Wednesday, February 3, 2010


In my twenties I moved a lot. A lot.

The college I attended had a “co-op” program which meant that every 3 or 6 months I moved off campus (and sometimes across the country) for a co-op job or I moved back from a job to campus. After 5 years of this it was on to grad school for two years (where I moved three times). And after that to New York City for a serious career job. I was in N.Y. for 5 years. I moved 3 times.

I married and we moved to New Jersey shortly after our first child was born. 
All of this made me crazy. I swore I would stay put from that point on. I longed to stay put. And that pretty much came to pass. We have moved only twice since settling across the Hudson. We are in our present house for thirty years.

Now I am moving again. Children grown, grandchildren born, retirement beckons and we have decided its time for a big change: more compact digs, new city, new life.

The process has barely begun and again… I am crazy.

During one of my moves from one Upper Westside apartment to another, a psychologist friend who did a lot of psychological testing and analysis told met that there was one Rorschach (inkblot) card that was a surefire diagnostic indicator for schizophrenia. Truly psychotic individuals had a characteristic response that reliably distinguished them from sane folk.

The Rorschach tests consists of a series of images that resemble inkblots—symmetrical blobby pictures that the tester invites the testee to interpret: what do you see here? People’s responses, at least the pattern of responses, are believed to indicate something important and enduring about the individual’s personality and their inner world. Interestingly, though, and she said this to reassure me, when moving, ordinary folk reliably respond like schizophrenics. Indeed I was probably only temporarily crazy.

Not only was I reassured, I regularly pass this information on to others, patients, family, friends who are undergoing a move.

This post is about my musings on this phenomena. Probably it is just the beginning of several posts on this subject, for this process will take many months and probably my craziness will take many forms

When I listen to the dreams of patients I have found that houses (and more women seem to dream about houses then men) a house represents the self in dreams. I have had many dreams in which I discover a secret unexplored room, or a room that I have forgotten was in my house. I remember a dream one of my children had when young about large, scary, snarly animals in the basement. The first dream seems optimistic—more facets of the self to explore, the second demonstrates the ubiquity of scary and probably angry feelings that children have to cope with as they grow into themselves.

My guess is that moving upsets the balance, that it requires a re-organization of the self and for awhile there is chaos inside. Many of the familiar props, those that assert who I am will change: the street on which I live, the stairs that ascend to my bedroom, even the smell of my home as I let myself in the front door.  These props help me to feel safe,  cohesive:  I know who I am.  Without them,  all of that is up from grabs.

My hope is that all of this challenge and change will lead to growth and expansion within myself rather than a term of institutionalization.   Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. When CFD and I moved out of Gloucester after almost 9 years in our one-bedroom apartment, we both realized that we had never in our lives lived in one spot for so long. Neither of us grew up there, but I think we both view it as home in a lot of ways and miss it.

    I suspect we are not settled yet, but I hope our kids will spend most of their childhoods in one place.

    And if you end up with a term of institutionalization before this move is over, I promise to send flowers and get well cards. :-)