Sometimes you just want to go home— and sometimes that has nothing to do with where you actually grew up or your actual family.
Lots and lots of people have the experience of feeling lost and lonely— and they felt that way BEFORE the pandemic.
A lot of the time it has nothing to do with whether or how many people are physically around us.
In fact, for many people, the presence of a lot of people around them can weirdly make them feel MORE lonely.
There are few feelings lonelier than being in the middle of a crowd…and feeling like you’re from a different planet.
For a lot of people it’s not about how many people they know or have contact with every day.
It’s about feeling cut off.
Like there’s a really important piece of themselves or their life experience that they just can’t meaningfully share with anyone, no matter how hard they try.
Some people also get the feeling that everybody else is having some experience of life that they, personally, aren’t sharing…and they can’t quite understand why.
Part of what makes it all so frustrating to so many people is, it’s really hard to talk about, because it’s really hard to put words to.
After all, how do you explain to someone that you feel…just…different?
You could put words to some potential reasons why…but those words all seem to just kind of miss the mark somehow.
Other people MIGHT be nice enough to listen…but even if they listened to every word you say, you feel that somehow they still wouldn’t get it.
Nobody WANTS to feel this way.
Nobody seems to be quite sure how they wound up feeling this way.
Sometimes we don’t even know exactly how LONG we’ve been feeling this way.
Sometimes we can remember feeling meaningfully connected to other people…but we can’t quite put our finger on when we started to feel so alone.
What we do know, however, is that we want to go “home.”
We want somewhere, and someone, familiar, comforting, safe.
What’s confusing for many people is that we often can’t quite identify anyone or anywhere that really fits that description.
But we know it exists. It must.
That feeling— of being someplace and with someone familiar and safe— is a place we can create for ourselves.
Unfortunately, it’s not effortless— nor does it come particularly easy for many of us, particularly if we grew up feeling unsafe and misunderstood.
(It’s not necessary for someone to have experienced overwhelming trauma for us to struggle to create and experience a familiar feeling of “home”— though having grown up with pain in our lives certainly impacts our ability to feel safe and connected.)
Over time, we can identify people and things that help nudge us toward that feeling of familiarity and security, even a little bit.
A song. A voice. Certain words spoken in a certain order. A smell.
We can learn to identify the building blocks of what helps us feel secure, connected, and wanted.
The reality is, any place we want to go— or return to, as the case may be— is first constructed in our heads.
It’s the fantasy or memory of a feeling, more so than a place.
(Many people have the experience of physically going to a place where they assumed they would feel safe, but not feeling what they were expecting…because what they were “missing” wasn’t the place itself, but what they imagined the place to be.)
We can create or recreate that feeling in our heads, with practice.
It takes time, patience, and some skill.
But the good news is: that place of familiarity and connectedness and safety does exist.
And, as it turns out: you hold the key.
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