Space Shuttle Attachment
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sam Bishop MA, Registered Member MBACP (Accred)
11th September, 20130 Comments
‘Stay buckled in and never feel the effects of zero-gravity, or unbuckle yourself and take the risk of crashing to earth!’
This analogy came to my awareness several months ago. I call it the "space shuttle attachment" and it may be of help to individuals entering new, or confused by existing, relationships.
The client and the person that they're in a relationship with can be seen as passengers on board a space shuttle that is flying through space. The client is led to imagine the moment the space shuttle reaches the distance from the earth where there is zero gravity. At this point, the client can see that they and their partner have 2 choices; they can immediately release their seatbelts and float around the space shuttle together taking risks and experiencing what it is like to be weightless (this could represent their enjoying every aspect of the relationship, dealing with both good and bad); or they may decide that, although floating around and being weightless seems really exciting, the overwhelming sense of fear of something bad happening to the shuttle - it crashing or plummeting back to earth causing hurt or injury - might be too much of a risk to take (representing the time in the relationship when things can become stagnant).
The client can also consider a further two scenarios that could take place:
- The client releasing the seatbelt for the thrill of the ‘weightless’ experience, but their partner choosing to be cautious and staying fastened and safe.
- The reverse of the above point - where the client remains cautious but the partner wants to enjoy risk-taking weightlessness.
These descriptions give choices of behaviour helping the client to identify their own situation. A client may say that they are the person who released their seatbelt straight away and doesn’t care about the risks, or they may connect with the frightened and cautious individual who wants to release but is too frightened that something could happen to the shuttle and they could be harmed. The analogy also allows them to consider themselves at this moment in relation to their partner, which can be especially useful if the relationship has been going on for a period of time. By recognising their own position in the relationship and that of their partners, it is hoped they will gain new insight and a clearer understanding.
Talking to clients about relationship insecurities, attachments and dynamics can be difficult. Using the space shuttle analogy often breaks down barriers and allows the client to assume a character and therefore describe their feelings and behaviours in a more detailed way. Weightlessness opens up opportunities to discuss risks involved and why some may be reluctant to engage with it.
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