Comment: Creating home inside ourselves




Dr Glenn Doyle is a licensed psychologist based in Illinois and the District of Columbia, and Director of The Doyle Practice, a private psychotherapy practice with offices in Chicago and DC. I’ve benefited from following Dr Doyle’s regular snippets of insight and wisdom which he regularly shares on his social media platforms. Dr Doyle speaks in easy to understand, sometimes colourful, language and seems utterly grounded in the reality of human existence.

Doyle writes with far greater authority than I ever could about the internal world of the mind and the heart. With astonishing honesty he addresses the realities of living with anxiety and depression. He is particularly astute when it comes to tackling external stimuli which can trigger unwanted, overwhelming responses. His writings, and the work he does around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are so helpful. While researching for a book about home I was delighted to discover that he has shared some of his thoughts about the concept of home on his personal website –

In his inimitable style Dr Doyle writes: Home is a complicated subject for a lot of people. I wish it was simple, straightforward. I wish that nobody had mixed feelings or associations with the word “home.”

But we do. In the best of all possible worlds, home speaks to a place that is safe.

A place where we feel wanted. Where we ARE wanted.

In the best of all possible worlds, home speaks to a place where we established a safe base from which to explore and experience the world, and to which we can return to rest, recharge, and remember.

But for many people, it’s more complicated than that.

For some people, as they were growing up, home was a place that was unpredictable.

We WANT home to be a place where we’re able to kind of lower the mask that we wear out in public, and be ourselves, let our hair down, let our defences down.

But a lot of people weren’t able to do that growing up.

For them, home was a place where they had to engage different kinds of defences and wear different kinds of masks, than they did out in the world.

A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to feel truly safe.

There are different kinds of safety, and different kinds of danger, both out there in the world, and even back at home, for a lot of people.

When we grow up feeling fundamentally unsafe, we tend to blame ourselves.

What’s wrong with us, we wonder, that we can’t or don’t feel truly safe?

After all, we hear other people speak affectionately or nostalgically about home.

What’s wrong with us that we don’t feel that way, we wonder?

If you grew up feeling that home wasn’t a safe place, a place where you felt safe, wanted, understood, supported, it wasn’t your fault.

It wasn’t on you to make home a safe place. You were a kid.

There are people reading this who really, really want to go home but not to the house or the place where they grew up.

We want to FIND home.

We want to FIND that place where we DO feel safe, wanted, understood, and supported.

Even if we kind of doubt it exists, part of us STILL wants to find, and go, home.

As it turns out, a big part of recovery from depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or addiction is creating that sense of home inside us.

We will try, again and again, to find or create that sense in other people, or places, or institutions, and we may even experience bits and pieces of it here and there … but the truth is, it’s on us to make the inside of our own head and heart that fundamental place of safety for us.

We need to know, without a doubt, that we are safe inside our own head.

We need to know, without a doubt, that we are safe with ourselves.

We need to know, without a doubt, that we can retreat inside our head and heart, and find a landscape that is familiar and non-toxic.

For some of us, that may be completely unfamiliar territory and we may have doubts about our ability to create that safety, that home inside of us.

But that’s the work of recovery. That’s what’s in front of us. Nothing we do in therapy or recovery is going to matter all that much if we don’t make the inside of our own head a safe place.

I wish so many of us didn’t have to work so hard to create a whole new meaning for the word home.

I wish home was a default place of safety for all of us.

But this is the hand we’ve been dealt, and all we can do, is what we can do.

So let’s do that.

Read more in depth articles from Dr Glenn Doyle here. Find his books here and professional services here.

Main photo credit: Julian Hochgesang via Unsplash

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.

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