Have you ever had the experience of someone's eyes lighting up when they see you?
You didn't do anything - weren't being particularly wonderful or entertaining - you just showed up and they were delighted?
When you have a real connection with someone - genuine attunement - delight is the natural result.
And here's something I think is important about this:
Delight is a basic need. As human beings, we need to feel delighted in.
Without it, something within us shuts down. We lose a sense of meaning. Life feels dull and we feel alone. It's that important.
And like all things atunement related... delight breeds delight! It's contagious.
Cultivating your capacity for delight is possible and well... delightful!
Here's an example of a practice for cultivating delight in relationships:
This is one I practiced for many years with my children but it can be done in any kind of relationship.
When my kids we little, there was always so much to attend to... diapers, meals, picking up toys endlessly, laundry endlessly...
So I took time each day to pause. To stop doing anything - and just sit quietly and watch them... take them in.
I would try to do this so they didn't notice me and would just continue playing or whatever they were doing. I didn't want them to entertain me... it's like I wanted to catch them just being themselves.
And there would inevitably be some little unexplainable moment - they would do some little thing or interact with each other in a particular way... and my heart would swell...with delight!
These moments of delight kept me nourished during this time when my children needed so much from me. These moments of delight cut through the sleep deprivation and my anxiety about whether or not everyone was going to be ok.
So we come back to the practice of attunement... pause and...
First Presence - come back to yourself.
Then Contact - really take the other in.
Then Reflection - let yourself be affected by the other...
Then Respond - see what comes to you in the moment...
Then see if Delight arises...
Delight can't be forced or coerced. It can't be manufactured. If we give it room with this kind of practice - it comes on it's own!
I was thinking about responsiveness and how real, attuned responsiveness happens in the moment...
It isn't planned and it isn't a technique...
And I remembered something that happened years ago when my son had a fever.
My son has always had lucid dreams. As a child, he didn't have nightmares because if the dream got scary - he would change it. Unless he had a fever.
When he had a fever, he couldn't control his dreams anymore and had really bad nightmares and hallucinations.
One day he was home sick with a fever and was resting on the couch. I was in the kitchen doing some dishes, when suddenly he called to me in a panicked voice...
He was genuinely terrified. He was pointing off towards the wall where he clearly saw something terrible and frightening.
"Make them go away!" he screamed.
Now, part of me wanted to say "Now honey, there's nothing there. You're sick with a fever. You're safe. etc etc...."
Then I looked at his face and saw his fear. My whole body responded.
I turned to the wall and with a fierce intensity I waved my arms at the invisible monsters and yelled...
My son immediately relaxed, closed his eyes, said "thank you" to me very sweetly... and went back to sleep...
I felt like a super hero!
And also, part of me wondered if that was ok - it didn't seem like a very grown-up response... but it eased his fear... and that seemed enough.
I couldn't have planned my response. It was based on my sense of what he needed in that moment. Real responsiveness is often unexpected and unexplainable.
And I'm noticing that right now, as I remember that moment, what I feel most is aliveness.
And also, delight... which I will write more about next week - how it arises naturally through the dance of attunement.
Have you ever had the experience of being in a conversation with someone and something happens... you feel hurt or confused... then, without you saying anything at all... the other person notices that something happened for you and asks you about it?
Today I'm writing about another aspect of attunement - Responsiveness
There's many ways in which responsiveness happens. And when there is presence and contact and reflection already, it happens naturally. But this is the part of attunement that looks the most like doing something so I want to talk about this.
Responsiveness is particular.
It is different than anticipating needs.
Responsiveness and anticipating needs can work together but they are not the same thing.
Responsiveness happens in the moment when you are genuinely taking in another person - seeing their face, hearing their voice. Your response is to them - how they actually are in that moment... not your idea of them.
Anticipating needs is more of an idea of them... based either on your past experience of them or on how you yourself might feel in their shoes. This can lead to a disconnect if you aren't really seeing them in the moment.
Here's an example:
You know your child (spouse, roomate) has had a big day. You anticipate she'll want to curl up with a book and relax once she gets home. You've got a blanket ready, made a fire...
And when she gets home, she's angry and full of energy and wants to go for a vigorous walk...
If you can take her in as she is, and respond to her in the moment - that's attunement.
But wait! Can you do this and not lose touch with yourself and your own needs? Maybe you really wanted to curl up with a book by the fire and now there is all this anger and energy in the room...
How can you attune with each other and respond to each other as you are in that moment?
First Presence - come back to yourself.
Then Contact - really take each other in.
Then Reflection - let yourself be affected by each other...
Then Respond - see what comes to you in the moment...
This is good practice. And challenging! If you get stuck or caught anywhere, come back to the beginning... come back to yourself...come back to presence.
Next week I'll write about Delight! And how important this is in our experience of attunement.
I am here because you see me. How you see me shapes how I am.
Today I'm writing about another aspect of attunement - Reflection
When we are babies, we do not feel separate from our mothers. Our mother reflects our experiences and emotions back to us and this is how we learn about ourselves.
And this continues as we grow and other people respond to us and reflect back what they experience of us, verbally and non verbally.
When these reflections come from an attuned place and are accurate - are true reflections of how we feel and how we are- this is wonderful. We begin to know ourselves more deeply and we feel more known.
But this isn't how it always goes...
When someone isn't perceiving us - isn't present and connected to us - isn't really taking us in.... they still offer a reflection. Only it is a distorted reflection.
This is very disturbing. When your experience of how things feel doesn't match the reflection you receive from another, it can be bewildering. Especially for a young child.
Here's the good news. We are naturally gifted as human beings at offering reflections that are accurate. It's not something we have to effort at.
If we are present with someone, and we really take them in... it happens naturally. And when you experience this kind of reflection yourself, you know it - because you feel met and seen.
You can play with this...
Take a moment to be present with yourself, turn inward for a moment.
Then let your attention move to someone you are with - listen - take them in. Allow how they are and how they feel to affect you.
Then come back to yourself and notice what you notice.
We naturally resonate with each other. We can feel it happen if we pause to notice.
Allowing this to happen is a gift we can offer to one another. And it can be very healing for us too.
Next week... we'll explore Responsiveness...which naturally follows Reflection...
Touch can be a powerful way to connect. Touch can also feel unwanted or unsafe.
Eye contact can feel like a deep connection. It also can feel like an invasive stare.
What's the difference?
Today I'm writing about the second movement in the dance of attunement - Contact
When we are genuinely present with each other, contact often happens naturally. This could be physical touch or eye contact - and it may be brief or sustained - it all depends...
And that's the thing about attunement, it's a moment to moment experience.
It's the opposite of someone just making assumptions about you. Or you making assumptions about them.
With attuned contact, you are continually taking each other in.
Attuned contact is listening. Listening through your touch. Listening with your gaze.
We sometimes think of making contact as an action - but it can be a very receptive act.
Here's a practice I first learned playing with children. It's simple and powerful and I have since found it to be applicable to any relationship. It's called Touch and Go.
There's someone you want to connect with - a partner or your child or a friend...
First take a moment to be present with yourself, turn inward for a moment.
Then move toward this person to connect - with a simple touch or with your eyes. When you connect - listen - take them in - really.
And then release them, let them go. Don't linger or try to make something more happen. Touch...and go....
You can move toward and then away. Then toward again. And away again.
With touch and go there is no pressure or expectation. But the contact, however brief, is real.
And this contact can open a door to a new level of interaction...and the attunement deepens.
Next week... we'll explore Reflection...
The basis of a healthy relationship or a secure attachment is attunement.
When you feel attuned with - like someone 'gets you'- you can relax and connection feels easy and reliable.
So what is attunement and how does it work?
My dear friend and mentor, Bonnie Badenoch, said it so beautifully - I will just quote her:
"Attunement begins with being Present to one another, moves naturally toward Contact, which leads to shared Reflection that supports a dance of Responsiveness, and blossoms into mutual Delight." - Bonnie Badenoch
Ahhh. This is the dance of attunement and these are the 5 aspects that flow together naturally: Presence, Contact, Reflection, Responsiveness, and Delight!
I'm going to be writing about each one of these aspects over the next few weeks.
Today I'm writing about Presence.
Everything relational starts with presence. Without it, none of the other aspects of connection have much chance to occur.
And there are many ways to talk about presence: being physically present... being emotionally present... and you may know the feeling when someone is right there with you... This is the kind of presence I'm talking about.
And it can be all too rare of an experience in our fast paced, distracted, stressed out world.
We can't control how others may be with us - but here is something I've often experienced:
When a person themselves is really 'there' - others often show up more strongly too - and a deeper, more real kind of connection happens naturally.
I have explored presence in depth as a performer and in my play with children and I have experienced this over and over. If I show up genuinely, as I am... the audience is with me... the child is drawn to me... we can begin the dance of attunement. There is such a strong drive toward this kind of connection in human beings - it's so fundamental to the way our brains work... and presence opens the door.
We can cultivate our own ability to be present.
Here's a practice you can try anywhere, anytime to cultivate your own natural presence. You could try it right now...
First pause. Stop moving around and just stand or sit where you are.
Then look around - see the colors and the shapes of things around you. Hear the sounds just as they are. Feel the air on your skin... Also look within - notice your body and your state of being - notice how you are internally - just as you are without intending to change anything or make yourself a certain way. Then look out again and go on with your day - interacting with others - doing what you do...
You could do this practice briefly or really take time with it. It's the kind of thing we often do naturally when we are on vacation in a beautiful or interesting place. We could do it often - just as part of daily life... bringing our attention and curiosity to this moment just as it is.
This practice is a simple and lovely way to show up for your life. To show up for others. To show up for yourself. And to see who comes to meet you in the dance of attunement...
I'd love to hear about your experience with this. Please email me with anything you'd like to share!
Next week... we'll explore contact...
We want healthy relationships... with our partners, our kids, our friends... and it's important to recognize when things are NOT healthy and we need a change
And it would be nice to have some idea what we are aiming for... what would it even be like to have a healthy, secure relationship?
In technical terms, what I'm talking about here is secure attachment...
Secure attachment leads to more confidence, resiliency, and a general ability to connect well and easily with people.
It's what we want for our children.
It's what we want for ourselves.
And even if we didn't have a secure attachment with a parent ourselves, we can have this experience later in life (called earned secure attachment) and this can re-pattern and heal us in profound ways.
I think it's helpful to have some idea what we are aiming for. Because our original patterning will often lead to confusion about what a healthy relationship feels like.
I often talk about it this way:
Think of one of the most basic elements of relating,
Moving toward and moving apart.
In any relationship, we move toward and we move apart. And what happens when we do?
In a healthy, secure relationship - you can move toward and connect, and you can move away and feel secure that you are still connected.
In less healthy dynamics - relationships can get stuck - stuck together or stuck apart.
When you get stuck together you must shape yourself and work hard to keep the connection. You feel you need to be what the other needs and expects because if you don't you will lose them. And you can't move away without feeling that it's over...
When you get stuck apart, you are living parallel lives - often doing tasks together but not really feeling connected. This can look really good from the outside (and often keeping up appearances is a big value) but inside this feels like a desert - empty and lonely.
In secure relationships you have freedom to move.
You can move toward and away (and the other can too) and you trust you will find each other, at least most of the time.
It also means you can miss each other, not get each other, make mistakes and misunderstand each other... and find each other again.
It isn't perfect all the time. You don't always agree or get along.
And it's okay. Something inside you feels ok with this. When you feel 'apart' physically, emotionally, even intellectually... you trust you will still have your connection. It won't tear you apart from each other.
Our attachment patterning is such a basic and deep part of our lives and affects every relationship we have.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be writing about the 5 elements we need to experience secure attachment.
If we know what we need, sometimes it is easier to seek it - or recognize it. Also to seek to provide it for our children.
In the meantime, you might begin to notice what happens for you in your relationships when you move toward and when you move away. Or when others move toward or away from you.
Remember gentleness - bring gentleness to whatever you find here.