As a natural empath I can absorb an incredible amount of pain for others. I have been blessed in the sense that my own pain threshold, both physical and emotional, is much higher than most. This doesn’t mean I never feel pain or get sad; just that it takes considerably more to get me there. It gives me room to take on more for others. It is something I have done my entire life.
Even as a child people I barely knew felt free to bare their souls and share their innermost secrets and fears. Friends have always been able to call upon me and know that I can listen and ease the burden some for them. It is not as if I take it upon myself and carry the full weight of it; it is more that I can take it from them and put it somewhere within me, sort of like storage. I can take it and be with it and not be unduly burdened, and yet somehow at the same time their burden is lessened. I have always known that it is part of my purpose in life. It is a gift.
But occasionally there are tumultuous times when it seems that the entire world around me is suffering at once. Because I take it all in I can find myself in a place of profound–I don’t want to say sadness or depression, because it is not really that–weldschmerz. It is a German word that translates as “world pain” or “world weariness”. For me, though, it is not about my emotional state, but more about the fact that the world at times is a very sad and horrible place.
If ignorance is bliss, then sometimes empathy can be a horrible gift.
Right now I am helping one person deal with the sexual abuse of their daughter, another with general malaise, another with a horrible situation that I can’t even talk about or share with anyone else. An acquaintance–and a very good man–just died. Someone else I know is losing two people in their life. And then I think about war atrocities, homeless people, an economy that is making paupers out of millions while millionaires get richer, and I can’t help but feel weldschmerz, which to me is again not about sadness, but akin to an empathy that takes in the whole earth and its suffering.
I think that part of it is that a man, even an empathetic man, only has so much space in his heart and soul. So until my mind can sort out all the different sadnesses and find appropriate places for each of them it is a little overcrowded and some of that sadness is spilling over into that feeling of world weariness. I know that this, too, shall pass, that at some point all of it will be sorted out and that I will have room for more. That is the joy of the world. It is filled with contradictions. There are moments of sadness, followed by moments of bliss. There is hatred and there is love. I understand yin and yang, suffering and joy, rain and rainbows, and I know that sadness today can yield to happiness tomorrow. If the Germans had a word for “world joy” it would be a word I know as well as the word for “world pain” and I would also know that its utterance would be heard soon.