Attachment and infant-caregiver research have shown that sharing of affective states, where one experiences and understands that another ‘feels the same as I do,’ co-creates a rhythm of interaction—what Benjamin calls the rhythmic third (formerly called the one in the third)—which diminishes existential fear and isolation. The rhythmic third, the up and down orientation of affect in the same direction— which is soothing in its recognition, lets the analyst, as well, know that s/he is not alone in the universe.
It is through recognition, of shared affective states, that affect regulation occurs. Intersubjectivity is the sharing of affective states. It transforms complementarity such that one can feel empowered with a sense of agency because, not only is one recognized but, one can recognize the other’s feeling in a way that can be shared and creates joy. Mutual recognition can be effected and empowers the self by seeing the self as recognizer, more powerful than simply being mirrored (recognized). Benjamin says recognition and regulation are “twins,” that is, are interdependent. As such, mutuality needs to be in the foreground. Affect regulation is necessary but not sufficient, for we do not want only to keep affects within a tolerable, manageable range. We want additionally to create meaning, acquired within the communion of mutual recognition.