A Salve on Wounded Hearts

Nurturing our gifts for a greater purpose

Jul 08, 2023

Feelings Emotions Self-Acceptance Reflections Identity
woman with long hair and long-sleeve floral shirt

Photo by Fa Barboza

I feel too much. It’s a problem, really. But also, strangely, a gift. One I didn’t ask for. One I question more often than I should. Some days it takes the form of codependency. Other days it shapes into empathy and compassion. And frequently, it manifests as sensitivity. Whatever name I give it, its impact is the same—a heaviness in my chest, a strong desire to cry, a confinement of spirit, a disconnect from the present moment. But mostly, a feeling of being far from home.

The spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has coined something similar that he calls the “pain body,” which I understand to be an accumulation of humanity's past and present suffering that we all carry within us and that perpetuates through more of the same. It’s like an energy field that persists because the pain has not been dealt with or healed. It implies that we are all connected, which I believe we are. Some feel it stronger than others, some not at all, depending how attuned we are to our own emotional state and that of others.

I felt the pain body before I ever had a name for it, before I ever read Eckhart’s work. Maybe that’s what drew me to writing, and to getting a counseling degree. Maybe I needed a way to make sense of it that meant something. An outlet for the absorption of more emotion than I knew what to do with. It seems to be a necessary ingredient for artists. But it can also destroy them. Thankfully, my faith reels the really intense ones back in. God has infinite capacity to hold our all-consuming thoughts and feelings.

I’m thankful for all the feelers of the world.

The ones out there using their emotional intelligence for good. Those intuitively healing our collective pain with their gifts. We need them. More than we realize. I can only hope to be part of that. Sometimes we don’t understand why God has gifted us with certain abilities until we are in a position to use them. On their own, they seem arbitrary, fruitless. But brought together with God’s will, they are unimaginably powerful.

Perhaps the dread that fills me when I feel too much is simply an indication that I have yet to find the places where God would have me use my gifts. The corners of the world where my words could land gently like a salve on wounded hearts. Maybe feeling too much is synonymous with craving healing—for myself, for everyone else. What else is the purpose of emotion if not to direct us to grander aims?

In 2007, when I Am Legend with Will Smith came out, I remember watching it in the movie theater, crying. The scene where he’s yelling “I can help you” to the zombies as they try to kill him struck something deep within me. It reminded me of our self-destructive nature, even in the face of generosity. And how we hurt each other, often for no good reason. The heaviness of just that is enough to shove me into a dark place for a long time.

But we can’t remain in dark places. That is not where God would have us stay.

It is not the place from which we can do much good. He calls us into the light of His presence, so that we can go out into the world and be children of light. As hard as it can be sometimes to crawl out, we prayerfully keep on fighting the “good fight,” and finishing the race (2 Timothy 4:7).

Maybe God puts compasses in each of us in the form of personality traits that serve as guideposts, giving us answers to the questions “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?” (from A Course in Miracles). And these compasses look different from person to person—intuition, leadership, listening, artistic, nurturing, feeling too much. We just need to learn how to pay attention to them, understand their motive. What it is they want us to manifest.

It’s the next day. Sitting in our backyard in early July, 7:38 pm, the pleasant scent of a summer evening in the air. The peaceful externals help, but I can still get into a “too feely” headspace regardless. It often lingers for days, like the sticky humidity on your skin, and I can’t shake it off. I’ve learned to live with it, give it the space it asks for, and let it pass. I know it will be back, sooner than later.

Our giftings are no accident.

In the context of service, they are invaluable. May we all find the spheres around us where we can do the greatest good with our compasses. May we learn how to nurture them, how to align them with God’s will. For if not now, then when? If not us, then who? I will probably always feel too much. And the more I think about it, it’s not a problem at all. It’s by design. One I’m still piecing together, but one nonetheless. It may still leave me feeling far from home, but I’m finding my way back, one written word at a time.