The A’s of Attachment and Attunement

by Flora M. Torra, Ed. S.

A Secure attachment pattern develops when a positive enough environment creates and engenders basic trust in others. We feel taken care of and watched over by our parents. Our parents are present in our lives, they understand us and “get” us. We can then go off and explore the world and make our own discoveries and mistakes. Remember, according to the research, we need to be in attunement with our loved ones, just 30% of the time. It is also good to remember our parent’s styles and how that was part of our “first mold’. Looking back, for myself, many of my initial friendships as a child and preteen, I was somewhat clingy and would get attached so easily and it was quite difficult for me to detach and let go of certain friendships when it was obvious they were not good for me.

The Avoidant attachment pattern in people tends to look like this - they may detached, off in their own world, insensitive, cold, stand-offish, a lone wolf, a workaholic. In actuality, being alone to them feels like the natural state and they mature with a strong separate sense of self. They typically don't reach out to others because they originally did not find consistent, nurturing connections with others.

The Ambivalent attachment pattern (sometimes referred to as ambivalent-anxious) can be defined as needy, clingy, oversensitive, controlling, high-maintenance, or high-strung. While the Avoidant feels stress when they are being approached usually from being left alone so much or from being hurt; the Ambivalent feels stress when a loved one leaves them and they can become easily focused on others.

Ways to Respond to Avoidant Styles or Patterns:

  • Do parallel attention activities or activities that do not involve their participation: movies, going for a walk, museum, fishing or any activity that you can do side by side.
  • ‘Kind Eyes’ reflection - imagine people you look up to and love, looking at you with kind eyes, make a collage and keep it near you
  • Practice asking for help and support as an experiment; notice how it feels to be cared for and supported.
  • Welcome to the World’ reflection - imagine the ideal scenario of your entry into this world, using visualization, photographs, or drawings.

Ways to Respond to Ambivalent Styles or Patterns:

  • Do ‘physical grounding’ exercises - feeling the ground/feet, back and shoulders; feeling the support through a body scan meditation (the internal sense of the body).
  • A reflection of the people in your life that are consistent and predictable • Making a pact that “whenever shows love, you will stay present and not disconnect or deflect.”
  • Consider that the people in your life may express their love in a different way that you prefer to give and express love. Do you best to broaden your receptivity of love.
  • • Find ways to practice self-soothing behaviors.

Why Attunement is essential
“Attunement is almost a synonym for empathy or secure attachment itself” - this quote is from the book I’ve been reading about attachment. It is The Power of Attachment How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate

Relationships, by Diane Poole Heller, Ph.D. Many of the ideas from this are from her book.

I highly recommend it! So, with attunement, you are being totally present to the other - child, or spouse, in a way that is nonjudgmental and grounding. You leave your agenda behind and look at them with curiosity and openness. It comes from a place of security in yourself and who you are; you are engaged and interested; and you are also aware of your own mental or feeling state - for example, if you are tired, or have another emotion or are preoccupied with something.

You begin by noticing them with all of your senses ___

How does your child 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 to your child, whether something you notice in their behavior that is right or wrong, a feeling, an idea…in any moment? What will engage, encourage and show them feelings of love and care?

Help your children identify how they feel. Show them that many feelings begin in their bodies - like butterflies in the stomach, or emptiness when we are hungry. Notice when their feelings began and what they did to either cover up the feelings or express them. Notice how they can find ways of soothing themselves when they are upset.

Things you can say to them so they can feel seen and heard:

  • Notice their nonverbal behaviors or facial expressions and say, ‘ you are feeling pretty’, ‘you are feeling proud of the work you just completed’
  • So if I hear you right you are saying...
  • So what you are saying is...
  • Let me see if I understand you...
  • Everyone feels like that sometimes. • You were trying really hard, and you finally did it!
  • It must be so frustrating..(don't always fix it for them, but engage them in problem solving)

Try it a few times a day and see what happens.

Here is the series: