Posted by: piersdy | October 15, 2013

Keeping your house in order

I used to lead a support group for people bereaved by suicide. That is one of life’s most painful experiences. Losing someone you love when they take their own life is a jagged edge in your heart and mind that takes years to come to terms with. In fact you never do reach full closure. But what you can reach is some semblance of order in the house of your soul, as you understand more about their state of mind, about forgiveness, and so on.

It seems to me that every person needs to have their inner house in order. These days it is called your worldview, your inner template or framework on which you hang every experience. Yes I can make sense of that because it fits in the corner over here, under ‘limited threat’, and that one goes there on the ‘friend in need’ shelf.’

But what about when it doesn’t fit? You have to work out the best place to fit it in, and make a suitable bit of furniture or space that is itself in harmony with everything else. If you can do that, home is still sweet and the world feels safe. If too many strange things arrive it can be very stressful until every item is suitably housed. Children must be very good at this, perhaps because parents make up most of the house. But if they don’t…?

Back to bereavement. Suicide just doesn’t fit anywhere. Nor does abuse or torture or PTSD or any of the things that deeply damage the psyche. The memory is bad enough, but also the house can never feel safe again; there is something in there that is always out of place, always in danger of falling on your head, or it is a hole in the floor that you can fall down at any time.

This extreme picture shows something more general I think – that we all need to be able to order our house. Otherwise we will be dis-eased, anxious, restless, and possibly not understand why. Too much change overloads our internal geometry-repair system.

Paul told the Corinthian Christians to do ‘all things decently and in order’ (1 Cor.14.40). This was about church meetings, but it sounds like a more general principle. Disorder outwardly can generate inner disorder, and we are constructed to need order in our personal houses.

I suppose it is obvious, maybe just homespun psychology: chaos is scarey, full of unknown dangers. Order is safe and predictable (though some order is scarey too, like a prison), so we have a deep instinct to look for order and to need our world to make sense. Check yourself.

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