Monday, April 5, 2010


Soul-Work through Tango Therapy

Earlier, we looked a 3 solutions to get through and over rejection as a tango dancer (and in life).  The next few solutions are surprisingly effective and  are higher-level solutions.  SOLUTION Four for rejection is all about working alone, using tango in a way that finds remarkable resolution to feelings of rejection and other negative thoughts. 

SOLUTION Four is called in the psychological community "bi-lateral stimulation," which positively influences the brain to access memories.  Bi-lateral stimulation has also been found in other cultures.  The Zulu Tribe has a left-right stamping dance that they use with warriors to deal with psychological trauma. [The tanguera pictured here has the right idea.  However, I suggest comfortable shoes and clothes that will help you NOT attract a partner!  SOLUTION Four is tango for one.]

My plan was to write about connections with the type of therapy that uses bi-lateral stimulation used in the West, called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.  I use EMDR nearly daily with combat vets.  This therapy is so effective that it inspires me and has me joyously going to work in this normally "burn-out" job, working with PTSD. 

Explaining bi-lateral stimulation in depth is too complex for a blog.  Suffice it to say, that when one has a physical activity that goes clearly from the right hand/left hand or right leg/left leg, to the right with one's eyes and then left, this actually has been proven to help a person access memories around a negative event that allows one to come to better cognitive solutions to problems.  NO WONDER that people feel that tango is "addictive"!  Tango is a complex group of good things happening (music, friends, touch, and movement). 

So SOLUTION Four is bi-lateral stimulation, and it partially accounts for why going out to dance feels so very good for you after a hard day.  Most people do not discover Four on their own because the other things (music, friends, touch) get in the way.  But these powerful things (music, friends, touch) can also become paired stimuli to rejection, or any of these elements can amplify rejection. SOLUTION Four focuses only on you and your brain:  Soul Work.

Sometimes simplicity is necessary and being alone is at times necessary to find good solutions.  A tango walk is powerful for this.  Buddhists have walking meditations.  St. Paul found Christ on a walk to to Damascus and St Luke gives an account of two other disciples finding themselves conversing with the resurrected Jesus on a walk to Emmaus.  When they figured out who he was he disappeared from their sight.  Now that is a tango walk!  Authors and artists are known to have had their best ideas out on a walk.  What about you?  Have you discovered the power of a graceful, tango walk?

Let's review the lesser evolved solutions:
  • Solution one was to realize that the person who reject you may one day wish he/she hadn't.
  • Solution two was to ask the person (a risky but sometimes effective way to better oneself).
  • Solution three was called the "military solution" because it focused on just stuffing one's feelings and getting out there to dance with friends, enjoy the music and "get over it."  Although less evolved, it is by far the most used solution.
For SOLUTION Four to work better, walking gracefully with your torso moving in what tangueros called "contra-body" walking is very important for brainwave lateralization. Just walking will not be as effective. Collecting is also very important because it helps the mind to experience bi-lateral stimulation.

I will give two personal examples of using SOLUTION Four -- a walk by myself:  As I started writing this reflection, I celebrated my birthday alone on March 21st.  I got lots of care and love from the tango community, but I did not get a single call from my family or my young children who live in Germany. I was doing just fine with this -- or so I thought, but I wanted to use this theme of rejection and practise SOLUTION Four to give me new insights about this idea.  As I walked, I found my thoughts flooding with negative events concerning my birthday and how my children are either blocked from contacting me or not helped to remember me.  I realized that when I use EMDR as a therapist, I stop to help the combat vet process the flood of thoughts. One of the major mistakes of new EMDR therapists is they stop and talk too much. So I like the tango analogy.  Take only short pauses to think. Stop only for a moment to chat with yourself.  This is a pause in your dance, not the "cortinas." The outcome of my walk was fantastic. 

As I walked my tango walk, I started to remember how my boys' mother never reminds them about Father's Day since our divorce.  She often didn't remind them even when we were married. Since our divorce, I have bought the children flowers to give to their mother for her birthday, but she will not reciprocate.  You probably can imagine that I have a lot of history with rejection with two small boys growing up (they are still pretty young -- 11 and 16).  Anyway, as I walked the memories pored down. As with therapy with PTSD with combat vets, it got ugly before it got better:  Feelings of rejection, anger.  But then the solution started to emerge:  I became deeply aware that my children love me.  I also realized that many people who truly love me may forget my birthday, and I forget theirs.  True, I intellectually knew this before (military solution), but my "inner child" felt the solution at the deepest level: I am loved. I can forgive.

Let me give you a second example, but first a little explanation about bi-lateral stimulation and the brain: 

Your brain while focusing on a Negative Cognition about self (proven through brain scans) will show way too much activity in the limbic part of your brain and the right side. Bi-lateral stimulation with a graceful tango walk will begin helping your brain to lateralize the thoughts to other parts of your brain, especially the left prefrontal cortex which has not been fully activated as with other rejections you feel are "resolved" enough to no longer bother you.  When there is too little left brain activity, a brain scan would probably reveal why one often is immersed in one's own inner world of hurt -- the left brain is "silent."

Okay, now another example of SOLUTION Four:  This January, I had my very first experience with a therapeutic tango walk with rejection.  I was really hurt after dancing with a woman at the Houston Tango Festival. We spoke Spanish to one another briefly. Helena simply said after the first dance, "Gracias," and then she left the floor with me standing there like a fool! Did I hold her too tight? Did I remind her of her weird uncle, Flaco? Did I have the breath of a horse?  I will never know.

I saw her later. She was dancing an Argentinean folk dance with such joy. I realized that she was a great dancer. That hurt even more. Middle School stuff of rejection set in. I could try to use SOLUTION ONE (get better so she'd feel sorry she rejection me) or SOLUTION TWO (ask her why) or solution three (just get over it). Yet, she will probably be on a higher level until I die (solution one), and it is just not cool to ask a stranger "why" without being pitiful (solution two). Solution three (just get over it) was not working either. I was stuck in Middle School Rejection in Houston.

SOLUTION Four in action:  Knowing what I know about Bi-Lateral Stimulation (BLS) as a therapist, I decided to try meditation and the power of a graceful tango walk out in a park in Houston. I was feeling like I was not that good of a dancer although I have worked so hard at it.  The SOLUTION was immediate:  Only after walking less than a minute, I was totally free. I told myself, "It feels so good to be able to be mature enough to allow a woman to walk away if she feels uncomfortable without becoming angered, hurt and resentful. I am totally okay with this." I laughed. I was free.  I still am.
I have written a lot more on this theme, using an advanced protocol of EMDR, but it is too involved for a blog.  For simple rejection (one person, one event), the solution is in a graceful, meditative walk while pondering the hurtful event. However, if you have something more complex, the full SOLUTION Four is NOT just going out on a walk and kind of thinking about moments of rejection or psychological hurts. There is an important protocol to follow which has proven effective results as used to help rape victims and others who have faced physical trauma and tragic events.  For more complex hurts, I suggest a guide to avoid going deeper into hurt and not finding your way out of a sticky depression.

For simple rejection, however, please give solution a fair trail.  You should not believe me. Try finding a hurtful rejection in your past, and through a graceful tango walk, go out and try SOLUTION Four.  I am convinced that you will experience some resolution that perhaps has lingered for years.  I would love to hear what happens.  Send me a message at

Preview:  Solutions 5-7 are shorter (I promise) but also very powerful.  I have shared them with a few people, and now I have testimonies to their "solution power." 


  1. aaahh - Middle School Rejection, I know it well (unfortunately). It passes more quickly than it used to, thankfully. And since we talked about this a week or two ago, I started "tango walking" every morning (with my dogs - it can be done but it's a little tricky.) Lovely way to start the morning.

    Great post, as always. Thank you for sharing so much of your experience.

  2. Sometimes a bad tango night happens due to a variety of factors. There are those you can control directly (enough sleep, enough food, grooming), somewhat (attitude, improving your dancing skills, the music), and not at all (almost everything to do with the partner). Sometimes a good cry and getting back on the dance floor at the next opportunity does the trick.

  3. Hi Mark, I just stumbled on your blog this week and thought that it was very interesting. are you teaching tango as a form of therapy?

  4. To "Anonymous": Maybe I should consider yet another solution, as you suggest: Having a "good cry and getting back out on the dance floor." Actually, that is solution #3 with an added cry. :-) I hope you will try numbers 4-7 and be able to use #8 a little less. (Number 8 being "have a good cry.") I promise to have the next solutions out in the next week or so.

  5. I'm printing this and taking it to class. The other day, at a dinner party, we were talking about why Tango is addictive and I remembered this post but couldn't (obviously) explain it right. I could only say I had read about it on an interesting blog. I also remembered the "walking" solution.

    Anyway, I'm a new reader and I'd like to thank you for the posts.

  6. Hola Señorita Romero... thanks for the comment. We have all discovered a powerful therapeutic thing called "tango" and calling it an addiction is truly a shame. To Tiana... yes, I am -- through this blog. Eventually, I believe it will be my life work. Solution 5 will be out in a few days, followed by 7 and 8. I feel like I walked into a beautiful sanctuary deep in the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica. It is hard to describe these things: 5, 6, 7 and 8. But soon. Hasta entonces.

  7. This sounds not unlike walking a labyrinth in prayer or meditation.

    I'm so happy to have run across your blog! I cannot wait to read more about your ideas on tango therapy; it's really speaking to where I'm at right now, in tango and in life. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  8. (Well, I say "in tango and in life"--they are, of course, the same thing. ;)

  9. Hola Tangoiste... Solution 5 is already out. Look in the archive. My next will be Solutions 6-8 in one article. I think I will follow that with quick summation of Solutions 1-8, and few very powerful testimonies about finding resolution to loss and rejection, which I have received via email.


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