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The Ego and the Spirit

The Ego and the Spirit

Insights on Living, Loving and Letting Go
edition:Paperback
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Connecting

Rewire Your Relationship-Culture
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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The Law of Attraction

Making it Work for You!
edition:Paperback
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Count Me In

Count Me In

How I Stepped Off the Sidelines, Created Connection, and Built a Fuller, Richer, More Lived-in Life
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Excerpt

Creating a Base for Belonging and Getting Past the Past

The mismatch between the way I felt at home and the way I felt I should feel at home was dizzying. If there had been something wrong with the apartment, I could have said, I can’t connect here because of the awful linoleum, the horrendous paint job, the total lack of light. As it was, I was living in a spacious, airy place that caught the sun all day long. My flat was on the top floor of an eighty-year-old house and featured the original walnut flooring, a beautiful built-in wardrobe, and dark woodwork around all the windows and doors. There was a huge deck off the kitchen that overlooked a park, and the apartment was arranged in the drawn-out style I like best, with a long hallway connecting the rooms and serving as a corridor for breezes that blew in from the back.

It was, all things considered, a find. The landlord, an older man with an undefined but clearly well-paying job in the arts, liked the idea of a writer in the house. There was some confusion about the rent – he’d posted two different prices on Craigslist – and when I pointed this out, he immediately went with the lower number. This meant the apartment wasn’t just spacious but also cheap, an almost impossible combination in downtown Toronto, where tenant bidding wars break out over places half the size of mine.

The fact that the apartment was so undeniably great was discouraging, because it made me think there might be something wrong with me. I just couldn’t feel any sense of home there. And this in turn made me wonder if there might be something more fundamentally off about me – that my inability to connect to home might be one aspect of a larger inability to connect at all.

Because home is the starting point for a sense of belonging. We tend to think of belonging as “out there,” woven into the world around us. And it is out there, but the way we feel at home can affect the energy and attitudes we bring to that larger world. Researchers at the  University of Maine created a clever experiment to test this point. The psychologists Sandra Sigmon and Stacy Whitcomb asked students  to walk into a room that had only some bare essentials in it: a sofa, an armchair, a coffee table. They then gave the students access to posters, cushions, plants, books, and vases, and told each student to take as much time as necessary decorating the space. After leaving the room, each student was given tests assessing anxiety, well-being, and social confidence. When the researchers compared the finished rooms with the test scores, they found that students who spent more time decorating, and who set out the most objects with care, rated higher in terms of positive mood, reduced stress, and increased social energy.

Sigmon and Whitcomb suggested that something called “psychological home” was serving as the link between setting out a vase of flowers and having more social ties. By this, they meant that the way we relate to our home environment serves as a template for how we relate to the larger environment: the more at home and in charge you feel in your house or apartment, the more at home and in charge you’ll feel outside of it. A separate study conducted at the University of Chicago came to the same conclusion. Polling over three hundred families, the sociologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton found that people who described their home environments as “warm” or “welcoming” were more likely to be out in the community, joining clubs or teams and attending neighbourhood events. People who described their homes as “cold” were much less likely to be part of school, sports, or neighbourhood groups, meaning – ironically – that it’s the people who feel least at home who have the hardest time leaving it.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Good Story

Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy
edition:Paperback
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Higher

Higher

Awaken to a More Fulfilling Life
edition:Paperback
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