I love the song The Weight, written by Robbie Robertson, sung by many artists, my favorite being Aretha Franklin. I heard it this afternoon and the refrain always gets me:
"Take a load off Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny
And (and, and) you put the load right on me."
First of all, it wasn't until I was researching this song that I learned they are singing to Fanny and not Annie.
Secondly, I like to think of Fanny as a client of mine. My hope is that my clients feel, like Fanny, welcome to give me the "load" they carry. I have this funny vision that I am a like the canister we used to use for deposits in the bank drive through. In us our clients deposit their shame, fear, regret, anxiety, sadness, hatred, depression, frustration, and anger. Those cares are taken elsewhere, to serve a different purpose, and take a different form. They do not magically disappear and become insignificant. Checks become cash, cash becomes savings. Trauma becomes resilience and resilience becomes the ability to function effectively in the world...emotional currency.
Therapists are safe, solid, and nondescript by design. When a client steps into the therapy office, that space becomes their space. We are an benefactor of this space and an incubator for change. We serve as a witness to a clients' suffering because the problem with suffering is that by nature it feels shameful and isolating. We lean into the pain knowing the way to change is to understand the temporary nature of discomfort and trust that in that discomfort we will find a better path.
Once a client "unloads", the person regains perspective to hopefully see what needs are unmet. The "load" becomes lighter because despair has given way to hope and possibility. Agency is recovered and the client feels empowered to manage their "load" in the world.
There is a difference between a friend who listens and a licensed professional therapist. Therapists train to recognize patterns, provide insight that links past patterns with current behaviors, intervene appropriately and professionally, and monitor emotional and physical safety. Choose who you allow to take your "load" carefully, and remember the weight can be shared.
The Weight sung by Aretha Franklin, written by Robbie Robertson