In my own work nowadays, I'm constantly aware of how much my heart aches with each person I see. Some would wonder about whether that's a good thing because it can feel uncomfortable to feel so much so often. Even yesterday, my trainee bemoaned the fact that she was still able to become upset about her own trauma history as it resonates with her client's. And, today, I heard another trainee say that she is pulling back from opening her client up too fast because her client said she felt tired and emotional after she happened to cry in the last session.
In my own life, I'm practicing accepting that my heartache is just the appropriate reaction to working with so much heartache and that my capacity to hold it trembling keeps me more aware of what my patients are going through and communicating in each moment, stay present, and increases the chance that something helpful emerges.
In contrast, my friend just met with her therapist and her psychiatrist and both of them gave lots of advice about what should be done to overcome depression: go exercise, be active, get out of the house, etc. It left my friend feeling disappointed. Everyone knows that these are the things that need to be done, but the whole nature of the pathology is the lack of energy and motivation. Maybe it would have been much better for them to make room for the enormous weight of sadness and despair that is being carried, to give my friend the chance to unshoulder the weight by sharing the load, even for a brief moment, to recognize the courage and strength it takes to keep on going and to maybe replenish that courage by uncovering what fuels it, what keeps her going, not what weighs her down.
Reminds me of "Trouble Me" by 10,000 Maniacs:
Why let your shoulders bend
underneath this burden when
my back is sturdy and strong?
I'm not certain that my approach right now is the right way for everyone. But, I'm tired of seeing the toll on the heart when it is bound too tightly, in myself and in those I care for. And, so far, my heart is hanging on.