Psychology, the importance of the home in our well-being

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Home Sweet Home. It is the dominant post-lockdown motif in the life of Italians, proponents and financiers of an unprecedented restructuring boom. For Ihs Markit, a global information provider, in 2021 it reached its all-time high (equal to about 70 points out of 100, reference production index) calculated on over 22 years of data collection, paving the way for strong growth also in current year (war, scarcity of raw materials and expensive energy, permitting).

Istat figures in hand, families have invested 17.1 billion euros in housing (more than 28.9% compared to 2019-20) to the point that the construction sector represented 5% of the national GDP. Do they deserve ultra-affordable bonuses? Certainly, but also of the particular historical moment we lived, the research “Forms & Modes of living”, promoted by Visioninterne, a company that offers innovative services to interior design studies, and curated by Alessandra Micalizzi, psychologist, with a doctorate in communication and new technologies and author with Tommaso Filighera of Psychology of living (Franco Angeli).

The pandemic has changed the perception of the home, and made it less obvious, ”he reports. “When we found ourselves closed in our homes, there was a polarization between those who said:” I’m in the right place, I wouldn’t change a comma “and those who wondered:” How did I live in this situation for so long time?”. For many, the house has turned into a sort of trap, as well as the only orthogonal point of reference in their personal and working life. Therefore, thinking, planning, taking action to change and / or renew it has become a felt need, and practiced ».

Even if the goal “I want a bigger, more comfortable, more beautiful, more welcoming accommodation” which leads to the remodeling, of a room or an entire apartment, is difficult to achieve. Get straight into the top five of the most traumatic experiences for an individual.

We talk about it with the psychologist Alessandra Micalizzi, an expert in housing psychology, a discipline that explains the profound meanings of the world of living and helps people find furnishing solutions suited to their needs. After teaching at the IED in Milan, you now collaborate with the Sae Institute in Milan.

Doctor Micalizzi, what does the house mean in psychology?

The living space not only intercepts typically functional needs but, from the moment it takes shape, embodies and communicates deeper aspects. When we talk about “one’s home”, we touch on three dimensions. Identity: each accommodation is full of clues that refer to the personality of its inhabitants; mnestic: a house not only tells its story but also preserves the history and stories of those who live it until it becomes its objectification; symbolic: any construction is an expression of the culture of one’s time, a manifestation of oneself, a showcase of a certain inner world and of a precise way of wanting to tell and share it with others.

The choice to renovate is an existential operation …

Deciding to redo, large or small, the house always reveals the psychic changes we are carrying out. It is the testimony that we too are restructured, as they say in psychology: there has been a fact, something dynamic that has brought about a change and which has become part of our new identity. Not surprisingly, the restructuring is often closely linked to important biographical changes, a cohabitation, a child, the move to another city.

In addition to life passages or situations of strict necessity, what is the driving force that pushes us to action?

An intimate lack, and it happens even if we have been in a decidedly beautiful or revised home for relatively few years. The need to restructure is strictly physiological, it is triggered if it no longer recognizes us in those interiors. Because now we are “other”. The typical example? Wanting an “adult” apartment, more tidy and elegant, when you no longer feel like a student.

In planning, how much does the dream of a perfect home weigh?

We do not make the (absolutely recurring) mistake of being inspired in all respects by the proposals of magazines, social networks, where everything is at the top of technical innovation, taste, functionality but also expense. Those are just photographs that refer to an image of an ideal house, from which at most we can draw some ideas. When we design a re-look, let us instead be inspired by our living ideal: we all have one deep inside, and it corresponds to that dimension in which we feel good and which represents parts of us. We like to invite friends and are we frustrated that the beautiful island kitchens presented by 5-star brands are over budget? No problem, there are many other solutions to create the same atmosphere of conviviality, with the same satisfaction and less expense. Amen, if the image is not the same as some super glam photos.

Spaces, colors, furnishings, we change everything but then we live for months in a state of siege. It’s a common experience …

And there are certified reasons for stress. Any overhaul, from a bathroom to a villa, is always a moment of revolution that bursts and upsets the line of continuity and transparency of everyday life. We see the renovation as a material fact, we think that it is just about moving walls or changing the electrical system, in reality it is much more. It is a relationship work, new and also tiring. We have to interact with the designer (if there is one), with the company that takes care of the works, with our cohabitants. At the same time, we are at the forefront with materials, styles, paint, and like any other decision it is always a high voltage field.

You mentioned the family: what’s going on here?

All cohabitants are involved, of course. The circumstances are not always the same, but I have some opinions. In most cases, there is a person – and it is not necessarily the one who pays the bills – who takes over the reins of the situation and involves the other family members in cascade; in others, there are those who slip away but then weigh more in the final choices; in still others, a kind of family hierarchy is established with respect to the individual zones, each deciding which room is most important to him. Pulling the strings, however, restructuring is always the result of a negotiation, which depends on the implicit roles that each has within the couple or family.

Is redoing a house an act of courage?

Yes, because it denotes facing a destabilizing phase, a transitional period between before and after, which is anything but pleasant: we no longer have our seats, we do not find our things, it takes time, energy and patience to pull the strings. . The fateful sentence: “but who made me do it?” it dissolves only if we are, even before starting, aware of the (inevitable) chaos that will be created.


With what spirit do you face this small-big enterprise?

It is an adventure that feeds on some preliminary reasoning. First of all, we need to take a “reality bath” and ask ourselves what our project entails, from a strictly practical point of view: it helps us to be realistic about the expectations and timing between before and after, so as not to “protest” if the work turns out to be complicated, times get longer, the financial commitment is sustained. Another important thing is to rely on a reference technical figure, and trust her. It means: let the architect, the interior design, but also just the company responsible for the execution work, and let him do his job, without entering into competition. It is on the “healthy” relationship that the quality of the final result is at stake. To obtain it, the main road has been traced: we clearly express our objectives, desires, priorities but we allow the insiders to return them to us through the concrete construction of our home.


The stress is finally over: but when are we satisfied?

When we recognize ourselves in that house. Maybe the walls do not have that color we thought, the floor is a new one for our tastes, the furniture is not of our favorite design. However, if we go through the door we still have a pleasant feeling, of being in our shell and of being able to close ourselves to the outside world, in this insurmountable boundary. And, then, there is the exclusivity effect, that taste of being told by our guests: “you can see that it’s your home”. This is the real success, the proven proof of that magical alchemy between us and the professionals who created the environments.


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