13 SES 08, 'Crisis’, Feeling at Home, and Response to the Other’s Exclusion
"Sich zu hause fühlen, se sentir chez soi, sentirsi a casa, feeling at home". These words describe at once a fundamental everyday sensation and something that, if denied or broken leaves deep traces in terms of personality and relationship with a social environment. This contribution, based on extensive socio-pedagogical work with migrants and refugees, on empirical research in this field and on analytical explorations of the philosophies of Martin Buber and Etty Hillesum, proposes to highlight the pedagogical potential of creating concrete spaces for experiences and reflection on the themes of ‘home’ when helping children and adults to become better equipped in facing profound changes and constructing a personal life project.
“Feeling at home” can become both a momentary existential experience and a metaphor through which to explore biographical continuity and discontinuity with actually or potentially traumatised people, leading them psychologically and pedagogically from past experiences to the confidence in the ability to construct a future out of that fragmented mix of memories, dreams and longings in psychological recovery work without the frequently perceived threat of therapeutic impositions. In this low-key work, the future can therefore take shape starting from the abstract image of a home which then becomes concrete and can be projected into the future as a plot in which the subject becomes the protagonist.
The research underlying this paper can show that even a simple activity proposed to grown-up people of various backgrounds (like “design your home of yesterday, today and tomorrow”) can provide educators with a starting point for getting to know the service user and create a sufficiently safe basis for triggering self-awareness and opening up of future plans. Therefore, the topic of “home” has profound psychological implications and serves as a diagnostic entry point for deeper levels of suffering which do not open automatically but which can be explored in a supportive process based on the pedagogical principles of Buber and the communicative framework of Gregory Bateson.
Apart from outlining the grounding of this approach in the traditions of existential action research and in the work of Winnicott this presentation will provide and analyse practice examples from settings of informal and formal education with small children and adults, prevalently in intercultural contexts.
Dealing with the topic of “feeling at home” stems from my pedagogical counselling work with immigrant families. My methodological orientation is action research. My work as counselor and supervisor but also research in biographies of migrant people shown that the issue of “home” has a practical stringency and at the same time a psychological significance of existential character.
Beginning with the attitude of open and active listening to accounts of the three biographical stages (home yesterday, today and tomorrow) one can then develop an educational project for children, teenagers and adults which reconstructs an acceptable continuity of life. Most of the scenarios one encounters are not of a pathological nature and therefore the insights afforded by such an activity (centred on the theme of “home”) can be transformed into a primary existential plan without necessitating a therapeutic intervention. The contribution closes with examples for situations of socio-educational counselling based on accounts of educational interventions in the course of which the exercise of “feeling at home” led (often more so for the team than for the service users) to a dynamic vision of one’s life which in a “helping” context could easily have been lost.
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