A Question of Presence…and Absence

Welcome to the first post of my blog. Today I want to talk about presence.

How can we demonstrate psychological presence to our children? How can we deepen psychological presence with our partner? How can we find enough energy to be present both at work and at home?

Those questions occurred to me as I read fascinating research in Interpersonal Neurobiology. Daniel Siegel, MD, psychiatrist and researcher, writes about the importance of presence, attunement, resonance, and trust in building attachment in healthy relationships.

Presence is a quality of interpersonal connection that can be felt. When we are psychologically present, our children and partners can believe us, can feel that we are authentically responding to them. Not just in the same room at the same time, and mindlessly murmuring, “Uh-huh, yes, ok, hmmm . . .” as we check our email, or calling out, “Get your lunch” as we walk to the laundry. They accept and accustom themselves to our physical presence. They long for and savor our psychological presence.

In the dictionary, an antonym for presence was “absence; “being away or gone.” Physical presence brings a comforting connection though the rhythms and routines of shared daily life. Physical absence can make it difficult to feel the simple ease of predictability. Psychological absence diminishes the trust and depth of the attachment even in the fact of daily contact.

Psychological presence, especially combined with physical presence, allows for a safe and secure attachment that can sustain the relationship during stressful situations. Psychological presence can be protective during physical absences as well. Even if you cannot be there, daily checking in with full attention, even if it is just to confirm the rhythms and routines, helps keeps the connection strong.