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We have all heard the sayings, “Home is where the heart is,” “There’s no place like home,” and “A house is not a home.” For most, “home” is a place of refuge from the world where we can find safety, shelter and comfort. It is the place where we can simply be ourselves, relax and escape from the external demands of our worldly lives. We raise our children in our homes; it is the central place from which we offer them our protection, love and guidance. We invite people into our homes to share and enjoy our hospitality. We decorate our homes with the objects we love, with sentimental items from our pasts and in the style and colors that reflects who we are. Truly, our “homes” are extensions of ourselves.

While for many of us our home is a haven of safety and love, for others it is a stressful place, congested with emotional heat arising from the negativity we endure due to abrasive interactions with the people with whom we live. One client expressed these sentiments, “Our home used to be a restful place for me. However, with the economic recession my home has become a nightmare. When I bought my house my wife and I were earning two incomes. Now we don’t, and we are struggling to pay the mortgage. It has created constant stress and fighting between us. I don’t look forward to going home anymore.”

By the time we have become adults, we have lived in several places that we have called “home,” and some homes may have held more positive experiences than others. When I asked a 70-year-old woman what came to her mind when I mentioned the word “home” she was surprised by her response. She said, “I instantly think of my parents’ home. That is where my Mom and Dad were. That is home to me. The house I live in now, where I raised my kids, is home, too. But, when you asked me the question, unexpectedly, what immediately came to mind was where I’d lived with my Mom and Dad. That is the place I call home.”

Indeed, this 70-year-old woman’s spontaneous identification of her childhood home as the one that most feels like “home” reflects a deep unconscious truth we all share. Our childhood home is paramount, and its influence lives on in our minds for the rest of our lives. It is the place where our personalities were formed as young children, in relationship to our parents and siblings. No matter what our age, we are all still carrying around inside us the effects of those early years, indelibly imprinted in our brains. We are each a composite of many life experiences, but few things have the power to shape our personality as much as the events that took place in our early homes during our most impressionable years.

At birth we entered this world whole and complete, naturally endowed to enjoy the world. Happiness, eagerness, curiosity, excitement, hope, and many other wonderful qualities are part of our essential selves. We are not born with self-doubt, depression, obsessive thoughts, fears or other negative symptoms. These are born out of negative interactions with our parents, as well as traumas endured during our early years. The way our parents treated us as little children sets the original pattern in our brains for how we will deal with people and events for the rest of our lives.

Parents who are supportive and loving create future adults who themselves feel secure, loving and confident. Parents who are harsh, disapproving or cold create insecure or fearful adults who struggle as adults. Most parents are a mix of both positive and negative qualities; and as a result, so are we. So, while our parents may have loved us deeply, their own personal limitations, unawareness, or difficult life histories will necessarily impact us in spite of their support.

Time typically distorts or reconfigures our conscious memories of our childhood. However, we can mentally access and visually explore the home of our youth through imagery and accurately recall what actually occurred there. Those “3-D” recollections are forever imprinted in our brains with all the original nuances intact. By accessing them, we can rediscover a great deal about our relationships with our parents that we don’t consciously remember. We can see how they acted towards us, and how we responded. We can sense the emotional atmosphere in the house and how it felt: warm, comfortable, or cold, alien. We can observe how these early interactions and impressions still influence us today in our feeling states, mental attitudes, spontaneous reactions, and in relationships—with ourselves and others.

The visual images that reproduce life events in exact detail are “Eidetic Images,” and they are naturally neurologically recorded in the brain for future reference. They can be accessed and viewed in the mind like a movie. Dr. Akhter Ahsen, founder of the school of Eidetic Image Psychology, is universally credited as the originator and leading theorist in the clinical application and scientific study of Eidetic Images.

Below, is the image instruction to recall your childhood home. As you go through it you will discover many things about yourself. Read the first instruction below, then take a few moments to visualize the image. Then, read each other instruction and proceed in a stepwise manner. You may want to write down your responses as you go through them for future recall. The whole image is given in the first paragraph and then you can concentrate of the details by imaging the specific items numbered. Don’t worry if an image is vague or vivid; both will reveal information to you.

As you focus on the people in the house, one by one, your feelings towards them will surface and become clear. Notice the emotions, body states and meanings that arise as you see the images of your parents, siblings, and the house. Are they similar to the emotions and body sensations you experience today?

Picture your parents in the house where you lived most of the time with them, the house that gives the feeling of a “home.” (If you lived in several houses, choose the one that most spontaneously comes to mind.)

  1. Picture your parents in the house. Where do you see them? What are they doing?
  2. How do you feel as you see the house?
  3. See your father. Where is he.? What is he doing in the picture?
  4. Do you experience pleasant or unpleasant feelings when you see him?
  5. Relax and recall memories about the place where your father appears.
  6. Now, see your mother. What is she doing?
  7. Do you experience pleasant or unpleasant feelings when you see her?
  8. Relax and recall memories about the place where your mother appears.
  9. Where are your sisters; brothers? What are they doing? How do you feel as you see them?
  10. Now see yourself in the picture. What are you doing?
  11. Does the place give you the feeling of a home?

Source: Eidetic Parents Test first developed by Dr. Akhter Ahsen 1985–86. Akhter Ahsen. 1997. Eidetic Parents Test and Analysis. New York:Brandon House, Inc.

Ideally, the images of our childhood home should create feelings of security and warmth. However, you may find the opposite or even mixed emotions depending on which family member you focus your attention. You might find that you had two loving and encouraging parents that evoke good feelings within you, each in their own way. Or, you might discover that one parent is loving and the other difficult. Or, both may be thorny, each due to differing circumstances. Whatever the case, the images will reveal the complexity of your emotional life and the source of some of the emotions that you experience today.

For example if there is conflict in the house, you might notice that you feel similarly internally conflicted within your own being or that you have brought or attracted similar conflict into your life as an adult. If you find that you cannot locate a parent in your house it may mean that a trauma occurred in your family life. If your parents are totally absent or extremely vague in the image it can mean that you experienced a prolonged physical absence from them, or you had a hostile relationship with them. There are no fixed formulas. Whatever the image brings you, you will learn many things about yourself and your history.

If you wish, you can explore many more things in the image of your childhood home. For example, move closer to a parent and see what happens. Does that parent embrace you.? Do they keep you away.? You can look into a parent’s eyes and notice what they are feeling there. You can reach out and touch their skin and get a feeling of temperature. Is it warm, hot or cold? Warmth means that they were warmly disposed towards you; and cold, the opposite. Hot may mean that they had anger. The answers will come from within you. You can move from room to room and explore each one. Go back into your bedroom. What do you see there? The image will unfold like a movie that brings many new visions and insights to you. It offers an endless source of exploration and new learning.

One woman said, “I see my mother in the kitchen. She is angry while she is making soup. I feel wary of getting closer to her. I don’t like her anger, so I want to stay away. I am scared. Finally, out of curiosity, I mentally move closer to her and I see sadness in her eyes. I soften and realize that under her anger is grief.

Surprisingly, I want to comfort her. I see my father in the living room sitting on a chair reading the paper. I come closer to him and sit next to him. I put my head on his lap and relax and he strokes my hair. I feel loved and comforted. I sink into his warm shoulder and rest there. It is such a good feeling. Now I go to find my kid brother. I see him playing in his room. I feel warmly towards him and I play with him. He is very imaginative as he plays with his toys. I feel love seeing him.

As I reflect on these images, I can see that I am afraid of getting close to women in my life. I imagine that they will be judgmental with me. The same feeling of fear of getting close to my mother comes over me. I am carrying a sense of distrust in making women friends. However, I do have male friends and feel comfortable with them. I also get along with my male boss. I expect that he will be kind and just towards me, just like my father was. With my brother I feel love and I’m nurturing towards him. I work with children in a school. I love to engage in imaginative play with them as I did with him. The feelings I have working with children are very similar to those I had with my brother.

The house itself does give me a feeling of warmth and security. Within me, I do feel secure inside of myself, very similar to how I felt in my home. I know deep down that my mother loved me, even though she would easily get angry. I learned from this image exercise that I am a nurturing person capable of love because I was loved. Although my mother scared me, when I saw her pain, I softened. However, I still have to resolve my fear of my Mom as it affects my current friendships with women.”

Jaqueline Lapa Sussman, MS, LPC

For more than 30 years, author Jaqueline Lapa Sussman has applied the techniques of Eidetic Imagery in her work as a counselor, speaker and teacher. One of the foremost Eidetic practitioners in the world, over the last two decades she has been the protégé and close associate of Dr. Akhter Ahsen, Ph.D., the founder and developer of modern Eidetics and pioneer in the field of mental imagery.