NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Creating a Sense of Home Starts Within Yourself

Your home is more than just a place.  Whether "home" means your parents' house or a home that you have created on your own, the emotional meaning of "home" has a lot to do with your earliest experiences of living in a secure, stable environment--or not (see my article: A Happy Family Doesn't Have to Be a "Perfect" Family).  Creating a home starts from within yourself.

Creating a Home Starts Within Yourself

If you were lucky enough to live in a stable, happy home with both parents and your siblings, your home was more than a financial asset.  It was the place where you knew you would be loved and cared for and where you could always return.

As the poet, Robert Frost once said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

If you were fortunate, home was a place where you would have pets, bring friends, and celebrate birthdays and holidays.

It didn't have to be perfect--it just had to be "good enough" for you and your family to thrive and have a sense of well-being.

Developing a Home For Yourself
How do you crate a home for yourself?

Creating a Home Starts Within Yourself 

Creating a home for yourself is about feeling comfortable with yourself and having people that you love and who love you in your life.

Your home starts within yourself--it's a feeling that you carry around inside you.

If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a relatively happy home, you already have a sense of what this means.

If you weren't fortunate enough to grow up in a happy home or if you experienced a lot of upheaval in your early life, you might have more of a challenge creating a home for yourself.

The following fictionalized vignette illustrates the challenges of creating a home for yourself when your early childhood was chaotic, and how therapy can help you to develop a feeling of "home" inside yourself first:

Fictionalized Vignette:  Creating a Home Starts Within Yourself

By the time Ken was 11, he and his family had lived in five different apartments.

On average, he and his family moved every two years or so because his family couldn't afford to pay the rent or because the landlord forced them out in order to get another family who could afford to pay more.

Ken was the youngest of four children being raised by a single mother.  He never knew his father.

He often felt confused and unhappy about moving away from his friends and his school.  No one ever explained to him why they had to move and why there was such chaos each time.

When he was seven, his mother told him that they would have to give up their dog because the apartments that she saw wouldn't allow dogs.  This was a terrible loss for Ken.

When he was nine, his family lost most of their possessions because the landlord put their things out on the street and they were stolen.

The family had to move in with Ken's maternal grandmother in an apartment that was already overcrowded with other relatives.  They lived this way for another year until his mother could save up enough money for the first month's rent for their next apartment.

Although Ken was bright, he began to have academic problems by the time he was 10.  His teacher, who knew that Ken was intelligent and capable to doing the work, spoke with his mother to encourage her to try to motivate Ken to be more diligent about studying and doing his homework.  But his mother already had her hands full with working two jobs, so she had little time to spend with Ken.

With Ken's mother's permission, his teacher introduced Ken to the school counselor, who became a mentor to Ken.  The counselor saw that, in addition to being smart, Ken was artistic and she encouraged him to pursue his artistic talent.  This made a tremendous difference for Ken (see my article: How One Person Can Make a Difference in a Traumatized Child's Life).

His elementary school counselor remained a mentor to Ken even after he went to high school, and she encouraged him to apply to college.

At that point, Ken didn't have a sense of a future for himself, and he was beginning to hang around with other teens who were involved in a gang.

Creating a Home Starts Within Yourself 

When his mentor found out about this, she spent more time with him to help him to find other groups and outlets for himself.

Soon after that, Ken came home and was shocked to find his mother and maternal grandmother crying.  He always thought of them as "strong women" and he couldn't ever remember a time when he ever saw either of them cry.

His mother sat Ken down and told him that his oldest brother, Tom, was shot in the spine, and he was rushed to the hospital.  His mother and grandmother were about to leave for the hospital, but they were waiting for Ken.

The family found out from the police that Tom was part of a gang and he was shot by a member of a rival gang.  This was all that the police knew from their sources.  Since witnesses refused to identify the shooter, there were no suspects so far.

After Tom was operated on, he learned that he would probably be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  Physical rehabilitation might help him somewhat, but the doctors were not hopeful.

This tragedy had a profound impact on Ken.  When he spoke with his mentor about it, he told her that  he didn't want to end up like Tom, so he would do whatever it took to get into college to try to make a better life for himself.

Ken applied himself in high school like he had never done before.  He took an SAT test prep course and passed the SAT with a high score.  With high hopes for getting into a college, Ken, his mother and maternal grandmother visited various colleges and explored scholarships.

Five years later, Ken graduated college and he was hired as a marketing representative by a company that recruited him while he was still in college.

When he started working, he helped his mother financially, but he really wanted his own place.

Looking for an apartment, he discovered how expensive rents were, especially in Manhattan, so he chose an apartment in the Bronx that was barely affordable for him.

After he moved out, he began dating a woman, June, that he met through a friend.  When he invited her over to his apartment, she was surprised that, even though he lived there for a year, he had done nothing with the apartment other than getting some basic necessities, like a bed and a TV.

When June asked Ken why he had no pictures on the wall and why he barely had any furniture, he told her that he didn't know how long he would stay, so he didn't want to invest any money in the apartment to try to make it into a home for himself.

Then, he told her about all the apartments that he and his family had over the years and the loss of their dog and so many of their possessions.  He didn't think it was worth trying to make it into a home for himself.

After June heard about his family history, she understood that Ken didn't really have a concept of what a home is and, aside from the upheaval that he experienced as a child, he didn't really know where to begin.  She also realized that, based on his history, he also had no sense that he deserved anything better.

When June got her own apartment, she couldn't afford to spend a lot on furnishings, but she made modest purchases to make the place a haven for herself.  Unlike Ken, she grew up in a home where she and her family lived most of their lives, so she knew how important it was to come home to a place where she would feel comfortable and secure--even on her modest salary.

When Ken visited her apartment for the first time, he was impressed with how creative she was in making her place cozy and comfortable for very little money.

June offered to help Ken to make small, inexpensive changes to his apartment so he would feel that he had a comfortable place to come home to, but he rejected her help.  When she asked him why, he said he wasn't sure why.

When Ken spoke with his mentor, she told Ken that he had lived through many traumatic experiences in his childhood, and she suggested that he seek help in therapy.

Initially, Ken balked at the idea of therapy.  It was one thing for him to speak with his mentor, who was his former school counselor, but he felt it was a ver different thing for him to speak with a psychotherapist, "I'm not a weak person" (see my article: Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Going to Therapy Means You're "Weak").

But, over time, the more he thought about it, the more Ken realized that he really wasn't happy in his apartment, which was supposed to be his "home."  He wasn't even sure what a "home" was supposed to be.  That's when he decided to seek help in therapy.

During the initial therapy sessions, Ken felt anxious and ambivalent about talking to a stranger (see my article: Starting Psychotherapy: It's Not Unusual to Feel Anxious and Ambivalent).  But, as he continued to go, he developed a rapport with his therapist and he felt she understood what he was talking to her about.

Working through the traumatic issues that caused Ken to feel rootless as a child was hard work, but he usually felt better afterwards.

Ken and his therapist talked about what a "home" meant to him.  At first, he couldn't think of anything, except that it was a place where you live, eat, and watch TV.

When his therapist asked Ken to imagine what he would have liked as his ideal home, at first, Ken thought about having a big expensive house with a pool and a housekeeper.

But as they continued to talk, Ken realized that what he really wanted was something that he never had--a place where he could feel comfortable and secure.

Over time, Ken realized that creating a home for himself wasn't about having an expensive house or fancy furniture.  It was more about what he could create from the inside out.  In other words, the feeling of "home" was something that he needed to create inside himself first and then he could create it externally.

Since Ken was artistic and he liked to draw, his therapist recommended that Ken draw what his apartment would look like if it were a more of a haven.

Creating a Home Starts Within Yourself

During that time, Ken also worked with his therapist to overcome the childhood trauma that created emotional obstacles for him, including that he grew up without a father (see my article: Understanding Why You're Affected By Trauma From a Long Time Ago).

Gradually, as Ken thought about what "home" meant to him and he made drawings of how he could create a haven for himself in his modest apartment, he began to make small changes that made both him feel more comfortable in his home, and a place he could share with his girlfriend, June.

Creating a home for yourself comes from your internal experience of what a home means to you.

For people who grew up in a home where they felt secure and loved, even if it was a modest home, being able to create an emotionally meaningful home for themselves is usually second nature.  They don't have to think about it a lot.

But if you grew up with chaos and upheaval, you might not know what it means to create a home for yourself.

Getting Help in Therapy
A skilled psychotherapist can help you to overcome the psychological obstacles that are getting in the way of your taking care of yourself (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

An experienced therapist can help you to learn how to create a home for yourself that feels like a haven.

The process of creating a home for yourself begins internally with you discovering what you need, the obstacles in your way of creating what you need, and the willingness to see the process through in therapy (see my article: Overcoming Obstacles to Making Changes in Your Life).

If you're stuck in your life, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who can help you to overcome emotional obstacles so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome emotional obstacles so they could lead a more rewarding life.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.