and
experience it. When you experience real value, you see it is very different
from the pseudo-feelings that covered over the loss. Emotions are reactions,
while essential states like Value are states of Being. They are not reactions