Let’s talk about homesickness.
It’s important to lay the groundwork by touching upon its link with nostalgia.
- Both involve feelings of longing, sadness, and longing
- Both can evoke memories of specific past events or a general sense of longing for a past time or place
- Both can be triggered by certain sights, sounds, or smells
- Both can evoke feelings of warmth, comfort, and longing
- Homesickness specifically refers to the longing for one’s home, family, and familiar surroundings, often experienced by people who are away from home, such as travelers, students, or military personnel.
- Nostalgia, on the other hand, refers to a more general longing for the past. It can be triggered by any past experience, not just one’s home, family, and familiar surroundings.
- Homesickness is often associated with feelings of disconnection or disconnection from one’s surroundings, while nostalgia is more of a longing for the past.
Homesickness is a complex experience that can be explained from various perspectives, such as neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, cognitive psychology, emotion, poetry, philosophy, culture, and religion.
From a neuroscience perspective, homesickness is thought to be related to the activity of certain brain regions, such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory and spatial navigation, and the default mode network, which is active when people think about themselves and their past. Studies have also shown that homesickness is associated with the release of certain chemicals, such as oxytocin and cortisol, which are involved in social bonding and stress.
From an anthropological perspective, homesickness may be seen as an adaptive response to being separated from one’s social group, which is a common experience in human history. It allows people to maintain connections to their social group and to navigate unfamiliar environments.
From a sociological perspective, homesickness can be seen as a response to changes in society, such as migration, urbanization, and globalization. It can also be seen as a way for people to make sense of their place in the world and to find a sense of belonging.
From a cognitive perspective, homesickness is thought to be related to the concept of mental time travel, which is the ability to think about the past, present, and future. The cognitive process of homesickness also involves retrieving memories, which can be influenced by the mood of the person and the context of the memories.
From an emotional perspective, homesickness can evoke feelings of longing, sadness, and longing, and can be associated with feelings of loss and disconnection.
From a poetic perspective, homesickness can be seen as a literary device that evokes a feeling of longing for one’s home and familiar surroundings.
From a philosophical perspective, homesickness can be seen as a way for people to understand their place in the world and to find meaning in their lives.
From a cultural perspective, homesickness can be seen as a reflection of the values and beliefs of a particular culture. It can also be influenced by the historical and social context of a culture.
From a religious perspective, homesickness can be seen as a way for people to connect with their spiritual beliefs and to find a sense of transcendence.
Psychotherapy for homesickness can take different forms, but generally it aims to help individuals understand and process the feelings of longing and disconnection that are associated with homesickness.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to help individuals identify and change negative patterns of thinking that may be contributing to feelings of homesickness. A therapist will work with the individual to identify negative thoughts and beliefs about being away from home, and help them to challenge and replace them with more positive and realistic ones.
Psychoanalytic therapy, on the other hand, can focus on exploring the unconscious conflicts and past experiences that may be contributing to feelings of homesickness. The therapist will help the individual understand and explore any unresolved emotional issues or past traumas that may be impacting their current experience of homesickness. This type of therapy may involve a longer-term commitment and a deeper exploration of the individual’s inner self.
Other forms of therapy such as mindfulness-based therapies, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, can also be used to help individuals cope with feelings of homesickness by helping them to focus on the present moment, and to accept and make peace with being away from home.
Homesickness is to be expected, but it’s not accurate to simply call it depression or anxiety, as it is something unique and specific. You’re missing being proverbially “held” by what was felt to be a safer environment, and part of the challenge is finding such spaces and connections in your present environment. If you don’t feel adequately connected in your new place, it’s so natural for your brain to hyperfocus on what you don’t have in the present moment. It can look like intrusive thoughts, difficulties sleeping, resentment, feeling trapped, anxiety, and avoidance. However using therapy to address these and allowing yourself to immerse in the new space may have curative properties.
In practice I imagine it as spiraling outwards, taking up more and more space in the new world, showing up more and more. There will be a wish to make a beeline straight towards being totally comfortable, but that’s unfortunately rare and sets up unrealistic expectations. Patience, self-compassion, and being able to name these feelings and connecting with hope is key to moving through this.