Episode 32: Assess Family Living Space

Good morning everyone, and welcome to NF Learning Lab, where together, we access our innate, iNtuitive wisdom as unique, self-valuing, and deeply Feeling women … and share who we are becoming in a safe, sensitive community.

In recent weeks, we’ve been using, as our discovery lens, the life area of ‘family’, and in particular, 'family of origin’, that group of people who saw us through our earliest years. This week, we focus the ‘family-of-origin’ lens on the life area of ‘living space’.

We first learn about how to respect, organize, decorate, and manage a living space as children, and we do so, pretty much, without realizing that such learning is taking place. It is quite likely that most children never think much about the space they are living in, growing up, in the same way that an egg doesn’t stop to think about its shell. But psychologists now agree, that the environment we grow up in can greatly influence who we become as adults. And then, of course, who we become, can greatly influence how we think about our adult living spaces.

In one way, our early home, or homes, make up the family soup pot, from which we draw our nourishment, or lack of nourishment, in all areas of life. If we’re lucky, our early living space is true to the old adage, “Home is where the heart is.”, but regardless of the amount of love we receive at home, it is always a place of early learning, as a child. In the food preparation and eating areas, we learn about our health and nutrition. In the bathroom, we first learn about having a clean body, and about sanitation and dental care. One early experience of the power of money might come when a parent says something like, “This is my house, I pay for it, and you’ll follow my rules while you live here.”

We first learn about work at home, through the responsibility we’re given to complete certain jobs and chores. Or, we might learn that living-space work is something that someone else does, a parent, a house-helper, or a cleaning service. Most of us first learn about play in our childhood living space, through interactions with siblings and friends. We might learn that home can be a safe retreat, when life in the outside world treats us unkindly, or unfairly. Of, sadly, we might learn that home is a dangerous place to be. Our bedroom, or sleeping space, growing up, might truly be a sanctuary, where we learn, from infancy, to trust that we can lose consciousness altogether, for many night-time hours, and then wake up, ready to face, or even embrace, the world, again. Happenings at home give us our first glimpses of relationships and romance, and it is often in our living space, that we first learn about some aspects of our spirituality.

It is fair to say, then, that the living space we knew in our family of origin was foundational to who we have become as adults. An article in The Atlantic, cites Susan Clayton, an environmental psychologist, as saying, “For many people, their home is part of their self-definition, which is why we do things like decorate our houses and take care of our lawns. These large patches of vegetation serve little real purpose, but they are part of a public face people put on, displaying their home as an extension of themselves.” This quote brings up some interesting questions, regarding living space, “Do we, as adults, choose, organize, decorate, and maintain our homes, hoping to impress others? Or do we feel free to choose and outfit our living space to meet our own, unique, emerging needs as vital, ever-changing adults?” Or perhaps both?

For me, my living space functions as a mirror for my inner life. When there is an area of my home that is not kept as neat and tidy as my INFJ self would prefer, I ask myself, “How might this unkempt area be a reflection of some unsettling aspect of me?” This has helped me many times, not only to in tidying my living space, but in weeding out limiting self-concepts and beliefs.

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