Have you noticed that when people jog, dance or throw a frisbee in rhythm with each other, they seem to experience momentary bonding and a sense of unity? At these and other moments of joint rhythmic engagement, they discover an attraction for each other regardless whether there has been a previous sense of caring. In fact, it is almost impossible to dislike a person while being rhythmically in “sync.” Rhythmic interactions forge people together. Rhythmicity provides a “glue” for establishing human connections. The value and power of these pulsating interactions may offer an eye opener for the practice of care interactions of young and old, for caregivers and care receivers alike.

Throughout the ages we find rhythmic interactions and the subsequent fostering of group cohesion in folklore and daily practice. Illustrations of these are rocking or singing lullabies to babies for comfort or sleep (evidenced in most cultures), or a gathering pulled together by the rhythmic beat of a drum, a dance, song, or a folk hymn. In looking at our own diverse working spheres in preschool education as well as in martial youth activities, rhythmic experiences are powerful agents for achieving quite differentiated objectives.

While rhythmicity can be a powerful force for linking people together, it can also be a vital force in the search for internal togetherness. For instance, playing rhythmically with one’s necklace or beard, humming a catchy tune, or repeatedly jiggling the coins in one’s pocket: each one of these activities is part of a search for locating predictiveness and a center of connection within oneself.

Psychological research revealed when two people talk to each other their movements are synchronized. Sometimes this occurs in barely perceptible ways, when finger, eyelid (blinking), and head movements occur simultaneously in sync with specific parts of the verbal code (the words with pitches and stresses). In other cases, the whole body moves as though the two were under the control of a master choreographer. .Viewing movies [of the details of human communication] in very slow motion, looking for synchrony, one realizes that what we know as dance is really a slowed-down stylized version of what human beings do whenever they interact.

Infants’ and their mothers’ early attempts to establish communication with each other are essentially prototypes for all initial critical relationship-formations. The caregiving person “falls into step” with the baby’s cycle by talking and smiling in a kind of “dance.”If the mother falls out of step and disappoints the infant by presenting a still, nonresponsive face while the infant gazes at her, the infant becomes “concerned” [frustrated], and keeps trying to get her attention . Typically, caregiver and infant try to stay in touch in a cyclical pattern. It is a process of mutual inclusion; both parties search for a way to establish and maintain a joint rhythm.

Similarly, lullabies and patty-cake and other child-rearing activities provide a repertoire of caregivers’ actions that evoke predictable responses. These, in turn, cause the adult to feel more care-effective and the child more secure and powerful. The practice skills in communication of both parties are subsequently enhanced.

This new understanding of the impact of rhythmicity upon close personal relations requires the progression from mere sensitivity to purposeful enmeshment with the individuals served. While talking or walking, playing or working, eating or just being together, careworkers and youngsters need to grant each other mutual investment so as to be fully with each other. As noted, we learned from the interplay between infant and caregiver that they had to find and fulfill each other’s rhythm. So also in the subsequent encounters all along the life span, the adult and youngster have to fall into “the rhythm of relationship”. In other words, it is not merely the content of the phrases exchanged nor the nature of the activities in which they are engaged. Significantly, it is also the give-and-take with clear cycles of approach and withdrawals, continuously maintaining each other’s rhythm, that create meaningful relationship. This quality of reciprocity presents value in times of ‘lust” being together as well as in active engagement. In care work, being in each other’s presence, sitting comfortably together, and in particular having ample leisure time for constructive loafing are vital moments of “flow” for living and developing together. The natural evolvement of being in synchrony is worthwhile in itself.

3 Responses

  1. Carol…If you expand your awareness,it will become evident there is a rhythm also within the bar including sounds and laughter from which you are participating “in syn”…it is an opportunity to realize there is no separate Carol but just a pleasurable movement of rhythmic flow…Sid

  2. “Constructive loafing” – I like the sound of this. When my husband and I go out for a beer, I notice that, quiet often, without realizing it we take a sip in sync. It’s kind of humorous.

  3. I love this blog! Thanks.

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