The psychological meaning of Tears For Fears’ Pale Shelter

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Written by Roland Orzabal, sung by Curt Smith and published in March 1982, Pale Shelter is the song that excites me most among those extracted from The Hurting, Tears For Fears’ debut album. A record that I keep in my short list of masterpieces to eventually bring on a desert island or another world.

A deep and intimate record, a collection of songs about childhood traumas.

To understand the song and the entire album, one thing must be said: both members of the band were enchanted by the work of the psychotherapist Arthur Janov, whose most renowned book was Primal Scream (1970). Janov was the inventor of “primal therapy”, a treatment that encouraged the patient to explore his childhood traumas, experiencing them for a second time and then expressing the long-repressed pain. One way to release this pain is this primal scream. The same name of the duo, not by chance, comes from a psychotherapeutic treatment developed by Janov, during which the patient lives again the earliest sensations of the perinatal age, hence the name “Tears for Fears”.

Both members felt that their parents had not given them love, but only a weak, “Pale Shelter”.

Tears For Fears - Pale Shelter

Composing The Hurting was a way to throw out all the things they absorbed in the childhood, to take the feelings of abandonment, rejection and anger and turn them into something active.

With its pure emotions, The Hurting is the album for those who have experienced what being imprisoned in our own emotions means; for those who have felt the desperation that makes its way, when you cannot escape, whether it comes from childhood or not.

“When you don’t give me love (You gave me pale shelter)
You don’t give me love (you give me cold hands)
And I can’t operate on this failure
When all I want to be is
Completely in command”


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