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Attunement- it's not just for therapy

Attunement is something everyone should not only know about, but experience on a regular basis. The more I read in the world of psychology, therapy, coaching, and neuroscience, the more I realize the importance of this simple part of humanity.

I love how the word “tune” is in the middle of the word attunement. It gives me a picture of an instrument that is in tune and playing a beautiful melody. That is what happens when we are experiencing attunement with each other emotionally.

Attunement is the way that we as humans can experience one another’s feelings. It actually happens chemically in the brain- if one person is feeling sad, then the person who is “attuning” will also feel that sadness with them. It wasn’t Person B’s sadness to feel, but they get “in tune” and feel it along with Person A.

I used to think this was something that only happened for empathetic people. I’ve always been an empathetic person. So I related to the description instantly. But the truth is, we all have a need to be attuned with and everyone is capable of attunement.

Discussions about attunement often involve our negative emotions. As a person in the helping field I hear it all the time, “our clients need us to attune with their distress”.

And I think, “of course!” I know how important it is when I’m feeling distressed to have someone come and share it with me. I remember how nice it was when I have felt attunement. It’s really just like hearing a great song!

Recently, it has occurred to me that attunement is not just a need during negative emotions. Attunement is needed for positive emotions too!

We have an innate NEED to be understood. We are designed to be in relationship, and relationships feel better and run smoother when attunement is involved on a regular basis. This is not just a tool for the “bad times”. It’s highly important during our “good times” too.

The other day I was driving home from meeting with a graphic artist about my upcoming book The Bridges of Chara, and I was feeling really excited. I was thrilled with how the artist was capturing my vision and found myself eager to share my joy with someone.

I called someone…. and he didn’t answer.

I called someone else…and she didn’t answer either.

I called a third person- but by now my joy and excitement was starting to fade- and when he answered the phone I acted nonchalant and just asked him how he was doing. I did tell him later about the artist and my book, but my brain had already dimmed down my feelings of excitement.

This morning I had a talk with the Lord about this and it occurred to me that our brain sends out signals looking for attunement, whether we’re feeling joy or a negative emotion. When it is unmet, and unmatched, it feels pain and rejection!

Without someone to attune with us, even in our JOYS, pain is the result.

The more you push a button and receive a shock, the less often you’ll go pushing the button.

BUT WAIT!!! This is not good for us!

That “button” is not meant to give us a shock, it’s meant to give us good things like dopamine, connection and more joy.

We can’t just give up on pushing the button!

As the Lord showed me this, I realized something about myself- sometimes I forget that He is always there ready and willing to attune with me- even over my joys. He is not just the God who loves to be with us in our pain, He is the God who loves to be with us in our joys! When I can close my eyes and see His smile over my situation, I receive the reward of attunement instantly!

Oh, and by the way…God also helped me to restore my joy and excitement over the meeting with the graphic artist. After I got home, the 2nd person I called, called me back- and I got to share my joy. It was amplified even greater as she shared my joy with me.

Even later, the 1st person I had called, called back- and I got to share my joy again!

I’m so glad I connected with Him and let him remind me that it’s okay to look for connection even if I got stung looking for it in the past.

Do you have any joys you've been holding back from sharing?

Are you available to share in the joys of those around you?

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