by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on June 6, 2011

The dictionary defines home as the place where one lives. This definition refers to the concrete place that one lives in, but it applies, just as well, to our internal home, and to the feeling all of us have of being home. I am referring to the experience of home, which can occur when we encounter something that speaks to us intimately, like a work of art or music, or a person with whom we feel recognized and known, at home with ourselves while in relation to them. What is this feeling of home that we all have? What is it made up of?

Home is about the familiar. Yes, from the Latin familia. It is related to our family of origin, to what has become known to us in a most intimate way. Our experience of home holds the beginnings of our experience of intimacy- the original blueprint. Home is about something one knows and responds to instinctively, from the inside, often a felt something that needs no words to be noted, felt, and understood. The feeling of home speaks in a personal language, the language of our senses. An intimate language that begins before we can use words, and in relationship to a primary other. So if home is about what is familiar to us, because of our early experiences with our family, and it is a feeling that speaks through our senses, then home must also encompass memories of lived, relational experiences. Home is about experiences that make us feel known from the inside precisely because they access our internal experience.

Let me count the ways:

1)    There is the smell of home. Ever notice how a particular aroma catapults you back into a particular place or situation? Or a particular craving?

2)   There is the feel of home. Clean, organized, messy, shiny, dingy, scary, safe, warm, cold, etc.

3)   There is the sound of home. It might be silence, or noisy streets, or music of a particular kind. Or the sound of fighting and screaming. Sounds that take you back to a lived feeling.

4)   And then there are the visuals of home. Sight is tricky because we rely on it and privilege it over other senses. Many of our memories are organized around it. So the visuals may pertain to the way someone moved, walked, stood. Or they may pertain to environmental things, like trees, colors, rooms, houses, etc.

So there it is. The language of home. Strung together in our own, idiosyncratic way, and made up of numerous moments of interaction with intimate others, stored in memory, and distilled into our feeling of home.

I am making it sound pretty idyllic, but it is not always so. In fact, the feeling of home often involves what was good as well as what was not so good. And our senses will alert us to all of it. Home, for better or for worse.

The feeling of home often continues to play a part and even dictate what we do in our adult lives. Perhaps not consciously, but as an important part of our lived experience and who we are. Home, and the way it speaks to us internally, is involved in many of our choices: who our lovers and partners are, who our friends and confidants are, what we do, how we live, where we live, etc. This is because home is about our early history.

Think about it. What happens to us early on influences our ability to live in the world. Who do we trust? How do we make decisions? Do we want to come home or get away from it? As a psychoanalyst, who is in the business of helping people revisit home, in order to understand the why’s of their present lives, I think the feeling of home is often responsible for the repetition of certain experiences and behaviors in our lives. Because it is familiar and known. Because even when we are aware of this, we might continue to revisit home in the hopes of doing it differently this time around.

Ah! There is always a rub it seems. In this case, it involves separation. Leaving home so as to do something new. Understanding home so as to make your own home. So that each visitation into the feeling of home explains another piece of our intimate make up, and perhaps releases its hold. “I’ve got a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore,” said Dorothy to Toto, while looking around at Oz, and indeed, separation and leaving home can feel like being a stranger in a strange land. On the other hand, Dorothy also said, “There’s no place like home”. I could not agree with her more. There is no place like home because it is ours in its entirety. Ours and ours alone, and it holds much of the magic of who we are and who we can become.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: