Resistance and flow

The differences in our rhythmic pulse pull us to each other. This pulling is not operating at a conscious level.

In a study by Himberg (2011) of dyads tapping to a metronome, he discovered that they drift away from the metronome as they are pulled to each other’s beat, and come back to the metronome as a reference point, and drift away towards each other again. When asked how they kept time to the metronome, the subjects reported that it was easy to keep time to the metronome. They had no awareness that most of the time they were not keeping time with it.

The time we are aware of that we are pulled to another person’s rhythm is when it is uncomfortable, when it is unexpected, and then it becomes conscious. Rhythm operating at the unconscious level is very hard to resist. In music, this is described as ‘resistance’ to entrain. In the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Afro-Brazilian Congado communities hold spiritual rituals, where each group moves through the town performing distinct songs and rhythms simultaneously. This involves the periodic repetition of chants, rhythmic patterns, and bodily movements. When these groups meet or pass close by each other, they greet each other whilst making rhythms and singing, with the focus of each group on staying together and not being rhythmically influenced by the other group, thereby resisting entrainment. This focus is linked to their own sense of group identity in the ritual context (Lucas 2009).

Rhythm is the flow of interaction. If you are comfortable with the way you are walking with someone, or talking or breathing with someone, the relationship is set on good foundations because there is a good feeling and whatever other actions you take with this person will be sustainable. Hall said that general people do not sync well with people they do not like and they do with those they love. Feeling good with others is also rooted in this notion of how rhythm and flow work.