Attunement

Attunement is an especially important form of interpersonal emotional connection, currently at the center of a lot of attachment theory research and writing. For the purposes of our discussion, we can use the following simple, functional definition: I am successfully offering attunement if I see you, hear you, correctly understand your internal experience, join you in the emotions you’re experiencing, genuinely care about you, and am glad to be with you; and you have successfully received my attunement if you feel seen, heard, and understood, if you feel that I am with you in your experience, and if you feel that I care about you and that I am glad to be with you. The many and powerful benefits of attunement are discussed at length in the “Brain Science, Psychological Trauma, and the God Who Is with Us” essays, but for the point being made here, the very short summary regarding one of these benefits is that when there is an attunement connection between them, vulnerable individuals, such as children, can temporarily share the neurological, emotional, and spiritual resources of stronger individuals.

Now let’s put this together with the above discussion regarding how a painful experience only becomes psychological trauma if the person is not able to successfully process the painful experience. If any person going through a painful experience has safe, strong friends or family who are attuning to him – people who are truly with him in the experience, who are seeing him, hearing him, and understanding him, who are empathizing with him, who genuinely care for him, and who are glad to be with him – he will almost always be able to receive tremendous assistance from their attuned presence, this will almost always enable him to successfully process the painful experience, and he will therefore almost never be traumatized.

This last comment won’t make sense until you’ve read the next section about relational circuits, but one of the most important attributes of attunement is that God has designed our brains so that receiving attunement is uniquely effective for helping us get back into relational mode. God has designed our brains so that if something causes us to fall into non-relational mode, perceiving someone with us in our pain, perceiving that this person is glad to be with us, feeling that this person hears, understands, and empathizes with us in our pain, and choosing to receive this attunement will smoothly, quickly, and consistently bring our relational connection circuits back online.

See chapters 11, 18, 21, and 24 for additional explanation and true story illustrations.

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