Attunement – Going Inside Attachment

If you are reading this blog, by now you probably understand the importance of healthy attachment.  Defined, healthy attachment is a reciprocal process by which an emotional connection develops between an infant and his/her primary caregiver. It influences the childs physical, neurological, cognitive and psychological development. It becomes the basis for development of basic trust or mistrust, and shapes how the child will relate to the world, learn, and form relationships throughout life.

Okay you may be thinking, I know my child has interrupted attachment.  What can I do now that he is a teen?  There are handfuls of interventions you will learn in treatment from your Calo therapist but something specific to start with is attunement. 

Attunement is the intersubjective sharing of affect.  Affect is the non-verbal emotion and inaudible expressions of humans and animals.  Attunement is not only being in tune with how your son is feeling and is not just matching your daughters affect (you are smiling so I will smile back) but is sharing the emotional experience of your child.

When a mother looks deep into the eyes of her newborn son and coos back and forth with him, attunement is taking place.  Attunement is a father knowing his teenage daughter is depressed and needing a pick-me-up without her saying a single word. 

What happens when I am attuned to my child?  You increase her legitimacy, you celebrate and validate his emotional experience, you give her permission to feel and be human, and you let him know that while he is unique as a person, his feelings have been felt by others and he is not so odd, lonely, and isolated as he might perceive.    

So how do I do this?  To start, practice attuning with others in your circle.  Remember, dont just listen attentively and nod (a simple but lost art itself) but really engage the affect of the person you are interacting with and share the emotions they are feeling as much as possible.  You are not losing your own feelings through this process but rather jumping in the pool with anothers emotional experience.  Then, as you get a feel for this, when your child has an emotional experience he wishes to share with you, attune with him.  Meet him on his level, listen and understand but also feel the experience and share the affect. 

New, healthy self-worth begins to develop inside your child with every attunement experience.  When combined with other treatment objectives and goals, something special begins to take place:

greater self-worth = greater connection to others = greater empathy = interdependence = success.