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Pop Psychology 5 – Fragile and prone to distortion. Why relationships are like glass

In my work as a counsellor and psychotherapist I never cease to be amazed at one and the same time at the resilience and the fragility of the human spirit – that inner core of ourselves as human beings.

In the song ‘Glass’, husband and wife duo Keifer and Shawna Thompson, collectively known as Thompson Square,  explore human fragility through the lens, if you will pardon the pun, of glass. Here is a link to the song

It is perhaps helpful to reflect for a moment how people come into relationship. It starts with an encounter. Two people become aware of one another. Maybe they find themselves in the same space at the same time. Or, maybe, their eyes connect and they are drawn together. It occurs to me that ‘Glass’ is all about the risk involved in moving from encounter through connection to relationship.


“Trying to live and love,

With a heart that can’t be broken,

Is like trying to see the light with eyes that can’t be opened”


Just as we won’t see the light unless we open our eyes we won’t experience the benefits of relationship unless our hearts are open. And yes, we may come to realise “This could be a big mistake”. Maybe our hearts will get broken; but “it’s a chance we’ll have to take.”


We may discover we are like “oil and water”, which, of course, don’t mix, but if we don’t explore, once connection is established, we’ll never know whether we will blend or not. Alternatively, we may learn that we are “like gasoline and fire”, a metaphor generally used in the context of being no good for one another rather than setting each other aglow. Yet it’s those “different paths”, down which we’ve walked that “brought us here together” to a point of opportunity to “love [each other] gently” rather than “judge” one another.


It’s those same “different paths”, down which we’ve walked, on which we’ve “picked up” “baggage”, memories of past encounters and relationships.  However, when events in the present raise unpleasant feelings in us, perhaps because we are reminded of the foibles of a former mate, our minds can play tricks on us, as we attribute the source of our distress to our current partner. This unconscious process is known as projection.

The risk of opening up to another is that while there is potential for us to “shine”, because of the “baggage we picked up on our way” and projection there is also the danger we may “shatter” because “we are fragile, we are human”. Each of us has the capacity to heal past hurts or to, often unintentionally, rewound the other. Therapy helps raise awareness of the unconscious processes that go on in human relationships.

In attempting to protect ourselves from feeling hurt we may restrict “the light we let through us”. The problem with this defensive approach to life is that we also restrict another’s capacity to heal because, rather than showing them who we really are, we display a distorted image of ourselves. The more open our hearts are, the clearer the glass is and the less chance there is of our true “shape” being misconstrued.

Glass, of course, doesn’t have to be colourless.  Sometimes it is translucent or even opaque. And occasionally it may crack without shattering. The path to true intimacy in relationship is through transparency. Being seen and accepted for who we are, warts and all. Again, this involves risk. Shawna is painfully aware as she risks “let[ting] you look inside me, through the stains and through the cracks” knowing “you[‘ll] see … good and bad” because we are all a mixture of both, and pleading “not to judge [and reject] me”.


A registered therapist or counsellor can work with you through distressing emotions such as anxiety and shame and being on the receiving end of blame to gain fresh perspective.

David Sinclair is a registered accredited psychotherapist, counsellor and supervisor.

He is the Pastoral Care Director of the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), a faith based soul care agency.

David is also the Service Manager of Wessex Psychotherapy and Counselling CIO (WPC), a registered charity dedicated to relieving psychological and emotional distress.


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