Canada Day and the Psychology of Home
I’m writing this shortly after Canada Day 2019, which is a very fitting day to be thinking about the psychology of home. The same is true of the U.S. July 4th holiday.
Canadians, new and long-term, are all familiar with the words of the Canadian national anthem:
“Oh Canada, our home and native land”
Our national anthem clearly draws the connection between Canadians’ national identity and the symbol of “home”. This sense of home, what Jungians would call the archetype of home, gets deeply evoked by our national birthday. It’s clearly something that resonates deeply with many, many people.
We all seem to crave somewhere that we can call “home”. This could be on the national level — that sense of “belonging to” or “coming from” a “home and native land”. (Or home and adopted land, as is the case for many of us in Canada, this land of immigrants). It is also a very powerful need on a number of other levels, like having a specific place to live, being part of a family, being in a relationship with a significant other, and many, many other things.
Where Am I at Home?
For all of us at some times, and for some people most of the time, the question “Where is home?” becomes central. For all human beings, this question of “Where do I belong?” is a crucial one. The human psyche seeks always for a sense of secure base: a place where we can be safe, secure and be ourselves.
What this means can vary greatly, from individual human being to individual human being. Some people have experienced environments of radical physical insecurity, such as war zones or physically abusive families, and their primary need is for somewhere physically safe. Other people may have a strong need for an emotionally secure environment, if they have experienced early family life with great emotional turmoil. Others may seek an environment where they are understood, and their differences and uniqueness are acknowledged and accepted. We reflect our needs in our image of home.
What If I Can’t Find Home?
Like me, you may have had times in your life when it’s very hard to find any sense of home. Sometimes, we can go for long periods of time before we are even able to acknowledge that we lack this sense of home or belonging. Yet the lack of a sense of home or secure base or fundamental safety and acceptance can be a major factor in anxiety and depression.
Sometimes we can be in denial that we are unable to find a sense of home. Until someone points it out to us, we may not be aware that that is what we’re experiencing. For instance, an executive in a multinational corporation may have had a fast-paced career in 15 cities in 10 countries, and because the work is so involving, he never has the chance to notice that he is suffering from a deep sense of disconnect that pervades his life. Yet when he slows down, he feels a sense of anxious foreboding. It can be easy for such an individual to keep running at his or her flat-out pace, rather than acknowledging what he feels. When the driven activity ceases, the individual may find themselves in the middle of a major life transition.
It may be essential for us to stop and look at our lives, and acknowledge that we do experience alienation and disconnect. We may need to approach ourselves with kindness, rather than trying to ruthlessly drive ahead.
Being More and More at Home in Myself
In Homer’s great work, the Odyssey, the hero Ulysses struggles for many years, against untold difficulties, so that, in the end, he can finally come back to his home. For us, too, coming to that sense of being at home in ourselves can also be a long process, and yet it may be exactly what we need.
The process of /a-midlife-transition can contribute greatly to a sense of home. It can help us to feel more at home in the world, and, even more fundamentally, at home in ourselves. “Travelling home” in the sense of greater self-knowledge, self acceptance and self compassion is right at the heart of the journey to wholeness.