Primal Need Two: Attunement

Here’s the next part in the series that began here: Preventing Our Children From Developing Demons (And Healing Our Own).

Those of us with the Attunement Survival Style are used to scarcity and sadness. Without them we feel lost and/or overwhelmed – pleasure and success are both desired and feared. We are the self-sabotagers of the world. We have constant internal conflict between our desire to have our physical and emotional needs met(which are natural biological and real) and our expectation that other people will disappoint us.

There are two subtypes to this survival style.

The first is The Inhibited Subtype. Those of us who operate from this survival mode are likely to block any recognition of our own needs. We are likely to be proud of our ability to manage without others. We are likely to stop or forget to eat when we are stressed, we are often thin and struggle to put on weight – with the extreme version of this being anorexia. Our pantries and freezers are almost always empty or near to empty and we feel anxiety if there is too much food in the house.
The second subtype is The Unsatisfied Subtype. Those of us who operate from this survival mode are highly demanding of the people around us, but we still feel constantly empty. We are likely to over-eat when we are stressed with the extreme being bulimia. Our pantries and freezers are full to the brim but still we buy all the food on special, in sales and at bargain prices. We become anxious if our supplies begin to dwindle.

The key aspects of this style are:
1. Highly attuned to (enmeshed with) the needs of others. Overly represented in the caring industries. Likely to collect strays and misfits – both people and animals.
2. Would love the other people in our lives to be as attuned to us as we are to them but are resigned to the ‘fact’ they will always disappoint us.
3. We are resigned to scarcity and sadness us our default emotion. Our expression of anger is weak and tends to lean more toward irritability.
4. Don’t reach out for what we really need from others.
5. Try to be both the “Thinking and Doing” person in a relationship AND the “Receiving and Feeling” person in the same relationship. That is, we can be passive-aggressive in the way we ask for help from others – wanting to receive and be nurtured, but not stating our needs directly. At the same time, we overfunction with organising and nurturing others, not allowing them the space to step-up.
6. We are great at giving but struggle to receive in any meaningful way – we don’t experience the sensations of pleasure easily – but we long for them.
7. Point out issues or problems to others, but then expect the other people in our lives to solve those problems when and how we would like them to be solved.
8. We equate attention with emotional connection, and will often be the life of the party and will feel anxious if someone else is ‘getting the attention’ of anyone else around us.
9. We seek or create problems in order to be the person who ‘rescues’ or ‘solves’ the problem, but then resent having to be the one to do that.
10. Often feel empty in our belly and experience almost constant emotional longing.

With The NeuroAffective Relational Model it is expected that we do not focus on the past but recognise that patterns of behaviour, which served us well as babies, children and teens, are not useful to us as adults. It is particularly important that Attunement Types DO NOT spend hours analysing our past as this is re-traumatising and reinforces the belief that we are helpless and dependent children.

This (Unsatisfied Subtype) has been a huge shadow for me, so the next post I will share some of the ways I am unknotting myself from this survival style.

About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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7 Responses to Primal Need Two: Attunement

  1. I find this fascinating, but at the same time I really balk at putting people in categories. Okay, maybe I only balk when the categories don’t make sense to me. The inhibited versus the unsatisfied subtypes don’t fit people I know well. And yes, I see myself in 80% of the key aspects but entirely don’t fit the other 20%. (If you see me creating drama, I’m probably choking.) I recognize the wisdom throughout this and your first post about Heller’s book, but I can’t help but wonder if tight categories do the larger point some harm. Yes, I”ll need to read Heller’s book!

    • I feel uncomfortable with putting people into tight categories too, Laura. I also see the usefulness of lumping characteristics together to give us some reference point from which we can begin to understand the nonconscious motivators behind behaviours. I would say I have evolved out of this survival style over many, many years – so would only be 20% now, whereas I probably was 80% before too (not much of a drama queen either). What I like is that I can see where I have been and that I have moved forward.
      Rather than lump people into categories, do we just recognise these might be things to be worked on and understand the underlying wiring (lack of emotional attunement from important people in their lives) so that we can, perhaps, help? What do you think?

      • I’ve changed the word ‘drama,’ Laura. I feel it wasn’t reflecting accurately what I wanted to say. Attunement types are more passive-aggressive than directly ‘dramatic’ . So, thanks for that. Love it when I have to really look at what I have written and clarify stuff. x

  2. Marcy says:

    Interesting. Yes — it can be disorienting, guilt-inducing, to experience pleasure and success. And as much as I fear being disappointed by others, I also greatly fear being the one who disappoints. I tend to the first subtype with food and material things, and the second with relationships, but even then it’s not an exact and complete match. Still interesting to consider. I often fear that I am going to devour the people whose love and attention I crave. I also often fear being devoured by anyone who seems to want more from me than I feel able or willing to give.

    I continue to maintain that good depth therapy, including spending a lot of time in the past, can be a good and valuable thing, even necessary perhaps. It does not have to be re-traumatizing — it can be a way of entering into the trauma again, more able to feel and experience fully presently than at the original time, and therefore metabolize it more fully. To recognize and challenge the faulty interpretations involved. So much depends on a good therapist who knows how to guide this kind of work.

    I have made progress in identifying, pursuing, seeking, and asking for what I want, but sometimes I still tend to do so indirectly, sometimes without realizing it. When I was pregnant, for example, and afraid of a medicated birth (I’m allergic to Demerol and feared similar allergy to other meds, plus I feared all the horrible things that could happen to moms and babies as a result of too much birth intervention), but when I expressed my fears, the midwives assured me of the safety of the drugs. What I wanted was to be supported and helped to prepare for a natural birth — but somehow I didn’t manage to make that clear.

    Also, when I judge my desire as wrong, I can act like I am trying to make people NOT do what it is that I want, so as to prevent myself from asking for a wrong desire — but then I will be surprised and hurt that they don’t do what I want anyway! I don’t want to manipulate or coerce people into doing what I want out of pity or obligation… so it can be hard to ask, or to ask with expectation and clarity.

    • Hi Marcy,
      Thanks for your insights, it’s always good to hear from you.
      Just to be clear: LaPierre and Heller don’t discount the usefulness of therapy, they just point out that people with this survival style are so good at interpreting what other people want them to say and do – that they can be very tricky to actually help. The whole point of their approach is that we acknowledge the past but don’t dwell there – that we acknowledge the strategies we used to survive our circumstance as babies/children helped us to get to adulthood, but also that those strategies may be stopping us from moving on as adults. My understanding is that Attunement Types are more susceptible to being re-traumatised by going back and rehashing what has gone before and are better served by looking at strategies which can help them untangle those reactions and behaviours which no longer serve them. I doubt few of us have only one survival style anyhow!

      • Marcy says:

        I relate to that part about being difficult to help because of the desire to conform to the needs and expectations of others — and to the dissonance involved in facing that desire as well as the desire to be one’s true self, to ask for what one needs, etc, even if it’s risky to a relationship. Not to mention being able to clearly see the other person, including their flaws or things about them we don’t like.

        There are many kinds of therapy. Perhaps the authors prefer brief practical therapies instead of depth work, which usually does require some dwelling on the past. It’s hard to say what counts as acknowledgement and what counts as dwelling, and may differ from person to person, too.

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