Personal space

Letter October 24, 2021
Personal space


Having one’s own personal space is a relatively new concept, but it is something that is innately wired in all of us. Having a personal space acts as a buffer for the mind and the body. When we are in that space, our brain’s functionality heightens as our thoughts are being computed unconsciously at a rapid pace.

Heini Hediger, a renowned Swiss biologist, described this as a ‘flight zone’. When an animal sees a threat, it seems to make a geometric assessment and remains calm until a certain distance is reached and then it moves away to re-instate a flight zone. Hediger’s work on animals caught the attention of the American psychologist, Edward Hall, who published a book on human personal space called The Hidden Dimension. Having domesticated ourselves, he argued we have a small flight zone. He also mentioned controversially that different cultures have different ideas of what a personal space ought to be. In South Asian countries, parents are constantly invading the personal space of their children. They do not give them room to think or act. This not only stunts one’s emotional growth but makes it harder for an individual to fully integrate into society. They soon become co-dependent on others.

The worst thing a parent can do is educate their child according to how they think their culture is, as opposed to thinking where the collective culture is headed. It is said, “Do not raise your children the way [your] parents raised you, they were born for a different time.” Personal space seems to be more universal, embedded deep into the genetic code. We must not undermine its importance.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2021.

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