What causes homesickness


How alienation from home became a problem: "nostalgia" as the scientific zeitgeist changed

Homesickness is a mental state that everyone has probably felt at some point. Nevertheless, you will almost always search for the word in vain in psychological dictionaries and indexes. You have to go through a lot of literature until you come across at least one keyword like "homesickness, childlike". 1

Anyone who should try to look up homesickness under the ancient medical term nostalgia will hardly have a better experience. If he's lucky, he might find the following explanation:Nostalgia, which played a very large role in romantic psychology and was considered to be the cause of severe depression until the turn of the century, is almost always replaced today by other terms (e.g. regression).2

If you want to know more and consult the literature review of the American Psychological Association, you will find 25 journal articles in 16 years in which homesickness plays a role. In most cases, homesickness is not the focus, but is only mentioned incidentally, for example in connection with the adjustment problems of foreigners, refugees or students. 3rd

Homesickness is obviously not a particularly moving topic for modern psychology and psychotherapy. It is not seen as an independent psychological problem, but rather as a symptom that has different causes and can be interpreted in very different ways. For example, the psychoanalyst may see it as a sign of regression, or the behavioral therapist may see it as an unfavorable reaction in the context of a functional conditional model.

That was not always so. For centuries the term used to be homesick nostalgia its permanent place in the medical-psychological literature. It even received an amount of attention that may seem excessive to us today. It was considered Genuinus diseaseas a disease in itself caused by the loss of familiar surroundings, the nature of the air or other environmental influences. Homesickness was a disaster, like other diseases that can afflict people.

The Sunnenberg died from heimweAccording to a letter to the city council of Lucerne from 1569. The document is the earliest evidence of the word homesickness so far. 4 Also in Switzerland, in Basel, was published in 1688 Dissertatio medica de nostalgia or homesickness from the pen of the doctor Johannes Hofer. For the first time it contained the made-up word Nostalgia (from Greek nostos = Homecoming and algos = Pain), which is still used today as a medical term for homesickness. 5

Hofer saw the cause of homesickness in the changing environment, which was associated with a changed way of life, different air and foreign customs. Young people in particular often find it difficult to get used to foreign customs or to do without their native milk. In the homesick, the spirits of life remain tied to those fibers of the brain cord in which the ideas of the fatherland are imprinted. The spirits of life could no longer reach other parts of the brain and support their functions. - From today's perspective, a baroque, imaginative, but basically modern, holistic view that tried to explain homesickness with both psychological and physiological reasons. Hofer saw the most effective means of curing homesickness in returning home. As a makeshift, he recommended an enema to relieve the disturbed imagination or various mixtures to alleviate the symptoms.

In the course of the 18th century the psychological aspect receded in favor of purely physiological explanations. In his "Naturgeschichtedes Schweizerlandes" (1705 - 1707), the enlightener Johann Jakob Scheuchzer saw the real cause of homesickness in the change in air pressure. If the Swiss came to the plains from the fine, light air of their mountains, the higher air pressure would compress their less stable skin fibers, drive the blood against the heart and brain and thus cause homesickness. As therapy, Scheuchzer recommended that the homesick people be taken to higher mountains and the ingestion of substances that contained compressed air, such as saltpeter, powder and young wine, in order to increase the pressure inside the body. 6th

A similar view was the Abbé Jean-Baptiste Du Bos, who in 1719 unceremoniously called the homesickness hemvé translated into French. It was under this heading that it found its way into the great French encyclopedia in 1765: This is what is called in some places what we describe as "la maladie du pays"begins the statement written by Louis deJaucourt. The "hemvé" is the overwhelming desire to return homeIn the opinion of the Abbé Du Bos, this wish is based on nothing else than an instinct of nature which tells us that the air in which we find ourselves is not as conducive to our nature as the air at home. The "hemvé" (the word leads the masculine article in French) is purely physical and can therefore never become a spiritual evil. It is simply the water and the unfamiliar air that is in the weakened human machine certain changes and such a warning signal, since humans have no direct sense of the nature of the air. But it is relative, which air is felt to be beneficial: what is very digestible for the natives, can act like poison on some foreigners. Incidentally, the "hemvé" must not be confused with those massive complaints that Europeans used to afflict when changing to a tropical climate. 7th

Similar information can be found in Zedler's German encyclopedia (1735/40). Here, too, water and air are blamed for homesickness. At the same time it is emphasized that the evil is mainly observed in the Swiss, when they are in such places that are watery and near the seaA certain D. Schmuchzer - probably referring to the already mentioned Scheuchzer - ascribes this to the pure, light air that the Swiss are used to in their mountains, whereas the air in humid and low places is thick and impure, which is too physical about a thickening of the body's juices Indolence and displeasure lead. The best way to help the sick is to expose them to fresher air in tall buildings, towers and the like. It is, however, a disease that has so far only been treated by a few medical professionals and has hardly been observed. In France, where many Swiss are afflicted with it, it is called "la maladie du Pais". There is also the opinion that the residents of the canton of Bern are particularly susceptible to it.

As a further variant in the competition of scientific opinions, the view of Georg Detharding is cited Disp. de Aere Rostoch the good air of the Hanseatic city of Rostock is famous and the Swiss are homesick for a long time Habit of an impure air trapped within the mountains repatriated. 8th

The mechanistic view of man including the soul is unmistakable in such information. Psychological processes could only be imagined as metabolic products. The zeitgeist - also and especially the scientific one - demanded solid, materialistic explanations, also for mental phenomena. Even a phenomenon like homesickness, which seems so simple to us today, had to be explained by the physical nature of the air and other influences.

However, this mechanistic view never fully caught on. The Swiss scholar Albrecht von Haller revised his initially physiological view of homesickness in 1777, seeing its cause in the separation from familiar surroundings. In a paper published in 1771, the German scholar J. Fr. Cartheuser considered the air pressure theory to be plausible, but in need of supplementation : Psychological influences could also arouse the nostalgia and make it disappear again. In 1783, the Göttingen professor Blumenbach contradicted the air pressure theory even more decisively. For him, homesickness was a pure emotional illness, the cause of which lies in the contrast between home and foreign land, in a tendency implanted in all people dulce natale solum have.

Then at the beginning of the 19th century the psychological view triumphed. The scientific paradigm shift was again embedded in the zeitgeist. Romanticism now discovered the word homesickness, which Goethe and Schiller had not yet been able to write, and introduced it into literature. The treatise, published in 1835, was entirely enshrined in this romantic spirit Homesickness, suicide by Julius Heinrich Gottlieb Schlegel. With the addition of numerous citations from the literature, the author opposed the view that homesickness is caused by the change in air or an innate instinct of home. If someone becomes homesick, it is rather due to the particularly intense impressions of childhood.Therefore, even in later years, often without knowing it, he still has a preference for what had deeply promised him the earliest.

In romantic literature, homesickness became an emotional value, an early childhood naive and therefore particularly close bond to family, home and nature that lives on in adults. The emphasis on early childhood impressions is found later, alongside the Unconscious and further romantic ideas, again in Freud's psychoanalysis. Above all, however, it decisively shaped the understanding of homesickness, which is still prevalent today, as a backward-looking longing that, within certain limits, can be considered normal and even as evidence of successful child socialization.

The medical-psychological literature of the 19th century, on the other hand, was more interested in the pathological side of romantic homesickness, which lay beyond normalcy and allegedly led to madness, suicide, arson, infanticide and other crimes. Homesickness was treated by Zangerl (1840) and Jessen (1841) as a psychological defect, individual weakness, problem of outsiders, even as a psychiatric-forensic problem. Ludwig Meyer wrote in 1855 under the title The madness of homesicknessfive cases of Berlin maids who had hallucinations and other mental disorders due to homesickness. In 1909 Karl Jaspers received his doctorate with a dissertation onHomesickness and crime. In this work the emphasis was placed on the lack of adaptability and limited horizons of the homesick. Homesickness was seen as a problem for servants and other declassed sections of the population who had been torn from their familiar, confined environment in the course of the industrial revolution.

Homesickness was first treated as a problem in normal psychology in 1925: Homesickness is not a disease, stated the psychologist Karl Marbe. It is also by no means based on a psychopathic constitution, even if it occurs to a particularly intense degree in certain psychopaths and here can produce particularly severe psychological and somatic sequelae. Even if the assumption is correct that severe homesickness can lead to temporary insanity in the sane, this would not be evidence of its psychopathic character. Homesickness is a completely normal behavior of certain, even completely healthy people, which is linked to certain environmental conditions. Homesickness is not necessarily a sign of limited horizons; Rather, it can capture the educated and the uneducated, the old and the young. 9

Marbe thought it possible to capture homesickness with methods of experimental psychology. There is undoubtedly a correlation between susceptibility to homesickness and the Changeability of people. This switchability can, however, be investigated experimentally. For example, the experimenter throws a ball at the test subject, which he has to catch alternately in the upper and lower grips.

In the sixties, Charles Zwingmann dealt with homesickness and the culturally critical term of des nostalgic phenomenon embossed. He meant by that symbolic return to or visualization of those events (objects) in the experiential space that offer the greatest satisfaction value. For him, the nostalgic longing could be as geographically and temporally backward-looking. Zwingmann combines the classic "nostalgia" of homesickness with modern nostalgia

Since then, no significant new aspects have emerged, especially since homesickness was one of the neglected topics in psychology. The interpretations of orthodox psychoanalysts seem rather bizarre today, the nostalgic reaction of which is an unconscious longing for the intrauterine past in the womb (Fodor, 1950), for the mother's breast (Sterba, 1940) or even for the father's penis (Nikolini, 1926) recognize supposed.

With a little feel for the historical environment, the influence of the zeitgeist can be seen behind all these theories. It starts with Hofer's comparatively modern, psychosomatic perspective, which is still committed to the holistic medicine of Paracelsus. It continues with Scheuchzer's air pressure theory, the Abbé Du Bos and the French encyclopedia, which forces homesickness into the Procrustean bed of materialistic enlightenment. The contradiction that Cartheuser, Blumenbach and other scholars put forward against it corresponds to the more idealistic intellectual climate in Germany. The psychological interpretation of J. H. G. Schlegel is clearly committed to romanticism. Ludwig Meyer's psychiatric interest in the night side of homesickness heralds the merging of this romantic legacy with the shallow spirit of vulgar materialism, which can also be demonstrated towards the end of the 19th century in the emergence of Freud's psychoanalysis. Karl Marbe's assessment of homesickness as a problem in normal psychology fits in with the "new objectivity" of the twenties (and incidentally refers to the psychological foundations of aesthetics). Finally, behind Zwingmann's "nostalgic phenomenon", one recognizes the educated bourgeois degout in front of the US culture the post-war years, which is the time to progressive validator of man and so evoke the nostalgic longing for the stability of earlier values.