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Attunement

Attunement is the process of focusing our attention on the other and making the other feel “felt”, “seen” and “heard”. We take the other’s essence and internal states into our inner world.  Much of what we communicate is nonverbal, and we take in through our senses and not thru words. A posture, facial expressions, tones of voice, the rate of speech can communicate energy and information.

To be truly attuned and open to another person’s signals, we need to move toward an open state of presence rather than being biased by our past experiences and restrictive expectations. Put simply; attunement requires a complete surrendering of judgment.

Attunement is necessary for interpersonal attachment, which is vital for our sense of well-being and resilience.

The first phase of attunement is Simulation: The focus of attention on the signals from another. The neurons in our brain are fired and relayed downwards to stimulate changes in our bodies.

The second phase is Interoception: The shifts in our subcortical bodily states are relayed upward back to the brain to shape our states of reactivity or receptivity. We perceive the interior sensations of our body.

This metarepresentation of our body in our mind allows us to regulate our bodily states, consciously, and allocate our attention and regulate our emotion.

Our awareness of our body’s state influences how we organize our lives. As we attune to another person, we focus on their signals and use this information to shape our own subcortical states and internal world. Unknowingly, when we attune, we “sync” our heart rate to the heart rate of the other. This has been demonstrated to happen between therapists and patients (Siegel, 2010) and in sports psychology between elite horseback riders and their horses (Baltzell, 2016).

- The key to attunement is to be willing to say, “I don’t know” and “tell me more”. There is a common misconception that we “know” what the other is thinking but inevitably when you invite open exploration without judgment, the person reveals aspects of their inner world that were previously suppressed.

Mindsight skills, therefore, require monitoring both our own and another individual’s internal states and modifying this internal flow of energy and information.

The feeling of needing a connection but not receiving such attunement from another creates a state of shame and withdrawal.  This is why attunement is crucial for interpersonal relationships. There is evidence that mothers who did not receive good parenting from their parents, can be “present” for their children, which can lead to the creation of secure attachments if the mother has “made sense” of their childhood. These attachments in childhood later shape your romantic attachments. On the other hand, if the primary caregiver had a traumatic childhood and did not “make sense of it” then he/she will not be “present”. Instead, that adult will be acting under the influence of his/her past and will likely recreate the unstable attachment that they experienced in their childhood.

Shame exercise

  • The following exercise of mindsight training focuses on times when a lack of interpersonal communication in a relationship may have limited your ability to regulate your internal state
  1. Write down what you feel your greatest fears may be of connecting with another person
  2. Write down times I your life when communication with another person in your personal life was challenging. What was going on for you? What signals from the other did you find most distressing? How did this difficult connection make you feel?
  3. Consider a time when someone had significant difficulty attuning to you. What was that like? What led to it and what was the outcome like for you? What did it feel like to be ignored, dismissed, or misunderstood? What did you notice were the possible reasons the other person was unable to attune to your internal state of mind?
  4. This feeling of needing connection but not receiving that attunement through interpersonal connection can create a state of shame. See if you can locate where in your body this feeling of shame may reside: sensations in your chest, eyes, or stomach? Take these images, sensations, feelings, and recollections and put them aside for a moment.
  5. Now imagine a peaceful scene (park, ocean, forest, a special room in your home). Let this peaceful image intensify in your mind. Notice the sensations in your body and mind. This is your home base – a deep, calm, grounded place of tranquility that is always available to you.
  6. Knowing that you are able to build this internal source of strength, you can practice just sensing your breath or imagining your peaceful place each day.

(Siegel, D. J. 2012, p 47-49)

Resonance

Resonance occurs when two independent entities form a functional whole, where the whole is larger than the sum of its parts.  For people to resonate with one another, it requires not just understanding the other person, but to become engaged with them.

  • When the observed takes in the observer having taken them in, the two become joined. This is how we feel “felt” and how two individuals become “we”.

There is physical evidence showing that two states (people) can become one:

  • There is evidence of synced heartbeats and breathing between two resonating beings.

There are also subjective findings that show people having sad emotions while listening to another persons’ upsetting story. This is an example of how resonance enables us to feel others’ feelings.

An important aspect of a person’s resonance capability lies in childhood attachment.

If a parent has made sense (created a narrative) of their own early life history, their child is more likely to have a secure attachment to them.  If a parent hasn’t made sense of their early life history, their child is more likely to have an insecure attachment to them.

  • Resonance is easier for those who have a secure attachment to their parental figures and harder for those who have an insecure attachment to their parental figures.

Those who have insecure attachments growing up can move to a secure attachment style as an adult if they take the time to make sense of their childhood.

  • It is necessary to put words to an emotional experience à creating a narrative

Making sense of our past frees us to be present in our lives and to become a creative and active author of our own unfolding life story.

Reflecting on and understanding your attachment history is a crucially important way to understand your mind and have the ability to modify it toward security.

If you are to look into your past childhood traumas, you can learn to make sense of the times that resonance wasn’t there.  If there was trauma, survival was the only option.  By creating a narrative and understanding that trauma, you no longer just have to survive, but you can now thrive.

Secure attachment and mindfulness traits are remarkably consistent with one another.

Training 

Mindsight Skills

Neuroplasticity refers to our ability to create, strengthen, and modify synaptic connections

Neurons that fire together wire together

  • When synapses between neurons occur repeatedly, this increases the myelin sheath around the interconnected neurons
    • Myelin increases conduction speeds by 100 times
  • When you practice mindsight over and over, these same neurons keep firing and this builds strength in that connection

When you face an obstacle, constant practice, instead of avoidance, allows for the development of that skill and promotes the wrapping and maintenance of myelin sheaths around those connected neurons

By trying hard to do things you can barely do, in deep practice, then, your skill circuits will respond by getting faster and more accurate

  • This effort is essential to developing the skill of mindsight
  • Deep practice in mindsight skill training involves moving into these distinct minute by minute steps movement by movement, but then also seeing the larger picture overall

The whole idea of mindsight is to approach your mistakes, rather than avoid them

The process of mindsight training involves stabilizing our mind with openness, observation, and objectivity; making sure to track when our attention wanders, then redirect our attention and attunement with kindness and understanding to achieve a state of openness

Awareness enables us to intentionally focus our attention to activate specific neuronal circuits and change their connections so that they integrate the brain

Throughout mindsight skill training, we are training nine specific functions of our brain: regulating the body, attuned communication, emotional balance, response flexibility, fear modulation, insight, empathy, morality, and intuition

  • With deep practice across these nine aspects, we can harness the power of careful attention to let the mind promote the neuroplasticity that can integrate the brain and transform our lives
  • This is mindsight’s power to move our lives toward health 

Reference 

Siegel, D. J. (2010). The mindful therapist: A clinician’s guide to mindsight and neural integration. New York: W.W. Norton & Company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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