I've been thinking and reading a lot about the idea of emotional attunement. Emotional attunement means not only being in tune with yourself but with the people around you. It's a hard skill to master.
I often think the when problems arise in a relationship, whether it's therapeutic, a friendship or romantic, it is because we are lacking emotional attunement with our own feelings as well with the other. This leads to disconnection. And disconnection means a feeling of loneliness and unbelonging, which is are the seeds of real depression.
How Do We Become More Emotionally Attuned?
The first step, I think, in any of this is being in tune with one's emotions. How do we learn to be in tune with our emotions? Mindfulness is often the first step. To check in with our feelings when we're sad, or lonely and anxious, to notice them and meet them with compassion sounds simple but much harder to do in practice. Mindfulness can be aided by a real meditation practice. Meditation helps us remain open to our feelings as they arise.
Therapy is also important. A good therapeutic relationship will help us know ourselves and what we haven't been able to express in our everyday lives. Therapy helps us dig into all those unwanted feelings that we have pushed deep down, and that needs real love and compassion to unearth. This sort of attunement can change every relationship we have.
Emotional Attunement in Romantic Relationships
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but problems arise in romantic relationships often when the couple is not in tune with each other. I've heard all the familiar cliches before from partners who state that the partner is not meeting my needs. What does that even mean?
It means that the one partner is unable to tap into what the other person is feeling. And that often means that partner isn't in touch with what they are feeling. It's complicated because we often to bury our true feelings to function in the world and seem confident and self-assured. But underneath we are often fragile, scared and in need of validation and love. But we often aren't even aware that is what is going on. And we often manifest this disconnection through anger and stonewalling.
Emotional Attunement in Therapy
As I alluded to earlier, a good therapist will be attuned to not only what you're saying but what you're feeling. They will notice your little quirks and anxieties and be able to bring them to the light with gentleness. A good therapist will challenge you but also let you feel safe.
I've found that despite reading and learning so much about therapy, there is no training that truly helps with learning how to be emotionally attuned to our clients. And that's why it's so important to take care of ourselves as therapists. This means checking in with what we are feeling, getting in touch with our vulnerability and sadness and anxiety and to be aware of it in everyday life, including the therapy session. It is tough, tough work, and emotionally taxing. But we do it because it is meaningful. And we wouldn't want it any other way.