behavior · community · culture · environment · happiness · psychology

The Psychological Importance of Home

English: Clayton H. Delano House, Ticonderoga,...
Our sense of place, and particularly our home, can be very intricately woven into our identities. Image via Wikipedia

As the weekend, approaches, many of us are making plans to go out to events in our local cities, or work around the house, or just sleep in our own beds after several weeks of visiting and traveling. The psychology of home is very important to us humans, and was captured really well in an article by Julie Beck in The Atlantic:

Susan Clayton, an environmental psychologist at the College of Wooster, says that for many people, their home is part of their self-definition, which is why we do things like decorate our houses and take care of our lawns. These large patches of vegetation serve little real purpose, but they are part of a public face people put on, displaying their home as an extension of themselves. It’s hardly rare, though, in our mobile modern society, to accumulate several different homes over the course of a lifetime. So how does that affect our conception of ourselves?

When you visit a place you used to live, these cues can cause you to revert back to the person you were when you lived there.

For better or worse, the place where we grew up usually retains an iconic status, Clayton says. But while it’s human nature to want to have a place to belong, we also want to be special, and defining yourself as someone who once lived somewhere more interesting than the suburbs of Michigan is one way to do that. “You might choose to identify as a person who used to live somewhere else, because it makes you distinctive,” Clayton says. I know full well that living in Paris for three months doesn’t make me a Parisian, but that doesn’t mean there’s not an Eiffel Tower on my shower curtain anyway.

We may use our homes to help distinguish ourselves, but the dominant Western viewpoint is that regardless of location, the individual remains unchanged. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the following notion, mentioned in passing in a book about a Hindu pilgrimage by William S. Sax, that I began to question that idea: “People and the places where they reside are engaged in a continuing set of exchanges; they have determinate, mutual effects upon each other because they are part of a single, interactive system.”

Read the full article here.

I definitely feel like I have a connection and identify with every place that I’ve lived, although some have felt more like home and have shaped me more than others. A lot of that has been due to how safe or at peace I feel in a place, and how much I have bonded with the people around me.

I also think one thing that was so traumatic about the housing bubble was that sense of losing your home. Not just a piece of property you owned, but this landmark of who you were, the space where you kept all of your memories and built new ones, your safe house, literally.

What is your experience with home? What makes a place “home” for you?