“Attuning to emotions is essential for shared intimacy. Emotionally impoverished childhoods create future challenges with emotional attunement. With patience and guided direction, we can feel new emotions. The tender seedlings of change can blossom as it is intended to do.”
One of the greatest gifts we offer our children is attunement with emotions. When we greet our child's emotions with empathy, acceptance and reciprocation, we enrich and expand their emotional world. Conversely, when we are consistently out of attunement, our children's emotional experience becomes impoverished. The feeling experience of emotions is complex. A child needs an experience road map to decipher feelings and how those feelings are appropriate. If their feelings are continually ignored, reprimanded or discounted, they will not know how to soothe or express those emotions in adulthood.
For adults experiencing impoverished emotional lives because of childhood neglect or trauma, the game is not over, a healthy, rich emotional life is still possible. Change will take time, effort, and patience but improvements can be enjoyed. We can break the chain of our impoverished emotional existence which perhaps 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 must forcefully direct attention to inner processes, and consistently make constructive choices creating a healthy environment where emotions can develop. This work may require assistance. The reward for this work is healthier relationships and an increasing ability to empathize with others and ourselves.
Attunement with Our Own Emotional Life
In order to nourish the hidden emotions, we must attune to feelings we have customarily ignored. This is accomplished through mindfully listening, listening to our body. If during childhood emotions were rejected by caregivers, acknowledging emotions in adulthood will be challenging. Experiencing emotions frightens the inexperienced; they venture beyond or normal experience, suggesting lack of control. We may need a somatic coach, meditation guide or a therapist to lead us through this novel experience of feeling. With practice, we notice new emotional changes in our bodies as the body responds to experience.
We couple the new acknowledging of emotions with acceptance, feeling is okay. Through this process of acknowledging and accepting, we create an essential non-judgment atmosphere where emotions once were rejected, seen as intruders on the more acceptable cognitive functions; but emotions are not less important. Emotions arrived first; cognition not until much later. The emotional interactions with experience creates the richness of living. Emotions we previously buried didn't disappear. The unacknowledged emotions created a widening gulf between experience and the self. A life built on buried emotions limits intimate connections— others emotions can't be fully understood. Openness and emotional establish the foundation of intimacy.
Spend Time with Others who are Attuned to your Emotions
By being attuned to emotions, and sharing those emotions, we become vulnerable. It's important we spend time with those who empathize with our experience. If childhood was harsh environment and cruelly punished emotional expression, this lack of emotional attunement will likely continue. Time must be wisely allocated to allow for healthy new relationships where growth is nourished, acceptance offered, and examples freely shared. The vicious past cycle of apathy with work transforms into a new cycle of empathy. The more emotional attunement received, the more that can be given, and the more you give, the more you receive--a beautiful new cycle.
Like most personal work, transformations don't happen overnight. Transformation happens slowly— almost imperceptible—over a lifetime of vigilance. We didn't become who we are from a few childhood interactions but from tens of thousands of interactions. Although our brain remains malleable throughout life, and change is always 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.