a blog about being well, becoming well, staying well - and flourishing. Written by a professor and family doctor living in Liverpool, UK
Sunday, 31 October 2010
(Where) do you feel at home?
What does the word home mean?
Home is where you belong. Home is where you can be yourself, where you don’t need to pretend or put on an act, or try too hard. Home is where you feel understood and appreciated, warts and all.
Home can be a place, it can be people, or it can be somewhere in your head out of harm’s way. Home is comfortable. Home is where you can rest. Home is where you feel safe.
Feeling at home is essential for our well being.
Evidence for this comes from John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, whose attachment theories grew out of studies of children and their caregivers. Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver extended them to include loving relationships as adults. Relationships - with people who care for us when we are little, with friends and lovers when we are older – provide us with a safe haven, a secure base. They help us face surprises, opportunities, and tough times. It’s a bit like the ordinary magic that I wrote about in an earlier blog.
For me, it is not just people. Places are also important in helping us to feel at home.
Our sense of where home is can vary over time. Without it we are in danger of losing our way, losing our sense of self, losing our ability to carry on.
As a small boy growing up in the south of Ireland, I feel at home on my mother’s knee in the kitchen, listening to the Shipping Forecast on the BBC’s Home Service, which always comes just before Listen with Mother starts at quarter to two ; I feel at home snuggling up to Dog Dover, a big cuddly sheepdog who lives on the farm next door.
A few years older, living by the seaside, I feel at home jumping off rocks on the beach with my two brothers; tucked up in bed reading Dr Doolittle; and eating sausages on sticks by the fire on a Sunday evening.
In my late 20s, going through a difficult divorce and moving frequently between two cities, my sense of home almost disappears. The only place it survives is in my car, a yellow Nissan, driving up and down the M6. I feel safe there, protected for a few hours from all the hassles and worries of the big, complicated world outside.
Now, I feel at home in lots of places. Sitting in my comfortable armchair watching test cricket on the TV. In my study (where I am now), looking at the autumn leaves in our back garden. In bed in our French mill, with the window wide open, enjoying the susurration of the river at it rushes over the weir. But mostly, I feel at home wherever Sue is.
What about you?Where did you feel at home when you were little? Where do you feel at home now?
Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve felt at home in the past, but can’t get back to there. Or maybe you’ve never felt at home, never felt safe anywhere..... I’ll have some more for you in my next blog.