The Attachment Dance Exercise


Any time you interact with anyone you care about — you do a subtle attachment dance together. Responding to changes in tone of voice, facial expression and gaze, each of you makes subtle adjustments to become more attuned. You may go into limbic resonance, the state in which you are co-regulating, each of you affecting the other’s bodymind state.

This process usually takes place without the awareness of the prefrontal cortex, the thinking brain. This exercise is designed to let you consciously practice going into limbic resonance with your baby. At the same time, it teaches your child how to communicate emotional states, and also that it’s natural and okay to move from one state to another. It will trigger your oxytocin response and let the baby experience it, as well, beginning to form the template for other intimate relationships.

Although this was designed for babies, the exercise can be just as useful for older children with slight adaptation. So be creative and use it to learn to tune in to any of your children — including older ones. This can even be used with spouses, again with adaptation. Once you read through this, you will get the point. You can even try out your new attunement powers at work!

The Attachment Dance can be especially useful for fathers, because it encourages them to slow down and tune in to the child’s subtle movements.

The Attachment Dance is based on the work of Alan Schore, the UCLA psychiatrist whose Regulation Theory explains how mothering shapes an infant’s nervous system. A version of it appeared in Susan’s book, The Chemistry of Connection (New Harbinger 2009).

• Try to set aside at least 20 minutes for this exercise. Turn off your phone, the TV and music.

• Sit comfortably with your baby in your arms. Tune into how you’re feeling. If you’re used to having media playing most of the time, you may feel anxious or worried about being bored. This is natural — and a little sign that this exercise will be rewarding. On the other hand, you may feel relaxed and happy to get a chance to not be multi-tasking.

• No matter how you’re feeling, sit and watch your baby’s face. Where do her eyes go? What’s her face doing? Is she making sounds? Try to get inside her head, without naming or analyzing what she’s feeling.

• Let her take the lead. Don’t try to attract her attention. Wait until she looks at you. When she does, look back at her. Check in with your body. Do you feel restless or relaxed? Interested or nervous? Take some deep breaths, which signal your bodymind and hers to relax.

• Wait for her to look at you, then smile and talk to her. Stroke her, tickle her, do all the things she likes. Watch what pleases her at this moment, and do more of it. You may find some new way to please her, or something she usually likes may not please her right now. As you find ways to positively stimulate her, you will both move into the state of arousal, that is, heightened awareness and intensity of feeling. Try to match and amplify the baby’s state.At some point, she may spontaneously look away. This is a normal response. It means she needs to come down from the aroused state — and it also shows the beginnings of self-regulation. When this happens, don’t try to bring her attention back to you. Let her do her thing, as you check in with yourself. Do you feel different now? Do you feel energized, more relaxed — or do you feel some tension or anxiety that the baby has disengaged a bit from you? Notice and accept these feelings, while reminding yourself that this is part of a normal cycle of engagement and detachment that every person cycles through.

• Be ready for when your baby once again looks into your face, so that you can welcome the interaction warmly and again move with her into connection.

You can continue to do the Attachment Dance — forever. As your child grows, the interaction will change, but it’s just as bonding and comforting for both of you.

This is adapted from the book Oxytocin Parenting by Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas. Buy it now for only $1.99 as an e-Book from Amazon!