What Does it Really Mean to Go Home?

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

It’s my last night in Melbourne, Australia.  My bags are packed.  My boarding pass is in hand.  My alarm is set to make sure I get to the airport on time.  Soon, I’ll be on my way back to Colorado, exchanging the Down Under for the Mile High.  Yet, as I stand in my hotel room looking at everything ready to go, I’m struck by the idea of boarding a plane, flying across the ocean, and returning to my regularly-scheduled life. And I can’t help but ask myself, “What does it really mean to go home?”

Does it mean getting to see my daughter? Does it mean getting to pet my cat? Does it mean sleeping in my own bed or taking a shower in my own bathroom? Does it mean shopping at my local grocery store? Does it mean getting to unpack my suitcase? Does it mean something more?  Surely the idea of “going home” is bigger than settling back in with familiarity.

As I stand here, I remember that two days earlier, while teaching nervous system states to a room full of therapists, I found myself using the words “come home” repeatedly as a way to describe what we are trying to teach children to do.

I explained that, when we perceive challenges, our autonomic nervous system becomes dysregulated.  We move into fight, flight, freeze, and collapse states in an attempt to deal with our perceived challenges and, often in the process, we leave ourselves.  We don’t stay connected.  Instead, we spin off into anxiety, aggression, obsession, sadness, or depression until we are gone.  Gone from ourselves.  Gone from the capacity to self-govern.  Gone from the ability to self-love.

We detach from knowing that we are ok and we start to look outside of ourselves for answers.  We surrender our own inner authority.  We become susceptible to trying to be someone we are not.  We become lost.

This is not to say that perceiving challenges and getting dysregulated is a bad thing. It is quite necessary because in our attempt to deal with our challenges we have to grapple.  Our discomfort sets the stage for an opportunity to grow.

But there is a catch; we must “come home” first.

The moment we become aware of our dysregulated state, we wake up.  We acknowledge the opportunity to become present with our experience, even if only for a second.  We are invited in this moment to take a breath, to move, to name our experience.  And when we accept the invitation, we “come home.”  We come back to ourselves.  We come back to our inner guide.  We come back to our center.

So, as I glance around my hotel room one final time, I realize that this isn’t about  “going home.”  In fact, it isn’t about “going” anywhere.  Rather, it’s about realizing that no matter where I am in the world, every moment presents an invitation to “come home.”  And getting there doesn’t require me to board a plane or pack a suitcase.

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