Homesickness: longing to belong

We miss even the things we hated about our home once we are away from it. Homesickness can be crippling, if we don't learn to deal with it

Girl on a video call with her parents

Home is where one belongs and feels completely accepted. We feel comfortable about the environment, people, responsibilities and routines. It is a place where we spend a large part of our lives. So if you’ve just joined a new school or company, moved to a new country, house or city and shifted to a new family, you are likely to terribly miss home, city or family.

We associate with home in many different ways. We get emotionally involved in people [my family, my friends] and even get attached to the physical setting [my house, my bed]. There is also the feeling of oneness with everyday and everything around—the spiritual aspect. So when we move out, no matter for what reason, we may find it difficult to adjust. If this difficulty persists after the initial few days, you may have problems.

Are you homesick?

Homesickness is the feeling of ‘I do not belong here’. It happens when someone feels a disconnection between his or her physical and emotional parts. If the feeling prolongs, it may manifest in your behaviour and you may:

  • lose interest in your new surroundings
  • feel isolated in the group of new people
  • experience emotional fatigue after needing to clarify at every stage
  • feel over-burdened with emotional responsibilities of self and others
  • suffer from anxiety and stress
  • feel anger
  • suffer from palpitations in the heart
  • lose appetite
  • feel depressed
  • miss your place and memories associated with it strongly and hence long to be there.

How the feeling develops

The new place is an area of transition. You are moving from a zone where you have settled physically and emotionally and now have to cater to new roles and new expectations. The symptoms of homesickness manifest when we fail to identify with this changed environment. As a result, our actions are directed more towards gaining the acceptance and love of someone by either imitating him or her, or trying to please such a person. We put more than required efforts to get noticed, thus creating an imbalance in our space.

As the gap between our expected outcome and efforts invested begins to increase, we are close to a breakdown. Unaware, people remain in this space for many years not knowing where it all began.

For instance, if you are someone who has shifted to a new school and the environment is totally different from what you are accustomed to, you experience homesickness which will manifest as frustration. At the same time, if your parents don’t pay heed to your loneliness and expect you to settle down on your own, you will probably grow up to be a person who feels isolated, sad, depressed and angry with the environment. You will continue to feel that no one understands you, and feel the need to clarify your stand more than often or just let it go with hopelessness.

The root to this pattern in life that one may develop comes from feeling homesick in the first place. Feeling homesick is not just about a series of emotions or a feeling of longing, it often has long lasting effects.

How to deal with it

What should you do if you are feeling homesick? When we are constantly homesick, we usually focus on a particular person/people [I am missing my friend and/or mom]. This might prevent you from recognising and accepting when someone is trying to reach out to you to make you feel comfortable in your new setting. To overcome the feeling, think of the people who made you feel at home in the past.

So in your mind, move away from the labels you have assigned to the roles people you miss play in your life. For instance mother, father or sibling.

Now focus on the feeling these people invoked in you, which makes you feel at home. When you do this, it will help you identify the same feeling when it comes again through a person in your new environment.

What did the people back home do to make you feel loved? Keep your receiving antennae on to now spot the same feelings that someone else may also try to give you.

This will help you assign new essences to the same emotion and add to the people who matter in your life. This will help you feel accepted in your new environment.

How to move on

Perhaps a detailed explanation of the process will help you understand the process better.

The aim is to help you move away from the label you assign to relationships and help you focus on the essence of the emotions they invoke.

Back home

Ask yourself

  1. What was special about your immediate environment? How did your closest friends and family make you feel?
  2. What is special about the person you are constantly missing?
  3. How did you feel with an authority figure in your old environment?
  4. Focus on your responses of communicating with this authority figure. What do you think made you uncomfortable or unexpressive in this relationship?

These questions will help you become aware of your emotions associated with people back home. Remember, you are doing this exercise for yourself, therefore it is your style of connecting to yourself that needs to be comfortable.

Now

For a moment, snap yourself out of your old environment and look at your new environment as if for the first time.

Look around your environment [city, campus, home] to find a place that gives you the same old feeling of being taken care of.

This place will be special in your journey as this reminds you of the essence of home and you have discovered this away from home. You might want to add objects [painting, art work, quotations or pictures] that will remind you of the essence of home.

In the new environment, identify someone who gives you the feeling of warmth— a colleague, a storekeeper, children playing around…anyone. By identifying this, you have made your first contact of emotion with a new personality. The essence of the emotion remains the same, but there is a new person giving you that feeling.

The power of being in the Now, will then help you move from the ‘poor me, I am so far away alone. Nobody cares for me’, to gathering yourself up and starting your journey because everybody’s goal is to move on in life. As is a general perception, in this case, moving on does not mean that you forget old relationships and be disloyal.

By doing this exercise, we once again begin to focus on our connectedness to a new place and persons, who give us comfortable essences of being at home. Having done that, let’s now work on dealing with the areas that make us uncomfortable.

Ask yourself, are you pushing yourself too much in trying to express and cater to authority? Identify the emotion that you carry when you meet this person.

Remember that when things go out of control in your emotions, anger, stress and depression are ultimate manifestations. And it does not happen suddenly.

Slowly and gradually, begin by identifying in the new environment what you really want to express to this person and what are the expectations in this relationship. Clarify the expectations—both from your end and from the other person’s. You will realise that, over time, you are communicating more effectively. This surely will increase your comfort level with yourself.

Being in the moment

We can learn so much from animals and birds. Birds know exactly what they need for a nest and take efforts to find alternatives to materials they cannot get. They know they can create their home anywhere because they know what makes their home. If they have to fly miles to make a new one, they never tire.

Our life is a flight: always in motion. So how can we expect relationships and people to stay the way they are to make us feel at home? We can feel at home anywhere we are because love, care, compassion, tenderness are the same across boundaries. A home always has the same essence across species. If we keep the window of our soul open, we can recognise this essence wherever we are.

Being in the now helps us to take a fresh look at perceptions, gives life a new chance for evolving and progressing. In the journey of life, we are all moving in all relationships, and spaces. So our illusion of something being static is our perception that we hold on to. Home is where we all belong and by the power of our informed choice and being in the now, we can create that home—the comfort everywhere—first by being comfortable with ourselves. Over a period of time, by being gentle and persistent with ourselves, we begin to recognise we have more family members whom we love and who make us feel loved….outside our original home.

This article was first published in the May 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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