Addressing Attunement Needs, When We’re the Grown-Ups

This is the next part in the series that begins here: Preventing Our Children From Developing Demons (And Healing Our Own).

Rather than talk about people with Attunement Needs being a separate group (taking the lovely Laura’s comments on board from the previous post), it’s probably better that we consider these characteristics as part of the personalities of many people. By dealing with these characteristics we can unknot them from our psyche enough that they no longer hold us to our childhood patterns of response. (Patterns that were immensely useful, and may have saved our lives/relationships as infants and children, but which no longer serve us well as adults.) Then we can move on to either deal with other shadows, or we can simply move on.

These are the key things I did while I dealt with aspects of my personality that were embedded in the Attunement Survival Style.

The key aspects of this survival style are: hyper-attunement to the needs of others at the expense of recognising/attending to our own; adaption to scarcity; sadness as a default emotion with anger poorly expressed; and a struggle to allow ourselves to experience great sensations – otherwise known as surges of intensely ‘good’ feelings.

Here’s what I did (I began three years ago, long before I had heard of the book):

1. Addressed my energy/weight issues by finding and following a diet that focussed on keeping my insulin levels even and my brain happy. By keeping my insulin levels even, my brain and body chemistry have responded by giving me more moments of ‘happiness’ and ‘contentment’. I began to recognise my own needs for hunger/thirst/sleep by recognising different signals from my bodily sensations – differentiations that I hadn’t been able to (easily) make in the past.

2. When I realised that my diet alone was not doing the job fully I had blood tests done that showed my iron levels were a quarter of what they needed to be. By addressing this lack, I have had increased energy, contentment and awareness of when things are ‘off-key’ for me.

3. Daily Coconut Oil has also lifted my energy and contentment levels. Taking a teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day has definitely made me feel more alert and contented – I know when I have forgotten to take it. (Thanks for the great advice, Cori.) 

4. I have stopped buying every special and I have allowed our food supplies to dwindle. This aspect of my version of the Attunement Survival Style was incredibly hard to do and constantly battle with myself about over-shopping for food. Getting there. (This aspect is a sign of the ‘scarcity complex’ part of this style. By trusting there will be enough food for my family I am starting to accept that my ‘supply’ can be constant.

5. I accept more from other people. Learning to receive has been as simple as: waiting for others to speak first in a conversation (not leaping in to see if I can tune-in and help them in some way and ‘prove’ how responsive I am); allowing others to lead the conversation and responding warmly but not constantly ‘trying’ to make conversations go smoothly; not over-functioning by doing ‘too much’ for my family; saying, thankyou, and nothing more when others give to me or do things for me; listening without thinking about my response or own opinions. This is all still a work in progress.

6. Discovering what makes me happy. Surprising and shocking to me was that I didn’t know what made me feel joy. I have since invented a Cackle Club event once every three weeks where I go out at night for a wine, regardless, and any friends who want to join me are welcome. I am more playful  in my conversations. I am allowing more spontaneous events – more trips to the playground or river; less focus on all the (endless) chores that should/could be done.

7. Allowing surges of pleasurable sensation. No, not naughty things. Very simply, making proper eye-contact with as many people as possible and smiling as if I ‘really’ see them. I would now guesstimate that I receive lovely surges of pleasurable sensations, simply from eye-contact and emotional connection, between 10-20 times a day. These can be from anyone. I still can feel myself  ‘cut-off’ the really intense surges but I am definitely learning to experience surge and it is wonderful.

8. Learning to state my truth without directing the response from the other person. Many modern women, in particular, have this issue. For example: we have a problem; we want the problem solved; but we want it solved in the way we imagine it to be solved and according to our own timeframe. Relationship coach, Rori Raye, suggests the following strategy and it has certainly worked well for me… say, “I feel  x; I want/don’t want x; What do you think we could do?” The tricky thing is (for me anyway) really allowing the other person to ‘step-up’ to solve the issue and allowing ourselves to be surprised by the outcome. The great thing with this strategy (whatever you may think about Rori’s other advice) is that it’s all about how we feel and what we need – classic attunement survival knots being undone in a simple paragraph. This also allows me to walk away from less than ideal situations knowing I have set a boundary, from which I am not willing to compromise.

9. The strategy above is also magic for stating anger in a useful way. For example, this is how I have approached my 11 year-old son’s continuously messy bedroom: “I feel angry when I find your dirty clothes after I have done a load of washing. I don’t want to nag. What do you think we could do?”  And yes, he’s stepping-up. The real key to this is being able to identify the sensations within my body and feel OK with them, even when they are the sensations that are overwhelming, frustrating or heated. This is classic Peter Levine trauma processing – being able to feel what we feel but simultaneously know (consciously) we are safe or able to move ourselves to a safe place.

Hope these are helpful. Look forward to hearing from you.

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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12 Responses to Addressing Attunement Needs, When We’re the Grown-Ups

  1. This was great to read– food for thought. There is something in here that is hitting an unnamed aspect of change I’m wanting to dial in on…can’t quite put my finger on quite yet, and may need to dig a little. Inspiring.. Karyn, I’m going to chew on this for a while. Thanks! This was very helpful.

  2. Steph says:

    Good good post! I relate!

  3. Marcy says:

    Someone has recommended a Levine book to me. Maybe I should move it up on my list.

    It is tricky to understand just exactly how to sit with the feelings, let them be what they are, AND recognize current / present safety and resources. But I’m working on it, exploring it, and even seeing occasional fruit. There’s probably some useful overlap with the DBT affect management idea of acting the opposite of feelings — which doesn’t mean denying or pushing aside the feelings, but just choosing to act in the other direction anyway.

  4. Boy oh boy, we certainly are sisters separated by some oceans and continents.

    I found your posts about kids and emotions remarkably useful. I found your book wise and necessary. But this speaks right to my exact circumstances. You, my dear, are a sister of light.

    • You my dear, are welcome to find anything useful in this that you can. So pleased it resonates with you. 😀 Wish I could hug you right now and help you out with Mark under the weather. x

  5. Linette says:

    Hi Karyn
    Just dropping in to say I have been reading the posts – problem with e-mail subscription, I don’t always comments. Anyway I am following similar steps as you. The biggest change for me was starting to take iron supplements last year – my iron stores were completely deplete and now even 6- months later I am still low on iron. So boy did I notice a difference when I started the supplement! I am interested in the coconut oil. Can you explain why you take it, do you just eat a spoon full? I use cocnut oil in cooking and baking so I am intrigued.

    Isn’t this just the best summer?


    • My goodness, your iron levels *were* low, Linette! I am pleased you got on to that! I am only taking a tsp of coconut oil (twice a day) because it’s a new product for me and I want to see how it works with my body and brain. Great to hear from you, hope the homeschooling journey is going well for you. 😀

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