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.