A Brief History of Homesickness

In todays society of soldering on and the expected perfectionism from social media,

Homesickness is considered a weakness and not anything to be taken seriously.

This is a relative new concept as it used to be taken as a serious medical condition.

Homesickness in History

One of the first places Homesickness is mentioned is in the old testament of the Bible,

Psalm 137:1 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion”. 

Homer also mentions Homesickness, in ‘The Odyssey’, Athena pleads with her father Zeus for the release of Odysseus so that he may return home because he is … “longing for his wife and homecoming”.

Hippocrates (ca. 460-377 BC) called homesickness “Heimveh”  or a ‘nostalgic reaction’ that was caused by an excess of black bile in your blood.

In the mid 1600’s a group of swiss soldiers were rendered incapacitated by  homesickness brought on by singing songs from home and the sound of cowbells.

Their symptoms ranged from anxiety to palpitation, to forgetfulness and even death due to refusing to eat.

This alarmed the medical community and in 1688 the Swiss physician Johannes Hofer ( 1669-1752)

coined the phrase ” Nostalgia’ from the Greek Nostos (homecoming or return) and Algos ( pain).

In this video, Susan Matt elegantly explains the history of Homesickness.

She has written a book called ” Homesickness: An American History”.

A History of Homesickness: Susan Matt at TEDx Waterloo 2013

More recent history

In more recent history our attitude towards homesickness changed.

By WW1, there was less sympathy for the homesick soldier.

This followed the new parent rearing technique of creating separation between parent and child so that it would be easier for them to leave home.

Even today we are expected to just get over it.

In an article by the BBC news magazine ” The adults who suffer extreme homesickness”

by Tom Heyden, 5 June 2013 ( click here for the full article)

Shows us that homesickness is a real thing and that anyone can experience it.

It should not be something to be ashamed of.

Our perception of Homesickness is slowly changing, but we are not there yet.

To be Homesick is natural, it shows that you still have a connection with home.

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