“The wealth of a soul is measured by how much it can feel; its poverty by how little.” — William Rounseville Alger
I’ve always felt life incredibly deeply. As an empath, I feel my own feelings very deeply, but I tend to also feel the strong feelings of all around me as well. This can be quite wearing and exhausting at times, especially when surrounded by people in pain or grief.
I remember many years ago as a teenager talking with someone about how deeply I was hurting one time, and this friend suggested I needed to learn to feel emotions less. Although I had not yet heard this quote at that time, I instinctively recoiled from the thought. I remember telling my friend that my capacity to feel joy was directly proportional to my capacity to feel pain – such that any attempt to lessen my ability to feel pain would simultaneously decrease my ability to feel joy. I did not convince him of the wisdom of this path, but I’ve always known – even in the deepest pain – that it was accurate.
So often, pain feels as if it is a river carving a canyon in my soul, much as the Colorado River has done to create the Grand Canyon. This canyon is the container for my ability to experience emotion. No emotion is lasting—just as the river always flows on. But as the canyon is carved deeper and wider, my ability to feel any emotion—including joy—is increased. Therefore, I make no attempt to flatten my emotional responses to life. I rejoice in the depth of the experience, knowing that even the worst pain is just an aid to greater joy. By that measure, I am wealthy indeed.