“Attunement to our emotions is an essential ingredient to shared intimacy with others. Emotionally impoverished childhoods make the experience of emotions a challenge. With patience and guided direction, we can feel the emotions of life. The tender seedlings of change will come and your life will blossom as it was intended to do.”
One of the greatest gifts we can offer our children is attunement with their emotions. When we greet our child's emotions with empathy, acceptance and reciprocation their emotional world becomes rich and healthy. Conversely, when we are consistently out of attunement with our child's emotions their emotional experience becomes impoverished. The feeling experience of emotions is complex. A child needs a road map to decipher what they are feeling and how those feelings are appropriate to life. If their feelings are continually ignored, reprimanded or discounted, they will not know how to respond, soothe, or express those emotions in adulthood.
If we are already an adult who is experiencing an impoverished emotional life because of childhood neglect or trauma, the game is not over, a healthy, rich emotional life is still possible. It will take time, effort, and patience but improvements can be enjoyed. We can break the chain of our impoverished emotional existence which has existed in our family tree for generations—being passed on from parent to child in a vicious circle. Breaking this painful hand-me-down from the past is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our children and our children’s children.
To break this chain, we need to engage in the personal work of inner-awareness, and consistent constructive choices which create a healthy environment where emotions can develop. This often requires assistance from outside sources. The reward for this difficult personal work is healthier relationships and an increasing ability to empathize with others and ourselves.
Attunement with Our Own Emotional Life
In order to nourish long hidden emotions, we need to be attuned to our own emotional life. This is done by mindfully listening to our body. If childhood emotions were rejected than this can be a challenge to learn as an adult. Experiencing the emotions can be frightening. We may need the assistance of a somatic coach, meditation or a therapist to guide us. With practice, we can begin to notice emotional changes in our physical bodies as we respond to experience.
Acknowledging emotions needs to be coupled with acceptance of the emotional experience. Through this process of acknowledging and accepting emotions, we create a non-judgmental atmosphere where we can feel emotions which were previously buried. Our emotional response to the world is a major part of living. Buried emotions do not disappear. Unacknowledged emotions creates a gulf between our experience and our sense of self. A life of buried emotions has limited ability to attune to others— the emotions of others cannot be understood when we have are accustomed to burying our own emotions. Openness and sharing of emotions is essential for intimacy to be established.
Spend Time with Others who are Attuned to your Emotions
By being attuned to our own emotions, and openly sharing those emotions with those we are closed to, it is increasingly important that we spend time with others who will have empathy and patience with our emotional reactions. If your childhood was a harsh environment for open emotional expression, in all likelihood your family still will not provide the environment needed to foster growth. Our time needs to be wisely allocated to open space for new relationships where we can continue to grow. The vicious cycle of apathy we experienced in the past can be transformed into a new cycle of empathy. The more emotional attunement you receive, the more you can give, and the more you give, the more you can receive.
Like most elements of personal work, transformation does not happen overnight. Transformation happens slowly— almost imperceptible—over a lifetime of vigilance. We did not become who we are from a few childhood interactions but from tens of thousands of interactions of similar patterns. Although our brain remains malleable throughout our life, and change is possible, well engrained habits of thoughts, emotional reactions, and behaviors take conscious, consistent efforts to change.
Be patient, get the help needed, and then cautiously put one foot in front of the other. Remember engagement in the process of change is a reward in itself. The tender seedlings of change will come and your life will blossom as it was intended to do.