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What is Attunement?

Attunement is being aware of, and responsive to, another. How do other people feel? Are they happy or sad, interested, engaged, capable of listening? Are they in distress, hungry or just needing to be held? What is the best way to communicate? Attunement has a lot to do with our abilities in non-verbal communication. In fact, most of our communication with others is non-verbal and a large percentage of what our brains perceive in communication with others is non-verbal signals. And most of the time we are unaware of any of our non-verbal gestures. We often repeat dysfunctional behaviors that we learned from parents during childhood. It is important to know others can literally sense your interest and sincerity in them, as well your approval or disapproval in them.

Attunement and Attachment

Attunement and attachment are related. Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. According to psychologist John Bowlby, the earliest bonds formed by children with their parents (caregivers) have an important impact that continues throughout their life. Attunement and attachment are related in that, mothers/fathers (caregivers) who are available and attuned to their child, in other words, responsive to their child’s needs beginning in infancy, establish a sense of security within that child. The infant/child learns that their parent (caregiver) is dependable. This attunement creates a strong foundation for which that child can explore the world.
Research tells us and suggests that early attachments have a serious impact on later relationships in our lives. People who are securely attached in childhood tend to have good self-esteem, strong romantic relationships, and the ability to feel comfortable to share of themselves with others. Research also tells us that when children do not form secure attachments early in their lives, this can have a negative impact on their behavior in later childhood and throughout their lives.
While human contact and attunement are the wellspring of physiological self regulation, the promise of closeness often evokes fear of getting hurt, betrayed, and abandoned. Shame plays an important role in this: “You will find out how rotten and disgusting I am and dump me as soon as you really get to know me.” Unresolved trauma can take a terrible toll on relationships. If your heart is still broken because you were assaulted by someone you loved, you are likely to be preoccupied with not getting hurt again and fear opening up to someone new. In fact, you may unwittingly try to hurt them before they have a chance to hurt you.---Dr. Bessel van der Kolk