No 5 (2019): Aesthetic and Beauty

The Aesthetics of Interpersonal Attunement in Spiritual Care: Resonating with Self and Other through Storytelling

Michael Nilon
University of Virginia
Published October 30, 2019
  • storytelling,
  • interpersonal attunement,
  • empathic resonance,
  • compassionate care
How to Cite
Nilon, M. (2019). The Aesthetics of Interpersonal Attunement in Spiritual Care. Jefferson Journal of Science and Culture, (5), 1-11. Retrieved from


This article explores how storytelling plays an integral role in interpersonal attunement, attachment, and spiritual caregiving. An interpersonal style of attuning to the experiences of others constitutes an ethical aesthetic of resonant harmonizing between the bodies, nervous systems, and minds of caregivers and patients. Neurobiological research has provided empirical scaffolding to rationally understand how attuned relations regulate the nervous systems of the relating persons. Compassionate caregiving in clinical chaplaincy practices relies on the cultivation of self-regulation capacities through meditation practices and bottom-up self-integration techniques on the part of caregivers. Compassionate caregivers then use their emotional equilibrium and empathic insights to open an interpersonal space for receiving the stories of patients, families, and other caregivers in clinical settings. Self-regulation and self-transcendence depend on the creation of physiological cues of safety and empathic understanding between persons and social groups that counteract the harms endemic to many late modern social institutions in which systemic violence often takes place. The lack of such physiological cues of safety not only undermines self-healing processes that storytelling enables but can lead to destructive negative reciprocities. This article concludes that attuned spiritual caregiving offers a more sustainable social response to suffering than the creation of silos for warehousing men and women whose exposure the complex trauma has led to chronic failure to self-regulate.


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