When I was a young man I would spend around two weeks most summers either backpacking with friends somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, or canoeing, in Southern Ontario, Canada.
Usually toward late afternoons on these trips, we would begin looking for a new campsite. There were some practical aspects that we kept in mind, like, was there some protection from the elements of wind, rain, maybe even snow? Were there mature trees to hang our backpacks so bears or smaller animals wouldn’t get to them? Where there shallow landing spots for canoes?
Sometimes we would scout out a few spots before finding a site we would select and begin making our camp. At other times, we would come close to running out of daylight and needed to quickly pick an inadequate spot before dark, and felt somehow that the campsite “wasn’t quite right.”
But the feeling was very different when we found the right spot. This kind of campsite felt safe, secure, and in some small way, it felt like home. The right site to pitch camp for the night, hundreds of years ago, could have made the difference between life and death, I suspect— at least some of the times.
Even today, we have evolved to know at an instinctual and intuitive level, when a place, when home, feels “right.” As I am writing these words, my two young children are building a fort by arranging pillows and spreading blankets over a small table. I realize as I watch them play, that perhaps among other important purposes of this play, they too are practicing for building a home, a safe place.
While they were playing in the fort, I decided to get down on the floor along with them. I lifted the side of the blanket and peered into the darkness. I asked my five year old daughter, “How does it feel in there?” She replied, “Cozy. Please try not to cut down my house,” she later said. Already at practice building a home, and working through play, on important developmental tasks. My almost three-year old son, sitting on top of the fort with a toy, plastic hammer, states, “I am building here.”
The right home is good for our mental health. We must search for it, “build it”, and make it our own.
Gallagher (1993, p.24) in her book, “The Power of Place” said, “The only universal truth I’ve discovered during the past few years’ work is that the recipe for the good life that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and all the rest of us imagined as children calls for being in the right place at the right time as often as we can manage.”
We invite into them [our homes] that “something in the air,” often borrowed from nature, that makes places sacred. In the end, we become “addicted” to our homes not just because of their physical features but because they support our social bonds, buffer us from commotion, and help us find meaning and express our identity. Whether they are in the city, the country, or, increasingly, somewhere in between, each of these sophisticated versions of the mammalian nest is a small piece of our global village. (p. 228)
A forty-something year old woman I know dreamt simply: “I just feel better here.” She talked about the town she lived in, the home she lived in and the journey that she had taken to land on this spot. She needed a dream like this now since she had had doubts about being in the right place for her.
It is relatively common to dream of a home with many rooms, sometimes elaborate rooms, or homes from another time and place. Often, these dreams are symbolic soul homes for us. In other words, dreams like this are indicating that we need to be sure to create a sort of “soul home” for ourselves both in the inner world, and if possible, even in the outer world.
Psychiatrist C.G. Jung said about where he would need to live (Stiftung, 2009), “At that time the idea became fixed in my mind that I must live near a lake; without water, I thought, nobody could live at all.” He was deeply involved with the construction of his homes, both his primary residence in Kusnacht, Switzerland and his retreat at Bollingen.
The excellent book on C.G. Jungs’s house (Stiftung, 2009) describes how Jung worked with both building contractors and landscape architects in great detail. He worked with them to build the kind of home that would work for his private practice and his family life, and to fulfill his soul. Both his home in Kusnacht and his retreat at Bollingen would become a safe, secure place for him in which to build a life for himself and his family and functioned in a way like a catalyst in helping him become all that he was capable of becoming—Jung’s concept of individuation.
When Jung retired, he retreated to his lake home at Bollingen. He said about this place and his home there (Jung, 1963):
At Bollingen, I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself…At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go…There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. ( p. 225-226)
If we read between the lines, it is not hard to see that this process of building was also a reflection of his soul and his own inner landscape.
Our home, apartment, or condominium, can also be an outer representation of an inner soul home. If we are lucky, it can feed our soul, and be a safe place for self and family. Tend to this home with great care when you find it, and keep looking for this vital place if you have not yet landed there.
Gallagher, W. (1993). The Power of Place: How our Surroundings Shape our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions: New York: Poseidon Press.
Jung, C.G. (1963). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.
Stiftung C.G. Jung Kusnacht (Ed.). (2009). The House of C.G. Jung: The History and Restoration of the Residence of Emma and Carl Gustav Jung-Rauschenbach. Stiftlung C.G. Jung Kusnacht.
© 2019, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.