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Finding Home Within You: Attachment Theory and Your Inner Sanctuary (Part 1)

 “Home is in the circle of your arms.”

I have a feeling that this message, written along the side of a nearby house, is meant to be about someone else’s arms.
(As in, home is in the arms of somebody else).

Yet what struck me when I read it was how each of us are also our own homes – emotionally, intellectually, existentially. So, in a very real sense, home is in the circle of our arms… We are our own permanent address (while ever we’re – impermanently – on this planet).

Almost snail-like, we carry these homes – our habitual thoughts, our reflex responses, our ways of seeing ourselves and the world – around with us. It reminds me of what Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote:

Wherever you go, there you are.”

So what’s yours like, your internal ‘home’?
How long is it since you’ve actually stood back and taken a real look at it?
And how might it be influencing your experience of the rest of the world?

Is it a warm, soft place, built with comfort and functionality in mind – supporting you to live well? Creating a sense of safety to meet the uncertainties in the world with?

Or is it a place of uncertainty itself? A place you’re not sure you’re always welcome. Or appreciated. Or understood. (And where an inner critic might rule the roost at times).

If you don’t feel safe or supported or nourished in this interior space of yours, how might that affect you? If things already seem a bit precarious on the inside, how might the rest of the world seem from this vantage point? How will you find the strength to meet the challenging times (that seem to come to all of us at one point or another)?

And is it possible that if you did a bit of internal renovating or redecorating or reorganizing, so your inner ‘home’ felt more welcoming, that you, in turn, might be able to welcome more challenging experiences from the outside?

A safe place. A sanctuary. A secure base…

In attachment theory – which is all about how we form attachments in relationships (first to our primary caregivers when we’re children, then to others and, ultimately, to the world itself) – a “secure base” is considered paramount. This secure base lets us feel there’s somewhere safe to return to when we’re stressed or hurt. It welcomes us. And it also provides a stable place for us to launch back out into the world from again when we’re ready.

It lets us come. It lets us go.

So that’s what “secure attachment” looks like.

And in Part 2 of this post, we’ll explore some of the other attachment styles and look at how you might be relating (to yourself, to the world). And how you might start to change that if you want to.

Perhaps even how you might build a more nurturing home in the circle of your arms…


Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Finding Home Within You: Attachment Theory and Your Inner Sanctuary (Part 1)

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Finding Home Within You: Attachment Theory and Your Inner Sanctuary (Part 1). Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Apr 2011
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