Aleteia

How the house you live in reflects who you are

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Psychotherapist Anne-Catherine Desmichelle-Chardon explains what our house symbolizes.

In its symbolic sense, a house represents a home. The house is the physical shell, the home is the soul. A house evokes construction, of what has been built. But, above all, it represents the place where we have constructed childhood, learning, our most intimate relationships, what is familiar and known. It is the place where our points of reference are, little by little, established. We make our house in our image, and it says a lot about us. That’s why psychotherapists ask children to draw their house: Is there a stable base, smiling openings, a protective roof … or unbalanced architecture, uneasy windows, a narrow entryway?

The house we want reflects who we are

Although a house is a constructed space, it is above all the place we decide to construct. Between the walls we create a marital, family, and spiritual home. “The prudent man … built his house upon the rock … and it did not fall” (Matthew 7:24-25). This text is often chosen for couples before they get married, and it very well expresses the symbolism of the house and home. 

Thus, the way we want our house to be reflects who we are. The exterior, what is seen from the outside, is what we want to show. The interior is the place where we must give permission to enter, where we receive relatives or strangers. “My interior” can be protective, I can rest there, get myself re-focused, but also it can put up barriers and exclude. 

Rented or owned, depending on the moment you are at in your life, depending on your desires, your personality, your means, and your lifestyle, your house can be a transitory place, a jumping off point to other journeys or, on the contrary, a place of stability and solid foundation. It can house roommates or a family, it can be a refuge from the city, a place to pray, to grow old, a place to put down roots, or a place of new beginnings. It can also be a place of loneliness, exclusion, and confinement. Our house is a witness to our secrets, our conversations, our laughter and our tears: it houses our lives. 

Choosing a house means choosing a life project

A house evolves, it becomes more beautiful as we make it our own, it adapts to the ups and downs of life. All these transformations make us happy when they work smoothly and harmoniously with the decisions we make. They are unpleasant when we experience them with suffering; then the house becomes strange to us and loses the meaning that we had so happily infused it with. In one session, a little girl told her therapist: “After they got separated, my Dad still lives in the house. But we don’t like going there because, if it’s not the five of us, then it’s not our house any more.”

Choosing a house is not just having a roof over our heads, but choosing a life project. It means inventing a model that reflects us, as an outcome of our history, but it’s also the seed of tomorrow. A house is built slowly and the interior is never completely finished. There is always some element to fix up, and this is the path to take that will bring us to greatness. 

Olivia de Fournas

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