Like the popular Beatles lyrics say, there is a prevalent belief in our culture that “Love is all you need.” But love is NOT all you need. You also need attunement. Love and attunement are very different, and both are needed for proper health and development. In this episode I explain why, and what happens when we don’t receive sufficient attunement.
The popular Beatles song “All You Need is Love” popularizes the prevalent belief that all we need is love. But that is not true at all. You also need attunement.
Attunement and love are very different. They are both core needs.
I’m not going to define love, because I think we all pretty much know what that is and what it feels like, but I do think it’s important to take some time to define attunement, since it is not as well understood.
Definitions of Attunement
One definition of attunement, according to the googles is “a kinesthetic and emotional sensing of others, knowing their rhythm, affect and experience by metaphorically being in their skin, and going beyond empathy to create a two-person experience of unbroken feeling connectedness by providing a reciprocal affect and/or resonating response.”
Another definition is “the reactiveness we have to another person.”
Dr. Dan Siegel says, “When we attune with others we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships. Children need attunement to feel secure and to develop well, and throughout our lives we need attunement to feel close and connected.” https://momentousinstitute.org/blog/what-is-attunement#:~:text=to
Attunement and Love are very different.
This idea helped me overcome resistance to healing and exploring the responsibility of my parents. I didn’t want to blame my parents, because they loved me and I truly believe they did the best with what they had. But ALSO, my needs weren’t met. This was difficult for me to reconcile until I understood that love and attunement were different things.
Attunement is about having needs, stating them and allowing them to be met by another person.
What happens when you don’t receive proper attunement
When you are not attuned-to, you’ll feel shame around having and expressing your needs. This leads to:
Hyper-independence. (I won’t have any needs.)
Perfectionism (I won’t let you see my needs.)
Codependency (I’ll take care of all your needs and you take care of mine.)
Won’t speak up = communicating your needs. (I can’t express my needs.)
Overshare (All my needs are on the table… go ahead and shame me for them, I do!)
Attunement is a need even for adults
Lastly, I wanted to touch on the common reference in personal development work to the idea that a relationship with a person is simply your thoughts about that person. In certain cases, that is true. For example, my mom passed away when I was 20. My current relationship with her is entirely my thoughts and feelings about her. Same with God.
But there is something to be said about the unsaid, but felt, sense that someone else sees you, sees your needs and meets them. I believe this is why many of us struggle when our partners don’t see household duties that need to be done and do them. That is about them being attuned to us and the household. As my daughter once told me, “I know I can make myself food, but sometimes it’s just nice when someone else does it for me.” It’s nice to be attuned to, to have our needs met by another person. This is because attunement is a core relational NEED.
When we feel lonely in a crowd of people, I think it’s because we aren’t being attuned to in a way that makes us feel seen and cared for.
Attunement is necessary. Attunement is real. And lack of attunement has real consequences.
Journal Questions (Download here)
- When have you felt un-attuned to? What did that feel like?
- When have you felt attuned to? What did that feel like?
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